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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 6 (October 24, 1926)

Business Agent Tells Rotary About Railways and Roads

page 41

Business Agent Tells Rotary About Railways and Roads

At New Plymouth on 6th September the salient points of the working of the New Zealand Railways last year, popular fallacies regarding railway rates, the factors determining what the railway freight rates should be, and the nature and effect of road competition were subjects touched on by Mr. A. W. Wellsted, Commercial Agent for the Railway Department, in an address given at the weekly luncheon of the New Plymouth Rotary Club.

Mr. Wellsted emphasised to Rotarians the fact that the railways belong to the public of New Zealand, each member of the community being a shareholder in the huge co-operative concern. As such, the public should assist the railways to pay by giving their business to the railways. Instead of that, many people were at present mistakenly saving money in rail freights in order to pay out more in road rates and taxation.

Revenue and Upkeep.

In explaining the results of last year's working of the railways, Mr. Wellsted mentioned that the net earnings were equal to 4.35 per cent, of the capital invested in lines open for traffic. It was interesting to note that last year every first-class seat earned £45, and every second-class seat earned £33/6/-. He said this provided an answer to the argument sometimes heard that the difference in fares between the two classes should be abolished; if that were done the fare would have to be higher than the present second-class fare to bring the revenue up to the same level.

Apart from interest on the capital invested in providing and forming the railway line, it costs the Department an average of £369 a year to maintain each mile of line, as compared with the relatively small annual license fee paid by road vehicles. Interest charges represented a deduction of 4/6;.27d. from every 20 shillings earned.

Incorrect Assumption.

“It is sometimes assumed that competition justifies reduced rates, but this assumption is frequently incorrect. Competition is often extremely extravagant in its operation and unjust in its effects. The time is fast approaching when competition between road and rail, where such is wasteful, must be eliminated. When it is remembered that wherever road transport is used where rail would do as well the total transport bill of the Dominion is being increased, it is evident that a combination and co-ordination of the two is in the interests of this country. In a young country such as this, still in its developmental stage, all thinking people must admit that the duplication of transport is a distinct loss to the community as a whole.”

The Traffic See-saw.

“Here in New Plymouth,” said Mr. Wellsted in conclusion, “in the seaport and principal town of Taranaki, the province that by the excellence of its roads tempts a man to put down a deposit and buy a motor lorry, and where road competition is rife, I put it to you that it is your duty, not only from a railway point of view but on broad economic grounds, to use your own national transport system for the carriage of your goods, and so enable us to keep our rates down. Decreased traffic means increased rates on what is left.”

Floods At Mercer.

Along the lower reaches of the Waikato River the immediate banks are too low to keep high flood waters within them, with the result that on occasions large areas of the surrounding country become inundated. Mercer often suffers in this respect and sometimes for considerable periods.

On the 6th August last the Waikato River began to swell and on that day at Mercer the water rose 8 inches, on the 7th another 11 inches, on the 8th a further 9 inches and the rising continued until the 13th, on which day the highest point of the flood was reached. At the height five sets of rails in the Mercer shunting yard were under water, and the Auckland-Hamilton road was submerged for three-quarters of a mile to the extent of 23 inches at the deepest part. The river then subsided gradually. It was not until the 20th August that the road and shunting yard became entirely free from the flood waters.

During the period of the submersion of the road, horses were used to assist motor traffic over the affected portions. Through traffic by rail was not interrupted.

The only slave left on earth is man minus his machine…… The function of the machine is to liberate man from brute burdens and release his energies to the building of his intellectual and spiritual powers for conquests in the fields of thought and higher action. The machine is the symbol of man's mastery of his environment.—Henry Ford.

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Transportation is Civilisation.—Kipling.