The Press. MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 1870.
"We are very muc __ inclined' to agree with our crj rreS pondent " Dividend" aa to the gauge that ought to be adopted ? 0 r the northern railway. The ease thus. The General Assembly W 3 decided that 3 ft. 6 in. shall be tbe. standard railway gauge of JN"ew Zealand. We say decided,, because though the Legislative Council threw Out the Bill which made the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge compulsory in all railways constructed under the Public Works Act, they inserted in the Railways Act a clause enforcing that gauge in the railways authorised this year y and the precedent will no doubt be followed hereafter. But an exception, has been made in the case of Canterb my, which is allowed to retain the gauge already adopted in this province of sft 3 in. This exception, however, only extends from the Eakaia to Eangiora. The Legislative Council wished to -confine it to the southern line from, Christchurch to the Eakaia, »nd it was only under strong pressure from the Canterbury members, and partly, we suspect, to escape a demand for compensation next session, that the Grovernment consented to introduce a Bill extending to exception to the northern line. The concession was accompanied by a proviso that the Governor shall have power to order a third rail to be laid down whenever he shall deem it expedient, at the cost of the province. Down to the Eakaia, then, and up to Eangiora, Canterbury may continue to use the sft 3in gauge; but on reaching those points it must change for the colonial gauge of 3 ft Gin ; and it may be at any time compelled to lay down a third rail along the whole length of line which has been constructed on the wide gauge.
There can be no objection to this arrangement as regards the southern railway. That line is in full work, as far as the Selwyn, and to change the gauge would involve the province in a heavy expenditure in the reconstruction of the line and the purchase of fresh rolling-stock, which it is on all accounts desirable to avoid* In the natural course of things
the line must some day be relaid, and the rolling stock need replacing, and then will be the time to effect the change. But with the northern railway the case is different. There no such expense has been incurred. No part of the line has been laid down. The first sod has yet to be turned. The province is not committed as in the Northern line, to any particular form of construction ; and why should it not adopt at once that which must perfcrce be adopted in the long run ? Why deliberately prefer to do the work twice over ? We know beforehand that the line must ultimately be reduced to 3 feet 6 inches : why then make it 5 feet 3 inches, with the certainty of having to undergo the trouble and expense of altering it ? The only reason, so far as we are aware, is that certain railway plant, suited to the 5 feet 3 inch gauge has been ordered from England. But that plant could be used on the southern line, where, if report says true, it is much wanted ; or even if there must be a loss, it is a question whether the first loss will not be the best. For it must be remembered that every yard of the broad gauge entails a necessity of future reconstruction, and will therefore be a source of expense to the province hereafter ; while until that expense has been incurred, the railway cannot be carried beyond Rangiora So that, if the northern line is constructed on the wide gauge, either we must give up all thoughts of carrying it beyond Eangiora for several years to come, or we must be at the expense of laying a third rail for the whole distance between Rangiora and Addington. On the other hand, if the narrow gauge is adopted, the third rail will only be required between Addington and Lyttelton—to avoid the break of gauge at Christchurch—and the money saved by thf. greater cheapness of construction will be available for carrying the lino on to the Kowai. It is an important questiou, and we hope the Provincial Council w T ill give it due consideration. The G-overn-ment seem alarmed at the prospect of immediate loss on the rolling stock. But it is at least doubtful whether anything gained by using up the rolling stock will not be more than counterbalanced by the greater cost of the wider gauge, the expense of laying a third rail from Addington junction to the Ashley, and the impediment which break of gauge at Rangiora will throw in the way of the further extension of the railway to the northward.