The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 1890. THE STATE RAILWAYS.
Although, m Saturday's article, we felt called upon to condemn the soculled Farmers' Political Platform issued from Dunedin, we do not wish it to be understood that the . wliolc fabric is without redeeming features. On tho contrary there are at least two planks m tho propaganda which have our entire sympathy. We refer to the advocacy of reduced railway charges, rates of freight, fares for wool, produoe, live and dead stock, merchandise and j passengers, *i and the abolition of differential rates; and the retention ?of the management and working of the railways by the State. There is no doubt that the railways of the colony should rentain m the possession of a4d under the direct control of the State. The most suicidal policy of' which the Government could be guilty woulcl be to dispose of the railways before the country has been properly settled. The object m view when constructing the railways, and the argument which had the most influence with the people of the colony m sanctioning extensile borrowing for the purpose, was tl|e plea that ready and easy means of access should be made to lands suitable for settlement. It was argued, artel ; with some justice, at the time of entering upon the colony's gigantic railway scheme, that if the railways were owned and controlled by the State the lines would be run, not for the purpose of returning large dividends, but m order that inducements might be offered, by means of low railway charges, to peraons to settle upon the land, and to remain there after doing so. This policy up to within the past few years has been most successful, the railways having assisted very materially the cause of settlement. Unfortunately, m a weak moment, the Government handed over the State ralvvays to the sole control and management of throe high-salaried Commissioners, who have, since acquiring charge, conducted thje lines upon " purely business principles" '—such principles being.tp squeeze a's much as possible from the pockets of farmers for carriage of the staple pr4----j ducts of the colony, m order that the present expensive system of mis-man-agement may bo maintained, and that the mil ways shall return handsome dividends to the State. The Railway Commissioners, having a monopoly of land carnage, charge what they wish, and being uninfluenced by any desire to sacrifice a present gain, for the futuro welfare of the colony, it will, indeed, bo strange if, at the end of their live years tenure of office, they cannot show handsome returns. Under the control of the State, howaver, the j State railways would retujrn less profits, but, ■judging from the economical spirit •'vhicli has now overtaken our legislators, would be ■more economically managed. A lessening, of the profits on the running of the lilies would represent to the farmers and settlers a considerable saving—.the difference be; tween living from hand-to-mouth aid getting a reasonable return on the capital invested and labour expended on their holdings. Any proposal^ therefore,' for the resumption of the railways by the StatQ will meet with hearty support from the farmers throughout the colony. We have not yet arrived at that heightened? state of prosperity that the interests of farmers and graziers can be entirely ignored, .and tlmt the State railways can be run with no other earthly' object than to make as much money out of:them as possible. The.; present' experience, however, is not without its advantages to the colony, as it will ! assist to convince the people of the necessity for holding on to the railways at all hazards. We think that no: stronger argument could be urged against the insane proposal to sell the State railways than the present mismanagement by irresponsible Commissioners, whose motto appears to be; to make the railways pay,, even though settlement should be retarded. and farmers ruined m the effort. In any political opinions advocted by the farmers we hope to see included the proposal that the State shall resume conti'ol of the railways at the earliest* possible moment, and that the lines shall be run m the interests of settlement, even if m 'doingl so the revenue should not show the substantial profits which the Commissioners are now! striving for.