The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
What We Want
What We Want.
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 farmer?, 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.
If my statement is correct, and I will show further on that it is, it follows that what railway revenue—more especially passenger revenue—is now earned, is obtained from a very small proportion of the people.page 3
We want and must have, a system that will develope 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, 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 now 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 system that shall attract population to our shores, and promote settlement on our land; a system that shall make the barren lands of this country able to contribute their fair share of taxation, and go relieve the pressure of the heavy burden that now rests on a few only.
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, stead 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.
The question is, Can we have all this, and will not the cost be too great? I emphatically assert that we can have it all, nob only without any increased cost, but with immense relief to the taxpayer.
The great financiers of the old country have many times increased revenue by reducing taxation. We could do the same if we would. Here the only idea seems to be that to increase revenue you must increase taxation.
It is quite true that in this country no great increase of revenue could arise from reductions in the taxation on the necessities of life. The population is too small and too well off for that to have any effect. As regards food and clothing, nearly everybody is fairly well supplied. In the matter of travelling it is very different. There is a large field for development here, and I unhesitatingly assert that by largely reducing our charges we can greatly increase our revenue.
To do this, however, means a revolution. We want no namby-pamby work; no man at the head of affairs who must wait till the experiment has been tried somewhere else. No "concessions:" no mere "modifications in the direction of lowering rates on produce and merchandise for long distances," will do. Nothing short of the entire abolition of the present system, and the substitution of an entirely new one, will effect our purpose. This is now being done in other countries, and the sooner it is done here the better it will be for all of us.
February 12, 1890.
Note.—Nos. 1 and 2 of this series were published in the Herald of December 24, 1889, and Februarys, 1890, respectively.
Memo.—The papers on "Differential Rating," published previously should have formed No. 4 of this. They were published out of the regular order to supply the information asked for by the Railway Commissioners as to what was the meaning of the term "differential rating."