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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 3 (July 24, 1926)

Editorial — Transport Control

page 2

Transport Control

If New Zealand were a new Utopia where the cost of services mattered not and a balanced budget was neither known nor required, transport could be developed to so high a degree that distribution to every individual of whatever he required, and whenever he required it, would be immediately effected. Similarly, should he desire to travel, means and ways would be right at hand to meet his smallest whim in the exact manner desired.

But Utopian conditions being absent, the people of this country are well aware that compliance with the general principle of economic transport is a prime necessity, and that mass rather than individual transport conforms best with this demand.

Insofar as transport is wasteful it is unproductive, and the resources of the Dominion, although great in relation to its liabilities, are not illimitable, nor are they even sufficiently elastic to provide, without hurt, large expenditure for unremunerative services.

There has been of late, however, a tendency to look for ideal transport facilities without due consideration of the economic factor. We know of families that, finding the family car insufficiently responsive to individual needs, have overcome the difficulty by each member obtaining a car of his own. At the other end of the scale we have known a thousand people carried comfortably by a train manned with a crew of three. If a thousand individual road cars were used for the same purpose with a thousand chaffeurs to man them, the conditions might be more nearly ideal, for each passenger would have freedom to start, stop, and vary speed according to individual desire; but the cost would be infinitely higher.

A goods train of 500 tons is quite an ordinary feature of our rail transport. At a conservative estimate 50 motor lorries would be required to carry the same quantity by road. Apart from the obvious advantage in fuel cost which one steam engine has over fifty motor lorries, it must be remembered that for a 500 ton load the train requires only three of a crew while the motor lorries require fifty. These comparisons are made to indicate the main economic features as they apply to long distance traffic. For shorter distances in goods traffic, time and labour factors in regard to collection and delivery at terminal points come more into play.

It may be advanced that the Railway requires station staffs and line gangs as well as train crews for its business, whilst the motor lorry needs nothing but a driver. Here it is necessary to point out that motor haulage competing with the railway along similar routes for any considerable distance does not appear the economic absurdity that it really is because it has no safety systems (for which Railway staffs are required), and pays neither interest on the cost of the roads which it uses nor the cost of maintenance for the roads which it destroys. But if, further, the road users were required to install and maintain a safety system at all comparable with that which the Railway provides, not only would the heavy toll of life through road accidents be tremendously reduced, but direct, competition with the Railway would absolutely cease because its cost would be utterly prohibitive.

Meantime, transport control by a body with full knowledge derived from thorough investigation, freed from prejudice and with public welfare the paramount consideration, might solve the problem.