The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
Correspondence Relative to Railway Reform League's Proposals
Correspondence Relative to Railway Reform League's Proposals.
Extract from the Circular of the Railway Reform League, Auckland, forwarded to he Railway Commissioners, Wellington.
|The total abolition of differential rating.
|The abolition of mileage rating, and the substitution of a stage system.
|The stage system adopted must be of such a nature as to give special facilities to districts and settlers far removed from a market.
|A reduction in the charges for the conveyance of passengers and goods.
|A simplification in the classification of goods.
|A simplification and amalgamation of terminal, weighing, cranage, and other charges."
Extract of a minute forwarded by the Railway Commissioners with letter of 28th September to Messrs. Devore and Cooper, of Auckland, for their opinion.
The Railway Reform League has for one of its objects, as stated in its circular, "the total abolition of differential rating."
It is somewhat difficult for those who have studied and dealt with railway rates extensively, and who understand the magnitude and intricacy of the subject, to understand the precise nature of this object, as the term "differential rating" may cover a large field. In English law relating to railways such an expression is never met with; nor is it in American law, which is very extensive both in the individual and general State legislation.
The expression has been somewhat loosely introduced in England conversationally and critically, and during parliamentary inquiries, without a very precise meaning being attached to it. It has no precise technical meaning in railway working.
In New Zealand it has been used very loosely. It is susceptible of various interpretations, and may be held to express daily practice of such great variety, and has such different interpretations put on it by different people, that, if it is possible, it would be desirable to ascertain what is meant by the circular in this respect.
As it appears that one of the members of the firm of Devore and Cooper, the solicitors employed by the department in Auckland,: is a member of the Railway Reform League, it might be as well to request the firm to give the Railway Commissioners a brief opinion as to the meaning generally of the term "differential rating" as applied to railway traffic. This opinion is needed to enable the Commissioners to obtain an accurate view of what is involved by the total abolition of differential rating, and to enable them to judge whether the substitution of what is termed "the stage system" will bring about the total abolition of such a style of rating.
Messrs. Devore and Cooper's reply to the Railway Commissioners.
Dear Sir,—We have given your letter of the 28th September, and the enclosures forwarded therewith, very careful consideration, and have delayed replying to it until we had obtained from various quarters some definite information as to what the Railway Reform League consider "differential rating'
We may mention that our Mr. Cooper is connected with the League, as is the case with many professional men and merchants here, by virtue of his subscription, but is not a member of any committee connected therewith; and we may also say that the Commissioners are quite right in stating that the term "differential rating" has not received, as far as we can ascertain, any judicial interpretation either in any country under English law or in America.
We have also been unable, although we have examined the authorities within our reach, to find any precise meaning to the term in railway working, and we have no doubt that the Commissioners are correct in saying that the term has in railway technicalities no precise or definite meaning. We have therefore confined ourselves to ascertaining, as far as we were able, what the Railway Reform League here understand by the term.
|They consider "differential rating" to include and to be synonymous with the terms "discriminations," "drawbacks," "rebates," "discounts," and "allowances."
|They define it generally as "meaning any system which gives to the controllers of railway traffic the power to alter or vary fares, rates, or charges at their discretion, or to suit their idea of the requirements of trade"
|As particular instances of "differential rating," and from which perhaps may be gathered the more precise meaning which the League ascribe to the term, our inquiries elicited the following:—
We may, however, remark that the adoption of a stage system such as the one proposed would do away with the only legitimate excuse for, differential rating—namely, bringing the distant producer closer to his market.
Further on you say: "The objectionable practices such as are known as unjust discrimination, undue or unreasonable personal preferences, drawbacks, rebates, discounts, allowances, secret rating, &c., are not in operation on the New Zealand Government railways, and never have been."
This statement is perhaps correct, but the League would direct your attention to the fact that the Act of 1887 legalises and gives you the power to enforce them. You may bring them into operation any day at your own pleasure, and the public has no appeal either at law or to Parliament.
The League says Great Britain and America have found it necessary to suppress these practices by very stringent legislation, and the League further says that power to enforce them in New Zealand ought never to have been given to any man or set of men.
The League directs your attention to the fact that these practices, which have been made legal in this colony, are now punishable in America by fines up to £1000, and two years' imprisonment.
You quote certain fares under the proposed system, and state that they "make a local preference to an extent quite unknown in ordinary practice."
The reply is that under the proposed system the existence of the mile is ignored, as it is in postal and telegraphic practice, and all fares and rates are based on average cost and population.
On the 42 miles referred to as between Buckland and Henderson, and for which the first-class passenger fare is 3s 6d, there is a population located of between 65,000 and 75,000; while on the 42 miles between Mercer and Frankton the population is probably less than 1200.
The facilities for doing business over a district containing 75,000 inhabitants are so great as compared with a district of similar extent, but containing only 1200 inhabitants, that it appears to the League to be a sound policy to charge a higher rate in the thickly-populated district, and to give the lower rate in the thinly-populated one, in order that people may be induced to settle there and utilise the land.
We presume you desire to make it appear that the system the League wishes to have tried is a differential rating system. The League has good authority for stating that it is not.
The minutes of evidence taken before the Parliamentary Committee which inquired into this system were sent to Mr. Charles Waring, of London, and he was asked to say if it is a differential system. He replied as follows:—"In answer to the specific question put to me, I hardly see how any system in which rates and fares are established on a fixed basis can be properly called a differential rating system. This is, not what we mean when we speak of a differential system in England, and describes, indeed, the exact reverse."
This is Mr. Waring's opinion; he is an undoubted authority, and as you have publicly stated that you do not understand the meaning of the term, the League is moral than justified in accepting his opinion in preference to yours.
|Travellers of distances of
|No. of passengers.
|Percentage of number.
|Percentage of reve'ue.
|10 miles and under
|Over 10 and not exceeding 50 miles
|Over 50 miles
It appears to the League that such a state of things is neither fair nor desirable in the interests of the community generally.
|First-Class Passenger Fares.
|Avondale to Kingsland, 3 miles
|Auckland to Remuera, 3 miles
|Avondale to Newmarket, 6 miles
|Avondale to Auckland, 8 miles
|Auckland to New Lynn, 10 miles
|Avondale to Onehunga, 12 miles
For the worst examples of these "local preferences" you are solely responsible. The three miles of railway between Auckland and Remuera is used by the richest portion of the community, and they are charged at the rate of 2d per mile.
The three miles between Avondale and Kingsland are used by the poorer portion of the people, and they are charged 4d per mile, or just twice as much as their richer fellow-colonists.
Passengers from Avondale to Auckland must pass Newmarket, and yet you charge them 1s 4d, while for carrying them past this station, and two miles further on, you charge only 1s. It appears to the League that" local preferences" like these are not only unjust, but senseless and injurious to the best interest of the community.
Such things could not occur under the proposed new system.
It is the object of the League to introduce a system that shall be alike fair to every section of the community.
November 27, 1889.