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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Whose Opinion Should be Taken?

page 64

Whose Opinion Should be Taken?

As whether in actual working the new system of railway administration would give satisfactory results, must be more or less a matter of opinion until it is tried, it is perhaps right that I should give some proof of my ability to form sound opinions on railway matters. I do so with all deference. I do not pretend to any exceptional ability, but I do claim to have had a thorough commercial training, to have carefully studied my subject, and to have arrived at sound conclusions as to the principles on which railway finance should be based. The following facts will, I think, prove this:—

In March, 1883, certain alterations were made in passenger fares, which it was claimed would increase the revenue. I at once said this would mean loss. £25,000 was lost the first year, and the rates were again raised.

In March, 1884, the celebrated "grain rate" tariff was imposed. Two of our Commissioners estimated that it would add £150,000 to the revenue.

I analysed this tariff, and stated that it was more likely to produce £50,000 than £150,000. The result showed an increase of, £52,000.

When the Victorian Board was appointed I publicly stated that five or six years would prove the thing a failure. The time has passed, and we all know that it has failed.

Speaking in our Chamber of Commerce I said, "I venture to say that this Victorian Railway Board will make a complete financial failure, and that the social effects will be still more disastrous. In Victoria will first be reproduced in these colonies all the worst social inequalities, miseries, and vices of the older countries of Europe and America. I expect that for some years the revenue will be considerably increased, but that it will be done by the usual process—that is, by absorbing the country districts of Victoria into Melbourne."

Before the Hungarians started to work their "zone" system, I wrote that it would prove a great financial success. It has done so.

Before the Austrians commenced their system, I wrote that it would give little or no financial improvement. They have made a small loss.

If I could thus correctly estimate what could be done under other systems, is it likely that I shall be far out as to my own?