NORTH ISLAND RAILWAYS.
The railway returns for the hist two months of :the current year provide very instructive reading, more especially for all who have taken any interest in the long-standing controversy over the claims of the two islands upon our Public Works Fund. At present the North is still a long way behind the South in railway mileage, the actual figures heing: North Island, 1132 miles; South Island, 1542 miles. Yet in spite of this large difference, in favour of our southern
rivals, the North Island railway revenue for January was actually over £5000 in excess of the southern returns. Comparing the figures for" this month with the corresponding period last year, we find that while the North Island revenue
has increased by over £ 10,000, the South island returns have fallen by over £3300. And if the comparison is extended to the end of February, we find the difference still more strongly marked. For the North Island revenue for February, 1909, is greater by ££1,000 than, the return for February last year, while the South Island return is £2700 less. And taking January and February together, we reach the remarkable conclusion that for the first two months of the year, while the North Island lilies have returned £31,400 more than for the corresponding period last year, the South Island lines for the same period show an absolute decrease of over £0000.
The meaning of these figures is so obvious that it hardly requires to be indicated in so many words. Though the North Island has 410 miles less of railway line than the South, the returns in this Island far exceed the revenue for the longer mileage in the South; and the only possible hrference is thnt it pays the country fur better to construct railways here than there. The increase in mileage in the North is, of course, responsible to some extent for the growing revenue; but the point to be observed is that a slight increase in mileage in the South bus ibeen accompanied by a large shrinkage in revenue. And when we come to consider the relation of expenditure to income, this impression is even move strongly confirmed. For while the excess of revenue over expenditure for January was £ 43,000 on the North Island lines, it was only £38,000 over nearly 40 per cent longer mileage in the South. Again, for February, the excess of revenue over expenditure in the North works out at £40,000, while in the South, over the longer mileage, it totals less than £45,000. The advantage on the side of the North Island lines is thus clearly manifest. And it is obvious that as the traffic on the Main Trunk line develops the superiority of the North in this respect will be even more strongly marked than before. On the whole, it is only reasonable to infer that the North Island affords a far better field for State investment in railways than the South. And the reason is obvious enough: for while the South is practically settled, to the full capacity cf the better class of land, the North is still largely uncleared or unoccupied. With every year the progress of settlement adds to our productive capacity ■without any corresponding increase of wealth-producing power in the South, and the facts and figures we have cited should be carefully borne in mind by our Parliamentary representatives when railway allocations are next under discussion in the House.
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