صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Association, stated that the Irish farmers were seriously handicapped by the rates, which were prohibitive. He also stated that a large traffic is done by carts, which at the present rates can live and thrive in opposition to the railways. For instance, there is a regular weekly traffic by the road from Magherafelt, the rate from this town to Belfast being 8s. per ton, and the distance forty-two miles. From Dungannon to Belfast, the distance being two miles shorter, the railway rate is 125. 2d. per ton. “We therefore contend that if the carters can carry goods remuneratively, as they do, for 8s., the railway companies should not be allowed to charge more where they have not any opposition." Mr. P. J. O'Connor Glynn, representing the great firm of Guinness, gave evidence showing mileage rates for porter of 2s. 4d. and 25. 2d. per ton on Irish railways, as compared with only 9d. and 8d. in England.

So, too, the passenger fares are excessive. The Irish railways are free from passenger duty, which has to be paid in Great Britain to the extent of a quarter of a million a year. Nevertheless, the fares are higher. Here are the comparative average fares for the three countries : England

7.86d. Scotland

8.31d. Ireland

13.2d. * Professor Long has compiled a series of typical fares for the different European countries. Here they are :

-THIRD CLASS FARES IN-
Miles. Denmark. Russia. Belgium. Holland. Sweden. Germany. Ireland.

66 215 3/- 3/3 3/4 41- 4/5 5/5
107 3/5 4/9

5/1 6/6 71- 8/11
165 4/4
6/5 8/2

10/5
10/8

13/9 † “If these figures,” says Professor Long, “the whole of which are official, are not sufficient to maintain my assertion that Irish fares are the highest in Europe-as I believe them to be the highest in' the world in relation to the accommodation afforded-facts have no value in argument."

Some Preferential Rates. Irish farmers and traders are not only afflicted with railway rates that are excessively high in themselves, but they are also made to suffer from what the Standard rightly calls “the iniquitous system of preferential rates."

Thus Mr. J. Hole says “It is cheaper to send cattle by road than by rail, cheaper to take coal from Scotland to seaport than to take it ten miles inland ; cheaper to carry goods to England and have them re-shipped to Ireland at through English rates than to pay the local rates. Goods are often shipped from the eastern seaboard for Sligo and Ballina viâ Glasgow."

Mr. K. Brady Williams, Corn Merchant, Mallow, stated before the Revision of Rates Committee, 1890, that a single ton of flour from Cork to Tralee was charged ros. rod. ; by the wagon-load the

* Return Receipts and Expenditure, 1896. Financial News, June 13, 1899.

512

8/2

rate was 8s. 9d. ; but when flour was sent through Cork from Liverpool, the rate for the whole distance, from Liverpool to Tralee, was 1os. only, although the direct rates from Liverpool to Cork amounted to us. Id., including harbor dues and transfer charge. Complaints have been made loud and deep that the foreign traffic was dealt with after this fashion. The millers had no objection in the world to equal rates being charged, but they think it excessively unfair that such a premium should be put upon the foreign article. The Irish trade could hold its own if it were treated fairly, but the preferential system adopted by the railway companies was tending gradually to abolish it altogether.

As to its effect on agriculture, in a recent leaflet Mr. Moreton Frewen says :-“Let the farmers figure out for themselves what tax they pay yearly to each of the railway companies. From the data afforded us by rates on, for example, the Belgian railways, the rate on butter here should be a trifle over a half-penny per ton per mile, whereas I find that butter carried from Tralee to Cork, 83 miles, is 155. rod. Grain should be carried for a farthing per ton per mile, and coal for half a farthing. Coal is being carried from Ohio to New York by rail at the rate of eight tons per penny per mile. I am certain that every farmer who pays either as a passenger or freighter £ 50 a year to the Irish railways would save at least # 30 were the railways liberally financed by an expert departouent in Dublin."

Costly and Bad Management. Writers upon Irish railways all agree in saying that they are among the worst and most wastefully managed lines in Europe. For example : Mr. R. N. Boyd, Hon. Sec. Ulster Provision Curers' Association, stated, before the Revision of Rates Committee, that " although the traffic in dead pigs from the various centres in Ulster to the curing stations is very extensive, the accommodation given by the railway companies is of the most meagre description.

Instead of properly-ventilated cars such as are used for dead meat in England, they supply coal and cattle wagons, or whatever sort they happen to have handiest. And as a sample of the services rendered, Sir Samuel Hayes of Stranorlar, called on us to arrange about getting pigs from Stranorlar market to Belfast. The pigs came for a season, but the delivery was so slow (a day longer than was expected) that we had to drop the place altogether . . . I am acquainted with a curer in Ayrshire who was in the habit of getting pigs sent him from Ballina to Ardrossan.

The transit occupied from Monday morning till Thursday morning. He found that he could get pigs brought from Copenhagen in nearly as short a time and for one-third less freight. He accordingly dropped his Irish supply, to the detriment of the Mayo farmer.'

The management of the Irish lines has long been notoriously wasteful. In 1867, the Hon. W. Monsell, in his separate report, asserted that three intelligent business men sitting in Dublin would do the business betier than the (then) 430 directors of the 56 lines (most of them with a separate Board); further, that the lines seemed to have no tendency to amalgamation. Of 35 companies he said two were bankrupt, two at a standstill, six had paid no dividend for years on some part of their preference stock, ten had paid no dividend on their ordinary shares, seven paid a less percentage than the funds (two of these less than one per cent.).

And more recently Sir George Findlay has declared that he could do in four days a week all the work done by the Irish managers and directors, and take the remaining two för fishing on the Shannon. Mr. Banks pointed out to the 1881 Committee, that for the Cork and Passage Railway, of seven miles, there was a separate Board of ten or twelve directors, a secretary and an engineer. And the Committee reported that the management of the Irish railways is needlessly expensive, in consequence of their being owned by a number of companies, each having its own staffthere being in Ireland 270 directors, 37 secretaries, 20 managers, and a corresponding staff of subordinate officers, for the administration of railways having a capital of £36,000,000, whereas the Great Western Railway of England, having a capital of nearly twice that amount, is managed by a single Board of eighteen direciors, a secretary, and a general manager." They, therefore, recommended unity of management for the sake of economy.

Conditions of Labor. The conditions generally of employment of the men employed by the Irish railway companies are so notoriously bad that it seems almost superfluous to speak of them. Some of the drivers, for example, are paid as little as 3s. 6d. per day ; firemen get as little as is. Ed. per day; and shunters' wages are often less than 155. per week ; while many full-grown men, acting as porters, get the starvation wage of 78. and 8s. per week. Again, in spite of the Railway Hours of Labor Act, there are frequent cases of inen working twelve, thirteen, and fifteen hours at a stretch, and recent experience has shown how restrictive of general liberty and freedom to join trade unions are many of the conditions of the Irish railway workers' employment. Under State ownership, the public conscience would insist upon giving them substantially better treatment.

Why Present System is Doomed. In face of the foregoing facts, the question arises whether the public are likely to get the maximum of service at a minimum of cost out of the present system of private ownership of railways ? Fifty years ago, Mr. Gladstone declared that “there is no likelihood that the great experiment of the greatest possible cheapness to the public will be tried under the present system.” Experience since has much more than demonstrated the truth of Mr. Gladstone's declaration. We will, therefore, ask a much more simple question. Are the traders and farmers likely to obtain an adequate remedy under the present system of private ownership? Again experience tells us no. We have had about sixty years of State control with private ownership, and relatively, in consequence of the preferential rate system, the conditions of the users of the railway to-day are worse than they were half a century ago. At present, the aggrieved farmer or trader has two methods of redress against the extortion of the railway companies. The first lies in the general revision of the maximum rates by means of the Parliamentary Committee; the second lies in his right of appeal to the Railway Commissioners in the case of a specific grievance.

The Farce of Revision, Parliamentary revision has been a sort of a will-o'-the-wisp to the farmers and traders for sixty years. It has flickered before them in the times of darkest depression, only to lead them deeper and deeper into the mire of railway extortion. Such language may seem to some to be grossly exaggerated. On the contrary, it only expresses that which is literally true. In other words, traders and farmers as a body have usually lost more than they have gained by each subsequent"revision of rates” by Parliamentary Committees. Let us take the last great revision, from which the traders were led to expect so much. It is true the late Dr. Hunter tried to cool the 'ardor of his friends, by assuring them, with his great knowledge and experience, that the revision would probably prove a delusion and a snare. On the other hand, Mr. W. M. Acworth cynically told the farmers and traders that they stood to lose by the revision anyhow. Nevertheless the great revision began. It lasted for 130 days, 2u1 witnesses were examined, 43,000 questions were asked and answered, 4,000 objections from 1,500 objectors were considered, and 2,256 separate tables were put in. Finally the result came. It simply astounded the all-believing farmers and traders. Equally it vindicated the warnings of Dr. Hunter. It was a revision intended to reduce rates. In the result it was a revision that raised them. Many rates were reduced, but more were increased than were reduced. As an instance it was shown by a recognized expert, Mr. J. W. Gray, that of 2,054 class-rates that went into the melting pot of this revision, 51 came out unchanged, 867 reduced, and 1,136 increased! The complaints were universal. One company, the Great Western, made a profit of £14,000 out of a reduction of £80,000 in its rates. That is to say, to recoup itself for the reduction it raised other rates by £94,000. This was typical. Let us glance at some remarks of a Select Committee appointed to consider the result of the revision.

The Committee begin by asking whether Parliament, in forcing reductions upon the companies in certain directions, contemplated that they would recoup themselves by raising the rates in other cases where the “actuals were below the new maxima ? To this they give an emphatic "No," and intimate that in taking the step they had done, the companies had broken faith. “Your Committee are of opinion that the effect of the statements of the railway managers before the Board of Trade Committee, and the Joint Committee of the Houses, was to lead these bodies and the traders to believe that the companies could not recoup themselves for any losses resulting from a reduction of the maximum charges by a general raising of rates which were below the maxima. If there had been any general expectation of such action, it is most probable that the Provisional Orders would not have passed into law, for they would have been strongly opposed by the traders who had the

benefit of the existing rates, and who have objected to their being raised for the benefit of other traders whose rates were to be reduced."

The Hopelessness of Litigation. This Committee, however, gave up the idea of a re-revision, and decided that the Railway Commissioners should be given additional powers for supplying remedies in the case of individual grievances. An Act was passed in 1894 with this object. Funnily enough the precise weakness of traders and farmers taking the railway companies before the Railway Commissioners upon an individual grievance has been pointed out in The Railways and the Traders, which Mr. Acworth, the author, expressly stated was written by him on behalf of the railway companies. Íhis is what Mr. Acworth says—“For every shilling cut by an expeditious tribunal off a rate, it is easy for the railway companies, if they are agreed to act in harmony with each other, to withdraw two-shillings' worth of facilities; and the traders may make up their minds that this is what must inevitably happen if the railway companies are confronted with lower rates simultaneously with a rapid rise of working expenses. Assume that your tribunal can fix a reasonable rate, what is the use of it unless it can schedule to its judgment a minute specification of the quality of service to be given in return for the rate ? The railways can bring down troops of expert witnesses. How can the tribunal refuse to hear them, when every student of railway economics knows that the reasonableness of each particular rate depends not merely on its own individual circumstances, but on a comparison with all the other rates and a consideration of the company's entire business ? But for a farmer or shopkeeper, with the assistance, possibly, of the local attorney, to undertake to fight trained railway experts with a lifetime's experience and with every fact and figure at their fingers' end, is only to court defeat.”

The late Chairman of the Brighton Railway Company goes so far as to declare that even successful action is futile, for he says that the companies “could easily retaliate, under a sense of injury, by measures which no control could prevent, unless it was prepared to take on itself the entire responsibility of the detailed management of the line." Experience amply and unhappily proves how accurate are these sinister declarations of two prominent railway company spokesmen. Mr. Field, M.P., told the House of Commons thai thé Railway Commission is useless to Ireland, because it is too expensive. Even millionaire concerns are perfectly impotent in fighting the railway companies. Take the case of the Chatterly Colliery Co., which is merely typical. Thinking they were illegally overcharged by the North Staffordshire Railway Company, they took them before the Railway Commission, proved their case, and secured an order confining the railway within the legal maximum. Thereupon the railway company flatly declined to carry the traffic of the Chatterly Company. They were again taken before the Commission, and at once ordered to resume the traffic, subject to a penalty of £ 50 a day for refusal. They complied with the letter of the order, but "under as awkward and inconvenient circumstances for the Chatierly

« السابقةمتابعة »