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finding to our cost that our system, which, for its mileage, has to support by far the heaviest traffic of any in the world, is designed on a scale which can only be described as diminutive. We are, in a word, trying to do serious work with toys.
To begin with, the sectional area of our tunnels and overhead bridges is quite too circumscribed, and, of course, our stations are constructed on the
same scale. Practically the whole of the masonry along our lines would have to be renewed if the said area is to be brought up to American or Continental standards, and additions would have to be made to the ballast which supports the permanent way. Obviously the cost of these alterations is prohibitive, but consider what the disability implies. It means that our rolling-stock must for all time be narrower and less lofty than that possible for our competitors in Europe and America. It is not as if our fathers laid the foundations in wood, hay, stubble. They built for futurity, and they intended that their work should last for a century or two; nor, alas! is it likely that anything short of an earthquake will disappoint their shades. Brunel, alone among them, realised the value of a broader gauge, and his works went the way of much other farsightedness. But it is not quite a broader gauge that we want. The traffic requires more elbow-room, for the enlargement of vehicles on the present gauge. It is useless to cry out for mammoth
engines such as are built across the Atlantic. They would not fit. If we wish to enlarge our locomotives still further, we shall have to squash the boiler yet closer to the wheels (if such could be), and allow it to swallow up yet more of the funnel and steam-dome, otherwise our only plan will be to take refuge in additional length, to which clearly there must be a limit.
If the sectional area of our rolling stock is below below the standard required by modern conditions, the case is even worse when we come to consider the third dimension-that is, length. Of late years the continuous tendency has been to increase the length and weight of both passenger and goods trains. One long train has many advantages over two short ones. It requires half the staff of drivers, firemen, and guards. As a rule, there would be a saving in coal. Also it necessitates exactly half the signalling, and it occupies only one block section of line instead of two, a most important matter in busy districts. In the case of passenger trains, increased length is due not only to the increased number of persons travelling, but to the accommodation on longdistance journeys of lavatories, as well as of dining and sleeping saloons. The bicycle, too, often demands an extra coach. It is, therefore, little to be wondered at that the platforms and sidings, built years ago, now prove quite too short for modern working. Let us take a really bad case. The amal
gamated Chatham and South- each destination. Waggons Eastern Railways are SO enarriving have to wait their cumbered with short platforms turn to be unloaded, so clogging that many of their trains have up other traffic. Overtime has regularly to draw up twice at to be worked in order to clear each station, so as to enable off arrears, and this leads to passengers in the extreme front discontent and lack of reguand extreme rear to alight. larity among the men, whose The unpunctuality which re- hours are quite long enough sults is heart-breaking, and it already. Instead of method has a definite and appreciable there is one continual battle effect on the revenue. The with confusion. surest test of the prosperity of a suburban railway is its seasonticket account. Residents refuse to settle in districts where the train-service is expensive or dilatory. During the last ten years the total receipts from season-tickets, in the case of fifteen leading railways, have averaged an increase of 47 per cent. Yet the SouthEastern and Chatham increase for the same period amounts only to 26 per cent, a fact for which short platforms must bear not a little of the blame. When we turn our attention to the goods traffic, we find that the case is infinitely more serious. The congestion is becoming chronic. It is always worst in big towns, where extension of yards is attended by fearful capital expenditure. It is not too much to say that the companies are at their wits' end, nor do they appear to have any idea how to face a situation which grows more pressing every day. Lack of space in a goods yard involves delay at every point in the progress of a consignment. It is difficult to sort the goods before loading. There is not accommodation for the proper number of waggons, one for
We do not see that we can fairly blame the management for the inadequacy of siding accommodation. But in goods working there do appear to be faults, which might be, and therefore should be, remedied. There is really no excuse for the long-continued famine in waggons. To say that this scarcity is driving traders desperate is to put the case mildly. We know of an instance where some granite works closed down for several days simply because a line, tributary to the North-Western, refused to supply to supply the rolling-stock necessary to the removal of the finished stone. Scarcity of waggons leads not only to loss of traffic, but also, curiously enough, to congestion. Two waggons are available for a consignment which requires three. The two have to wait, blocking up a siding, until a third makes its appearance. In other ways, too, there is waste. Where waggons are continually being wired for, they have often to be run lightIt light always an always an operation which results in loss. It is, therefore, no wonder that at last waggons are being built at something like a reasonable
speed, but we may still ask why this was not done years ago, before many local industries had been depressed by the sheer impossibility of getting their goods delivered to the outside world with any degree of promptitude.
One very questionable justification for the companies' parsimony may here be stated. It is urged that they wished to encourage traders, and especially mine-owners, to purchase their own waggons. Such a policy, if it was consciously pursued, was an egregious blunder in railway management, while from the point of view of the public it was a crime. Private ownership of waggons is an unmitigated nuisance to the companies. Such waggons have to be kept in repair at owner's cost, there is the constant and wasteful necessity of running them back "light" to their starting-point, and they necessitate a good deal of special book-keeping. Moreover, to compel private firms to build waggons by starving them if they refuse, is not simply to throw away a great amount of good paying traffic, but also to place a cruel obstacle in the path of the small capitalist. The big man can always command attention, and it will not ruin him if he has to build a few waggons for his traffic. But the man whose output is slender finds himself in a very different position, nor would there appear to be any reason why he should be periodically victimised.
It is a great question whether the present supply of waggons
is used to the best advantage. Even in the case of those owned by the companies, we find an enormous amount light running. There is a simple reason for this. A Caledonian waggon is sent with a consignment to Cornwall. Within a reasonable time it has to be returned northwards, usually by the same route. Clearly, in a number of cases there will be no return consignment. A few packages may be thrown in for part of the distance, but in all probability the vehicle will run for hundreds of miles absolutely empty. Many people think that joint-ownership of waggons would put a stop to a good deal of this waste. Waggons would be reported at Clearing-House, and might always be used for the work nearest to hand.
The common ownership of goods waggons may, perhaps, be regarded as a counsel of perfection. But immediate measures might be taken to pave the way. It is difficult to see why railways, already complaining of their utter inability to deal with the traffic, continue to snatch business from each other at competitive points. system may be divided, roughly, into congested and non-congested sections. As a rule, it will be found that the congested sections coincide with the competitive routes, while along the non-congested sections the company enjoys a monopoly. The object of good management should be to relieve the congestion where it exists, and develop traffic along lines which are not yet fully utilised. The
policy at present pursued in England is the exact reverse. Year in year out there is a bitter struggle for traffic in all those large industrial centres where, under any circumstances, business would be brisk. In order to carry on the war for a non-paying turnover, an expensive staff of canvassers has to be maintained. The trader finds himself the centre of ceaseless attentions, and without hesitation he takes full advantage of a favourable situation. He demands his own terms, chooses his own rates, and, often enough, indulges his taste for petty fraud. When the account comes to be settled, he threatens to remove his patronage elsewhere, and, altogether, he takes good care that the company's profit shall be reduced to vanishing-point. But this does not exhaust the evils of pampering the customer in the big towns. Mr George H. Turner, the General Manager of the Midland, admits that he requires another 20,000 waggons.1 A similar need exists on all our railways. Therefore, in order to manipulate the traffic attracted by the smooth-tongued canvasser, whose living depends upon his plausibility, the companies make a regular practice of ignoring the claims of their customers in non-competitive areas. In other words, they refuse good, fully priced traffic on unoccupied metals, in order to accept shifting, vexatious, and "rate-cut" traffic over
already congested metals. it any wonder that for the last year or two increased receipts have meant diminished dividends? A railway, touching such a town as Manchester, would lose nothing by abolishing the canvasser and letting the trader take his custom where he pleased. If traffic became slack, it would be the more rapidly and cheaply dealt with. Promptitude would soon recommend the company to the favour of the public, and an independent attitude would be justified by experience.
The fact, admitted now by practically all railway authorities, that congested traffic does not pay, makes the treatment of canals by railways quite inexplicable. The policy of Great Britain towards inland waterways is unique. In North America, railway presidents are beginning to realise their value as a means of conveying cumbersome traffic which does not admit of any but a cheap rate. In Germany, canals are carefully fostered, despite the cheap railway rates, witness the recent attempt to connect the Rhine and the Elbe. In the United Kingdom alone, we find that canals are being starved. It is true that ours is a small country, that our roads our roads are excellent, our railways ubiquitous, and our seaboard suitable for coasting traffic. But this only explains how we are able to get on without canals. It does not justify their disuse. It is, of
1 Reply to Mr Justice Wright, and Railway and Canal Commissioners, Nov. 16, 1899.
course, a well-known fact that railway companies buy up canals in order to prevent them being used as a lever to keep down rates, and that in order to effect a purchase they deliberately starve their rivals by a temporary and arbitrary lowering of prices. But having overloaded their own metals, the plain man asks why the companies do not develop overflow lines of communication by means of the very canals which they have acquired. All the receipts would belong to the companies as at present, and the gain through economy would be immense. Even in the case of those canals which have not resigned their independence, arrangements might be made for mutual working, with great advantage to both parties.
It is often urged that railway rates in Great Britain are exorbitant, and unfavourable comparisons are made with those in force in Germany and America. It is not easy to arrive at reliable figures, but it is, generally speaking, true that our transport per ton-mile is very expensive. This is not altogether the fault of the railway company, even in the case of heavy mineral traffic. The Americans are able to run trains weighing a thousand or more tons. Owing to our siding and dock accommodation, we have to be content with trains a quarter that weight. The American mineral waggon will carry from -forty to fifty tons. Much as we should like to build on this colossal scale, we are deterred by the fact
that all our weigh-bridges and most of our turn-tables would have to be replaced by others of a larger size. Actually, this consideration has led to the recent cancelling by the Caledonian of an order for a hundred 50-ton mineral waggons. Moreover, the average length of run in America greatly exceeds what it would be in our country. The most expensive part of transport is not the actual haulage, but the shunting, loading, and unloading at the terminals. These fixed charges are the same for any length of journey, and the smaller the mileage the heavier the cost per mile.
A distinction must always be drawn between mineral traffic and goods. In the case of the former, larger waggons would be an advantage. In the latter case, however, a doubt may be fairly entertained. Great Britain is a small and thickly populated country, where rapid daily communication between town and town has somehow or other to be arranged for. If, at starting-time, a truck is only half full, then it cannot be held over till next day, whatever might be the economy. It is found in practice that our present 3- to 5-ton trucks are quite as big as we can conveniently fill from day to day; and that, even so, many run half empty. The average weight of consignments is steadily decreasing, owing, no doubt, to the general custom of ordering goods in small quantities and often. It is, therefore, no wonder that enlarged waggons are not