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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 9 (April 1, 1931)

The Railway Situation

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The Railway Situation

The importance of the railways in the life of the community was never more certainly established than at the present time, when it is freely admitted that the whole scheme of public finance in New Zealand must be regulated according to the returns from this national transport service. It is not so to such a marked extent in countries where the railways are privately owned; but even there the State has to take serious cognisance of their operations. And now, from both sides of the Atlantic, comes the plea for protection of this industry on account of the interests involved and also on account of the fact that, for the general welfare of the country, they are required to work under very definite State regulations which do not hamper the operations of their road competitors to anything like the same extent.

There are two principal causes of the present situation upon most railways. These are depression and competition. While the former cause is, in general, beyond the control of railway authorities anywhere, it has been thought that the latter—competition—might have been allowed, in the case of privately-owned lines at least, to work out its own salvation. But Mr. D. Willard, President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and a recognised authority upon railway thought in America, points to an element which makes such a solution inequitable.

In addressing the Board of Trade of Washington, he said:

“I think the highways should be free for the private use of all individuals—free with the exception of such charges as may be necessary for police purposes and may be collected in the shape of license or gasoline tax. I am opposed, however—because I think it is unfair—to the unregulated use of such Government-built facilities without charge by individuals or corporations engaged as common carriers, in competition with Government-regulated railroads.”

The feature of unfairness to which Mr. Willard draws attention is the free use of Government-built highways by private operators for competitive commercial purposes, against privately-built railways. The demand in this case is for the Government to treat private competitors alike. When the State is in competition with private operators, as it is in New Zealand, equality of treatment appears to be equally necessary. This need would be seen with even greater clearness were the State running road services in competition with privately-owned railways. From the trend of recent discussion effective regulation which will aid in producing a rationalised system of transport throughout the Dominion appears to be one of the possibilities of the near future.

page 6

Recklessness at Railway Crossings

An astonishing revelation of negligence by motorists is contained in a bulletin issued by the Board of Railway Commissioners of Canada, entitled “Dangerous Practices of Motorists, Drivers of other Vehicles, and of Pedestrians at Railway Crossings” (says the Canadian National Railways Magazine).

The dangerous practices listed, with license number of the automobile, in this bulletin, make suggestive reading. Among those in Ontario are: “Crossing gates were down, bell ringing, red lanterns burning, automobile crashed through gate arms”; “disregarded watchman's stop sign and crossed tracks in front of yard engine”; “motor truck towing other truck stopped with front wheels on crossing, attempted to back clear but could not, was struck and thrown against other truck, both being damaged”; “automobile travelling at fairly high speed struck engine, driver tried to beat train to crossing, speed of train six m.p.h.”; “automobile drove through gates, driver claimed brakes not working properly”; “drove under gates when they were being lowered, tearing top off automobile”; “driver did not notice gates were down and ran through both, demolishing them”; “driver stopped and started again, apparently intending to cross ahead of train, but motor stalled and engine struck truck.” The other provinces present many similar cases with added vagaries of their own.

Motor accidents of this type are becoming more frequent, and the bulletin expresses the hope that publicity will be given to them in the expectation that motorists and others may be educated to be more careful. The newspapers have already published reports of them, and when unfortunately necessary, have also reported the evidence at coroners’ inquests. Notwithstanding these warnings and the existence of safety devices and cautionary signals, many people take chances against an approaching engine or train. The only thing to do with the survivors is to deprive them of the right to drive before they kill others as well as themselves.

Old Auckland Station

Referring to the demolition of the old Auckland station, an anonymous correspondent writes feelingly as under to the General Manager, Mr. H. H. Sterling:—

“Undoubtedly you will have no time to read this, but I was looking at the old Auckland Railway Station to-day. The dismantling effected in a few hours has made such a difference to that old land mark of historical interest—for forty years more or less that has sheltered passengers and trains; for forty years railway business has gone on there. There must have been many incidents and co-incidents take place during the life and bustle of that old Auckland Railway Station. I am sure that many of the boys of the ‘Old Brigade’ will look back to those days of ‘boyhood’ where memories will never grow old nor fade: like the verse—

‘Make new friends but keep the old; These are silver, those are gold.'”

Sir Thomas Wilford, K.C., High Commissioner for New Zealand in London.

Sir Thomas Wilford, K.C., High Commissioner for New Zealand in London.