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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 7 (November 1, 1927)

Development of the Service

Development of the Service.

It is but a few years since transport by rail was little superior to that provided by an elementary carrying concern, and its administration did not call for specialised talent, those engaged in its business being principally unskilled labourers. The swift development of the railway system and the consequent development of the various classes of traffic brought many problems to the owners and-as competition grew-it became increasingly necessary that the railway servant should be specially trained. The general employment of casual labour thus became impracticable.

The present stage of railway transportation finds highly developed systems vieing with each other in open competition for the carriage of goods and passengers, and yet collectively co-operating in the common cause of arresting and defeating the road motor competition which is menacing the very existence of the rail.

This complex situation must needs produce a levelling of the rates and charges. The inevitable curtailment of revenue necessitates a strict analysis of the cost of production, which is a prime factor in the rate fixing. To deal effectively with such conditions the railway administrator requires a deep technical knowledge based upon long experience and his previously simple calling has emerged into an interesting and engrossing profession.

In many respects the railway system of New Zealand is not comparable with the systems of Europe and America. For many years it enjoyed a freedom from competition which was conducive to monopoly conditions, but for its interests being vested in the people whom it was primarily designed to serve; but the advent of the petrol-propelled vehicle and the improvement of road services had a very appreciable effect upon its conduct and organisation. With its fifty millions of capital, it was in danger of becoming a sterile liability upon the State; but, recovering from the first shock of competition, it threw off its yoke of conversatism, adopted up-to-date business methods, and energised its resources until it can now be regarded as a prime factor in the business organisations of the country. It is certainly a progressive element in New Zealand commerce, and has attained enviable prestige by virtue of its general efficiency.