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The Railway Commission., Issue 7994, 24 August 1889, Supplement
The Railway Commission.
Mr Samuel Vailo makes a few remarks on tho first repott of the Railway Commissioners. As ho is tho severest critic in the colony of the present system of railway management—no-system he calls it—it will be worth while to read what he has to say. Tho following are his general observations :
The first report of our railway managers under their new name of Commissioners is commeudably brief, its compilers evidently believing in the old adage “least said soonest mended.” But in tho few lines they have written they could not help condemning themselves.
After stating that the interest earned for the year ISSS 89 is only L2 12s per cent., they go on to say that the trade of the country is based “chiefly” on the development of its natural resources and manufacturing industries, and add “There can, therefore, be no great increase in the gross railway revenue of any one year over the preceding. Any improvement in the net revenue result will depend quite as much on economy of working as on increase of business.”
Imagine our three Commissioners in grave consultation over this absurd paragraph. Was there ever a more contemptible confession of incapacity ? Hero are three men who have been given a monopoly of the internal carrying trade of the country, ajid LI 3,000,000 worth of plant to work ft with, deliberately stating that because the trade of the colony is “ chiefly ” dependent on its natural resources and manufacturing industries it cannot bo greatly developed, and that they must rely ou their miserable cheese-scraping policy to earn the wretched L2 7s 2d per cent, they earned last year, for this is what they really did earn, and not L2 T2s per cent., as they say. They have a country to operate upon that contains a greater amount of natural wealth in a small space than can probably bo found in any other part of the world, and yet they tell us there can be no great increase of business done.
A great deal of credit has been claimed for our Commissioners, because wc have had so few collisions. Collisions ! It is difficult to see how collisions could occur, except through wilful carelessness, on lines where so few trains are running. No man could successfully carry out his duties unless he had a largo commercial and financial experience, and it cannot be pretended that Mr M'Kerrow has had any experience in this direction. As Abraham Lincoln would have said : “ A square man in a round hole.” Wc have in fact committed the gross absurdity of placing the chief commercial institution of the country in the hands of a surveyor and two engineers, who have not as much business experience among them as would enable them to successfully manege the affairs of an ordinary warehouse, I consider the appointment of this Commission is one of the grossest frauds that ever was perpetrated on any community, and I again say that it ought to be at once got rid of. If we cannot shake them off without paying, then the cheapest way is to pay, and put up with the loss. It was an evil day for the colonies when Victoria introduced tho Board system. The increase of revenue for a time, and the glittering splash, led people astray, Two years ago no Melbourne paper would publish a word of complaint against the Victorian Commissioners. Now column after column of their principal papers are filled with complaints of their miserable management and wretched accommodation. They are beginning to find ont that the money was made not hy increase of trade, but by running the lines and rolling-stock to death ; and that is precisely what is now being done here. When the Victorian system was started I said it would fail. It has failed ; and so will our New Zealand Commission, utterly and miserably. Let me again repeat that both in Victoria and here the railways are worked, not as though they belonged to the people, but as though they were the private property of the Commissioners. As showing what can be done on railways under direct State control, lot me call attention to the results obtained on the Prussian State railways. In 1880 they earned a net surplus of L 3,400,000, and year by year the profits have increased till in 1888 it was more than L 13,000,000. A marvellous increase for eight years ; but the profit for the current year is estimated at L 15,500,000. I do not know the capital cost of the Prussian State lines, but in 1883 the total cost of all the lines of the German Empire, both public and private, was 1.467,000,000, It is stated that the profit made by the Prussian railways provides for the interest not only on the Prussian, but also on the Imperial German National Debt, and I venture to say that if our lines were worked intelligently in the interests of the whole public, they could soon be made to pay the interest on our debt, if it were thought desirable so to use them.
The enemies of direct State control assert that the marvellous result obtained in Prussia has been procured by starving the
lines, but a little reflection will show that this is impossible, for the improvement has been continuous for the last nine years, which could not be the case if the requirements of the traffic were not atany rate more than fairly met. The net earnings of the whole railways of the United Kingdom in 1885 was only L 12,767,000. So mueh for company as against State management.
The Railway Commission., Issue 7994, 24 August 1889, Supplement
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