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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 4 (August 1, 1927)


In the course of the discussion in the British House of Commons on 3rd March, on the order for the second reading of the Bradford Corporations Bill (the main object of which was to obtain, for the Bradford Corporation, authority to run buses on routes outside the municipal boundary and to carry on the private hiring of buses), a powerful speech in defence of the railways position, as affected by the Bill, was delivered by the Rt. Hon. J. H. Thomas. “The capital expenditure of the railways,” he said, “was roughly £1,200,000,000. To maintain the permanent way involved an expenditure of £13,000,000 per annum. Could any private omnibus owner or private carrier suggest that he paid a solitary copper? Not one. Then, for maintenance of the signalling department and for signalmen's wages £8,000,000 per annum was required. Did the roads provide a solitary copper? The road traffic people got away without any contribution whatever. Then there were the local rates. The railway companies contributions to local rates amounted to £8,000,000 per annum; and there were 400 parishes where 50 per cent. of the rates were paid by the railway companies.” This position, Mr. Thomas believed to be “one of the greatest injustices suffered by any corporate body in this country.”

Then there was the question of the hours worked by the railwaymen and motor drivers respectively. In view of the tremendous responsibilities of railway work, no one, he said, would challenge the statement that eight hours a day was enough for a railwayman. Yet there were corporations working their motor drivers 12, 13 and 14 hours a day. “What was teh good of pretending that this was fair competition,” said Mr. Thomas.

It is interesting to observe that the Bill was rejected by 203 votes against 128.