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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76



North Island lines open, 806 miles; to be added, 839; total mileage, 1,645; total cost, £8,856,073.

South Island lines open, 1,249 miles; to be added, 378 miles; total mileage, 1,627 miles; total cost, £11,057,972, or over two million two hundred thousand pounds more than would be expended in railway construction in the North Island. Therefore, the South cannot complain that this scheme of construction is unfair to it.

In estimating the length of these proposed lines at 1,217 miles, I believe I have considerably exceeded the mileage required. It has been arrived at by the rough and ready process of taking the direct distance, and adding one-third for deflections. I am also certain that they can be constructed and equipped for a less average cost than £2,500 per mile, but taking the mileage and cost as Stated it would be only £3,000,000, and surely it would be worth more than that to join up all the towns and country districts from one end of the colony to the other.

This scheme would certainly benefit the whole colony much more than constructing the North Island Central Railway, and would probably mean little more outlay, while certainly it" would give a tenfold better return.

It will, of course, be opposed by the railway officials. It is altogether too "tin-pot" an affair for them. Whatever you do you must not break the gauge, they say. Why not? I ask. These same gentlemen sing out lustily for roads to act as feeders for their railways. Well, they have the roads, and a dozen drays page 73 back up their loads at the station. Do not they break the gauge? Would it be more broken by a dozen 2ft. 6in. trucks backing up? There is, however, this difference. With the drays it is easy to throw the work and the cost on the owners, but if the light railways were used, then the work and cost would fall on the Railway Department, and would help to increase the working expenses.

Now, the working-expenses of a narrow-gauge railway consumes a much larger proportion of the gross revenue than a broad-gauge line does, up to a certain point—the narrower the gauge, the greater the proportion of revenue consumed in working expenses—but this is far more than made up to the public by the greatly less amount, of capital invested in construction, and consequently the higher rate of interest realised: but while this is a great gain to the public it is in one sense a loss to the Department, for the simple reason that it is not charged with interest on the capital invested in construction. The railway man's test of successful working, is the smallness of the percentage of working expenses to gross revenue, and the narrow-gauge railways would probably increase this percentage, but in these expenses interest is never included. It has been to attain this low percentage of working expenses that since the advent of the late Commissioners our railways have been persistently starved.

Railway officials are very largely imbued with Vanderbilt, sen.'s spirit. Once, when he proposed to do something very outrageous on one of his lines, someone ventured to ask, "But what will the public say?" The reply came quickly, "The public be d—d, let the public take care of themselves. It's my business to look after my railway." This is the spirit in which railways always have been and still are worked. Railway men have had it so ground into them that "railways are commercial institutions and must be made to pay," that they have no other thought than how to make the instrument they use pay at once. The public is never considered, except in so far as money can be immediately extracted from it without any reference to the future. If the interest of the public was really considered, our railways would pay much better.

To construct the lines mentioned on the present gauge (3ft. 6in.) would cost the country £11,945,000, and at 4½ per cent, an annual payment of £537,150, and it would probably take 20 rears to complete their construction.

To construct them on the 2ft. 6in. gauge would, as already stated, cost £3,042,000. and an annual payment of £136,290, or tar, one-fourth the above amount, and they could probably be constructed in six or seven years.