The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 7 (November 1, 1928)
A railway working to capacity can carry produce for a penny or two per ton-mile. The motor lorry charges a shilling or two for the same service—twelve or fifteen times as much. The result is that while the railway has an economic radius of hundreds of miles, the motor lorry is limited to tens of miles. I feel sure that it is in bridging this economic gap the solution of the transport problem of the Empire is to be sought.
Mr. R. H. Brackenbury (Empire Marketing Board).
I purpose in this concluding article on “Railways in Modern Transport” to review briefly the methods which have been adopted for dealing with the new problems presented by the introduction of the motor as a live factor in modern transport, and shall confine my observations more particularly to the United States, Germany, Switzerland and South Australia.
In the United States legislative powers exist in the majority of cases for the regulation of road motor traffic, and permission to operate such vehicles is not given unless the proposed service is a public convenience and necessity. At the present time 64 railway companies are operating motor coaches for the carriage of passengers (using for this purpose 1,050 vehicles), and 45 railways are operating motor lorries for goods traffic (using 4,902 vehicles). The trend of legislation in the United States may be gauged from the following decision of the Interstate Commerce Commission:—
Railroads have permanent road beds and trackage which require an outlay of millions of dollars. This railway property yields large revenue to the people of the State, which the average bus line (incorporated for a comparatively small sum) does not do. The railroad, therefore, is a much greater financial responsibility. This is a matter of substantial public interest, particularly in cases of accident. It is the established policy of the law (of the State covering this decision) that a public utility be allowed to earn a fair return on its investments. It is, therefore, not only unjust, but poor economy to grant, to a much less responsible utility company, the right to compete for the business of carrying passengers by paralleling its line unless it is evident that the necessary service cannot be furnished by existing railway services. In a recent application before the Commission the appellants offered to provide whatever increase in accommodations and service that was deemed essential to meet the public convenience and necessity, and it is but consonant with our law regulating public utilities that they be given the opportunity to do so. It is argued, on the other hand, that appellants cannot give the necessary service except at a large loss. Such argument is beside the question involved in the proceedings before the Commision in this case. Appellants have stated that they are willing and able to give such service. However, it appears clear that the Commission is not justified in granting a certificate of convenience and necessity to a competing line until the utility in the field has had an opportunity to demonstrate the truth of its statement, and to give the required service. (The italics are mine.)
The above decision of one of the most important tribunals in the United States, by discouraging as it does the duplication of a transport service which is adequate to meet a given set of circumstances, should, it seems to me, be interpreted not so much a victory for the particular railroad concerned, but a victory for common sense and sound economics.