Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

Some Proofs of my ability to deal with this subject

Some Proofs of my ability to deal with this subject.

Our railway officials having repeatedly asserted that I am incompetent to deal with this important matter, I respectfully, and with much deference, direct attention to the instances in which time and the course of events have proved my judgment to be right and that of the railway men wrong.

My first letter on the railway question appeared in the "New Zealand Herald," of the 3rd January, 1883.

On the 31st March following, the Department gazetted certain alterations and reductions in passenger fares.

Commenting on these in a printed circular letter sent to the various Chambers of Commerce, I said, "I am strongly of opinion that the concession made will simply mean so much loss so far as the revenue is concerned."

At the end of the year, passenger revenue had decreased £25,213, and the number of passengers carried was 10,734 less than in the previous year.

In March, 1884, what was known as the "Grain Rate Tariff" was gazetted. I analysed this, and stated that it was more likely to produce £50,000 than the £150,000 estimated by the Department. The result showed a gross increase of £84,409, and a net increase of only £50,372.

It is clear that in these two instances our railway controllers were quite unable to estimate, even approximately, the result of their own work, and that my estimate was much nearer the truth than theirs.

page 38

In my first lecture on the railway question, I made the statement that passengers could be carried on a railway thirty (30) miles for one penny without loss. Mr. Maxwell quoted this as an instance of my "great ignorance." Several years later, the Chairman of the Railway Clearing House in London gave a lecture on railway transit before the London Institute. In it he made use of these words: "Given a train of the capacity to carry 500 passengers, and assuming that train to be only onehalf full, then the cost of carrying each passenger is one penny for every 30 miles." I think this may be taken as proof that I had calculated correctly, and that the "great ignorance" was not shown by me.

Speaking in the Auckland Chamber of Commerce soon after the appointment of the Victorian Railway Board, with Mr. Speight as chief, I used these words: "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 it will be done by the usual process—that is, by absorbing the country districts of Victoria into Melbourne."

At that time I was probably the only man in Australasia who held this opinion, for then success was apparently assured, and the other colonies were hastening to follow Victoria's example. Time, however, has proved that my judgment was again right.

In July, 1889, I received from London information that the Hungarians were to start their Zone System on the 1st August following. Without waiting for them to begin, I immediately wrote, and, among other things, said: "As to the financial outcome, for some years, probably many, it will be a great success, but, owing to the concentration in one centre, it will gradually wear itself out, and a better stage system will take its place." (See "New Zealand Herald," 20th July, 1889.) This was written on the information then supplied that the system was one of equal zones, all starting from the capital, hence the last clause of the paragraph quoted. The financial results have more than justified my anticipations.

Subsequent information showed that the system was not one of equal zones, still I thought their arrangement, very faulty, and again wrote, pointing out that the 11th, 12th, and 13th zones were likely to give poor financial results. The reports show that I was also right in this anticipation. (See "New Zealand Herald. 22nd August, 1889.)

After four years' working the increases in the various zones were as follows:—
1st zone 2nd zone 10th zone 13th zone 14th zone
600.8% 12-1% 6% 120.2% 294.0%
page 39

The officers of the Department contended that under the Stage System there would be practically no increase on the shortest or the longest distances, but that any increase there might be would be on the mid-distance travelling. On the contrary, I maintained that the chief increases would be made, as they have been in Hungary, on the short and on the long distances.

It must be remembered that this evidence was given long before the Hungarian system was heard of.

In May, 1890, I received information, that the Austrians were to apply a "Zone" System to their railways on the 1st of June following. It was evident to me that this system had been worked out by the railway "experts," and that while professing to be a Zone System it was really a mileage one; consequently, in the "New Zealand Herald" of 28th May, 1890, I said: "My own opinion is that if there is any improvement in financial results that they will be exceedingly small." At the end of the year they had made a small loss, and I have never heard of any good coming from the Austrian system.

One of the objections urged to according the Stage System a trial, is that it would be dangerous to the country to give me control over a, small section of our railways.

If this is so, may I ask why a gentleman who never pretended to have the slightest knowledge of either railway policy or working was made Chief Commissioner of the whole of our railways, with irresponsible power to deal with them just, exactly as he pleased, and also power to over-ride his fellow Commissioners.

Mr. J. P. Maxwell, too, when he was appointed General Manager, on his own showing, had never had a day's training to qualify him for his post. (See Parliamentary Paper, I.—IX., 1886, Questions and Answers, 617 to 620.)

I think, too, Sir, that without presumption I may be permitted to say that my knowledge of the railway question is at any rate equal to that of any of the Ministers who have had charge of our railways during the last 15 years.