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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

No. 6. — The Difference between Mileage and Stage Rating, Continued

No. 6.

The Difference between Mileage and Stage Rating, Continued.

Under the stage system, described in paper No. 5, which is based on population, all the evils mentioned would be done away with. This will be best understood by the following examples:—

At present fares and rates are charged by the mile, and thus Cambridge, being 100 miles from Auckland, has to pay for 100 removes or charges. Under the new system Cambridge would be 6 removes away, and would pay only 6 times. The 100-mile man would therefore, as regards relative cost of transit, be in as good a position as the 6-mile man is now. Christchurch instead of being 100 would be only 6 removes from Timaru, and only 22 instead of 230 from Dunedin. The whole distance from Waikari to the Bluff would be but 37 removes apart, instead of 436 as now, and every other line and district would be placed in an equally advantageous position.

The present average goods rate being 3¼d per ton per mile, the man who is 100 miles from the market has to pay 100 times 3¼d—£1 7s 1d, while the man 10 miles out only pays 10 times 3¼d—2s 9d, thus the 100-mile man must inevitably fail in competition. It is this that has taken all the value out of country lands, and rendered settlement in the interior impossible.

Suppose a man having a farm 150 miles from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, or Invercargill; this is how he is now situated. Say he has 50 tons of pro-duce ready for transport to either of these markets.

When his produce is at the railway shed, there would be in it a certain gross profit, out of which he would have to pay his transit charges, commission on sales, etc., the balance, if any, being his net profit.

Say 10 tons bear a profit of 10s per ton, 30 tons 15s per ton, and 10 tons 20s per not

Mr. Maxwell states that the average dis-tance goods are carried in Isew Zealand is only 25 miles, and that the average price paid is 6s 10d per ton, consequently the average charge is 3¼d per ton per mile.

I may remark in passing that the average charge in the State of New York is eight-tenths of a cent.; in the State of Ohio, nine-tenths of a cent.; and the average for the whole of America is in cents 1.057, as near as can be one halfpenny (½d) per ton per mile.

Suppose the New Zealand farmers' rate to average only 2d per ton per mile, instead of 3¼d, his profit at 10s per ton would all be exhausted in railway charges when his goods had travelled 60 miles, the 15s profit at 90 miles, and the 20s profit at 120 miles. On arrival at his market he would find himself in the following position:—
Loss on 10 tons with 10s gross profit on starting £7 10 0
Loss on 30 tons, with 15s gross profit on starting 15 0 0
Loss on 10 tons with 20s gross profit on starting 2 10 0
Total loss £25 0 0

Thus he would not only lose the whole of his profit of £37 10s, but in addition he would have to pay £25 for railway charges alone, and the heavier his crops were the greater would be his misfortune.

This is no exaggerated picture. It is what occurs every day, and shows how im possible it is under such a system to settle the interior of the country. What possible value can there be in land so situated, and how can it bear its fair share of taxation?

From the example given above it will be seen that a system of equal stages would have the same defects as the mileage system, though for a time in a less degree. It will also be seen that no mere reduction in rates, no matter how great, can remedy the evil, page 7 for if the rate were taken down to ¼d per ton per mile, the man at 150 miles would have to pay 3s 1½d, while the man at 10 miles would only pay 2½d, and prices soon adjust themselves.

It is to remedy this defect that I propose a system of unequal stages placed in the manner I have described.

I propose to readjust these stages after every census. Thus, should the population of a small town have increased to 2000 souls, or a 2000-town to 4000, an addi-tional stage would be placed on each line out of it.

Should no alteration be made in the stage rate this would, of course, increase the through rate; but it is manifest that if the increase or alteration in the location of the population admitted of an increase of 33 per cent, in the number of stages, the stage rate could be reduced by 25 per cent., and thus the through rate would remain the same, while the burden of transit charges would be more evenly distributed.

It is an open question whether it would be advisable to increase the number of stages and reduce the stage rate, or whether it would not be better instead to remove an equal number of stages from the weaker districts, and so give them a chance of acquiring strength. My own opinion is that this would be the best plan for some time to come, if not always, for it will be seen that by following it up persistently we should ultimately arrive at the nearest approach to the universal fare that the finances of the colony would admit of.

As regards the position of the stages in relation to population, when my system Was first placed before the public the uni-versal opinion was that railways ought to be managed on "commercial principles." I therefore knew that it was useless to pro-pose any system that would not show good financial results, so I located my stages ac-cordingly, as I will explain when we come to consider the financial aspect of the question,

Now, a better feeling is rapidly gaining ground, and most thinking men acknow-ledge that the first duty of a railway is not to "get revenue." Had the feeling in 1882 been even as it is now, instead of proposing four stages of seven miles on each side of a great centre of population, I should have adjusted them thus:—First stage, seven miles; second stage, 10 miles; third stage, 15 miles; fourth stage, 25 miles; making the first four stages cover from 57 to 60 miles instead of from 28 to 30 miles. I believe that this would be a more fair and just distribution, and that it would ulti-mately give the best results, but in the meantime it is very doubtful if financial success could be assured; with the seven mile stages this is absolutely certain.

I have said that the mileage system of railway rating is chiefly responsible for the congestion of population in the great cities of the world. This is necessarily so, for the example I have given above as to how the farmer is treated applies with equal if not greater force to the manufacturer. Having large quantities of goods to transport, he must crowd as closely on the city as he can, because every mile he is away from his market he has an additional toll to pay on all his products. His workpeople, too, must crowd round him; for every mile they move away adds to their daily expenditure.

Workpeople must be near their work; they cannot, under mileage rating, getaway if they would. Under this miserable system both factories and population are forced into unnatural positions, and into a few great centres, to the detriment of trade generally, and the physical, mental, and moral degradation of vast multitudes of people, and to the ultimate loss of profit in railway working.

Under a system of unequal stages all this would be altered, for the rating instead of being as now, all in favour of the great centres, would for the time being be in favour of the weaker districts, and thus enable land in those districts to be utilised, and population to settle there. While the cost of transport to and from the great centres would be enormously reduced.

Take the town of Hamilton in the Waikato, as an example of numerous other towns in the colony. All round this town there are large areas of land very thinly populated, and very poorly utilised. It is a junction town. The north and south trunk line, the Cambridge branch, the Rotorua, and the Thames-Te Aroha lines all converge upon it, but notwithstanding this fact, its population has for years past steadily decreased and is now considerably less than 1000 souls. There must be some-thing wrong.

Naturally, we should say, these railways ought to be a great advantage to this town, as a matter of fact, they are its curse; but under the system proposed they would help it greatly. It would command three long and two shorter stages. The inevitable result must be that certain manufacturers and traders would establish themselves there, because they would be able to send their goods over a distance of, say, 50 miles in three different directions at the same uniform price. They would not have to consider whether they could afford to send 20 or 30 miles, but would know that they could command the whole 150 miles just as easily as they could command ten miles.

The effect of such a system must be to create fresh centres of trade and commerce, and to develop an inland or internal trade, which is what we want, and the railways themselves more especially want. As it is we have really no internal trade. The page 8 colony is now fifty years old, and yet it does not possess a single inland town worthy of the name, and such towns as we have are fast losing their population. During the ten weeks' discussion of this question by the Parliamentary Committee of 1886 the railway officials never once used the words "internal trade," the export trade was eternally on their lips. It appears to me that their great effort then was, and is now, to export everything, the value of the land and its inhabitants included. Where would America and its railroads be without their internal trade! It does not require any deep thought to see where we shall be soon if more attention is not paid to this important matter.

It must always be borne in mind that tinder the proposed system the aid given to the poorer districts is only temporary, and that as their population increases, so will their share of the burden of transit charges increase, and other districts be proportion-ately relieved, until ultimately the charges will be the same everywhere.

It is my belief that the great aim of railway administration ought to be the distribution of population.

Regard it from what point of view we may, this is the sound theory. Distribution of population must mean distribution of wealth, for it is population that gives value to land, and if the value of land was more equally distributed, a much greater number of people must possess a fairer share of wealth.

This question of the more equal distribu-tion of wealth is the greatest of all social problems. What we want is a less number of men possessed of millions, and a far greater number possessed of from £5000 to £50,000, while everybody ought to be able to provide themselves with the necessaries of life.

Such a state of things, I contend, can only be brought about by a wise administration of the railways of the world.