The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
What We Really Want
What We Really Want
in railway working is such a system as will practically make those lands that are situated 150 or 200 miles away from a market as available as land 10 miles away. This can be done by the stage system, but never by the mileage system; for under the stage system the distant man would only be seven or eight removes from his market, instead of 150 to 200 removes as now. The difference in the price of the land would compensate for the seven or eight removes.
We want a truly national transit system, one that shall meet the wants and requirements of the whole people. Our system does not provide for the wants of one-fourth of the community, hence its utter failure, financially and socially.
No man having a family to provide for, and an income of less than £300 a year, can afford to use our railways, except to a very limited extent. This cuts out the whole artizan and labouring classes, shopmen, clerks, small shopkeepers, small farmers, and numerous others. What I say is this: that this vast mass can only use our railways very occasionally, and to a very limited extent, while a very large portion of it would, if it could, make very great use of them.
We want, and must have, a system that will develop the trade, that lies hidden among the great bulk of the people. This I say is a very easy matter, and our railway administrators must have been simple indeed not to have seen how to do it long ago.
We want, and badly want, cheap transit; but we want far more—an equalisation of transit charges, on a fair and just basis.
We want a system that will open up, not close, our great producing districts, a system that will enable the distant farmer to bring or send his produce to market without having all his profit eaten up in transit charges.
We want a system that will enable the city artizan, clerk, page 39 or labourer to make use of his special knowledge or strength in a town or district 100 or 300 miles away from the city he may happen to find himself jammed up in.
We want a system of fixed, charges, a system that will enable our producers and manufacturers to calculate accurately the cost of their various productions, and that will enable them to erect their factories in those situations that nature has pointed out as most suitable for their requirements.
We want a simple system that can be understood by everybody, a system under which it shall no longer be necessary to 'inquire at the station for your rate,' but under which everyone will know what he has to pay, and will have to pay, for the same service for several years to come.
We want a system that shall reverse the present order of things, and make our railways act as distributors of population and wealth, instead of concentrators of wealth into the hands of a few families, and population in a few great cities.
In short we want a system that shall practically annihilate distance as regards the cost of transit of passengers and goods; a system that will meet the requirements of every class, the poorest as well as the richest; a system that shall be thoroughly clear of the trickery, fraud, and mystery of the present one; a system that will go on ever widening instead of contracting its sphere of beneficial action; a system that, instead of showing a yearly increasing loss, shall show a yearly increasing gain, both directly and indirectly, and one that shall add to our happiness and prosperity instead of to our misery and poverty as the present system does.