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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 8 (February 1, 1933)

Goods Transport by Rail and Road

Goods Transport by Rail and Road.

The report of the conference on Rail and Road Transport issued in August last by the committee presided over by Sir Arthur Salter is a triumph for sensible compromise between rail and road interests in Great Britain, and a tribute to the good judgment brought to the question by both parties to the conference, as well as to the negotiatory skill of the chairman. That the report is unanimous makes the achievement all the more remarkable. In commenting upon the report the railway companies invited special attention to the following aspects:—
  • (1) The report is unanimous. Its unanimity is necessarily based upon give and take. Each side conceded to the other many points to which they attached weight, because they considered it more important to present to the Minister a body of agreed recommendations rather than to stress the natural and important points of difference. (2) The report covers a narrow field—the conveyance of goods traffic by road or rail—but although the field is limited, the body of recommendations must be looked at and treated as a whole. This follows naturally from the process of give and take, out of which these recommendations came into being. (3) When the railway companies earlier in the year drew public attention to the effects of the competition existing between the two forms of transport, they emphasised the fact that they aimed only at establishing an equitable adjustment of the balance of conditions as between the railway and the road transport industries, which is clearly essential to the co-ordination of transport in the public interest. Throughout the deliberations of the conference this aim has been kept in view by their representatives, and the result is clearly reflected in the findings of the conference. Neither party seeks to claim special advantages or to impose special burdens on the other. The ultimate aim of both is to secure a fair basis of competition as a necessary stage towards the attainment of the best co-ordination of function, and whilst the report does not purport to find a complete solution, it represents a carefully thought-out scheme which, regarded as a whole, represents a definite advance towards a sound basis of co-ordination. (4) The first duty of the conference was to consider the incidence of highway costs. Just how those costs should be borne has been one of the most difficult problems which the conference has had to solve, and its solution has involved a considerable modification of the principles originally adumbrated by the railway companies, and their assimilation with alternative theories advanced by the road representatives. The result, with its combination of franchise value, ton-mileage and petrol consumption as a measure of the use and wear and tear of the roads, forms a basis which the railway companies have indicated their willingness to accept. (5) The proposals with regard to the regulation and licensing of freight road vehicles follow a principle already adopted in the case of passenger transport. The conference have evolved a scheme which should best serve the public interest as a whole, whilst avoiding undue restrictions on the road haulage industry on the one hand and the ancillary user of road transport on the other hand. (6) An important part in the future development of the relations between road and rail is reserved for the Advisory Committee, representative of all the interests concerned, whose function it will be to advise the Minister on many points affecting the regulation and co-ordination of transport. This committee will, it is hoped, be in a position to ensure that those developments are guided along lines which will be in conformity with the best interests of the industry of the country as a whole.