THE CASE FOR THE RAILWAYS -AND A REPLY.
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Points from Evidence Given Before the Royal Commission on Transport and a Letter from the Motor Agents' Association.
SOME very interesting points were raised in the evidence given last week on behalf of the railway companies before tho Royal Commission on Transport, the witnesses being Sir Josiah Stamp, G.B.E., chairman and president of the Executive, London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and Mr. Henry Langton Thornhill, chief legal adviser to the same railway:
We are only giving short extracts, but the complete minutes can be obtained from 11.M. Stationery Office at 0s. 6d. net.
Dealing first with Sir Josiah Stamp's evidence, he pointed out that, owing to the enormous development of roadtransport, the railway monopoly has largely dtsappeared, but the regulation and control nevertheless remaiii.
The railways are solely responsible for a total road mileage in Great Britain of 775, made up of approaches to bridges and roadways on the bridges.
It was claimed that the economic costs of-rail transport are entirely borne by rail users, whereas, in the ease of road transport, the users bear only a portion of the corresponding costs.
• • •
Parking Places v. Railway Stations.
A comparison was made between the Tree parking of motor vehicles on the public highway and the 'expensive stations which the railways lutist necessarily employ.
It was claimed that the, diversion of traffic front rail to road is artificially and unfairly stimulated and increased, and that, owing to this, the operations of road transport are ex-tended beyond the economic sphere... •
It was also claimed. that the users.. of private Cars sulisi dizes the commercial users, whilst roadliatilage ttsawliola is subsidized and the railway pays part of that subsidy: The witness said that there are certain branch lines which are very expensive and might be maintained with less overhead 'charges if they were used merely for freight. It might Pay for the railways to use their own buses, or, if other hoses existed, it might pay them to do it with a community of interests.
Mr.TE. L. Thornhill, in his evidence, also referred to the railway's grievance regarding the maintenance of roads over railway bridges for which it received nothing from the Road Fund. .There is no statutory obligation WI railway companies to bring bridges up to modern standards., and they can, in theory, restrict traffic going over the bridges, although this is difficult in practice.
Sir William Lobjoit, a member of the Commission, raised the point that the railways had succeeded in "mopping up." most of the canals, swallowing them as a Nemesis. Mr. Thornhill replied that the railways had had to swallow a plod many of them at a great deal of cost.
An Interesting Reply.
• Some of these points and many others are raised and re, Plied -to in the following letter which we have received from the president of the Motor Agents' Association, Ltd., 157, Great Portland Street, and we reproduce this letter as constituting a valuable contribution to the subject.
The Editor, .77te Commercial Motor.
Sir,—So many misleading statements have been made by spokesmen for the railway interests regarding the amount by which they allege the railways have subsidized road transport during the past few years, that a recital of the true facts proves interesting.
The pre-motor cost of roads was approximately Stationary, being £14,646,000 in 1902-3 and £15,288,000 in 190040; in tio year in this period was it less than £14,000,000 or More than £15,288,000. These figures are given on Table 2 of a -report of the sub-committee of representatives of the railway companies and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The 1910 cost of £15,288,000 is equivalent to a cost to-day of 127,000,000 in view of the rise in prices. Table 3 of the report referred to above gives this figure as 123,358,000, but this would appear to-be on the low side in view of the increase in wages in this clas.g of work of over 100 per cent. since before the war, details of which are given on page 352 of the Ministry of Labour Gazette for October, 1928.
There were in 1910, 114,000 Motor vehicles, in 191.4
307,000, in 1920 .551,000, and in 1928 2,027,000. This shows the small number of motor vehicles before 1910, the rapid growth between 1910 and 1914, and the even more rapid growth since the war. The figures for 1910, 1914 and 1920 are taken froin page 31. of the " MrAar Industry of Great Britain, 1928," issued by the Society of Mater Manufacturers and Traders. The figure for 1928 is taken from page 2 of the Ministry of Transport return on "Road Vehicles; Great Britain, No. 0," code number 55423-6.
The cost of roads in Great Britain for 1925-26, the last year for which information has been extracted, was -£56,005,000. This figure is given in Appendix 18 of the -Ministry of Transport report on the administntion, of the. Road Fund, 1927-28, and there is no evidente to show that _ this figaire has appreciably increased.
The extra cost of the roads due to mechanical transport is the difference between the equivalent' to the pre-motor cost of roads of £27,000,000 and the present figure of £56,000,000, i.e., £29,000,000.
In addition to this there is the factor of police. According to the annual reports on police in England and Wales for 1913 and 1928, there was an increase in the strength of the foree of 5,675 between these two years: The average•eoSt of • a member of the-p-olice force iii 1927 was £843 a. year, that the cost of the 5,075 additional constables taken on since 1912 may be put at £1,740,725_ (5,075 X 348).
The total cost to the country of road mechanical trait:Snort' cannot, therefore, exceed £29.000,060, plus £2000,000, or snom000 per annum.
The Yield from Licences and Petrol Tax. •
The petrol tax is 4d. a gallon, and the estimate of the petrol consumption for the year 1928-29 816,000,000 gallons. The yield of the tax for thatyear will therefore be £13.600,000.
According to the Ministry of-Transport "Road Vehicles; Great Britain" return, code number 55-123-4-27, the yield Of the motor vehicle taxes for the 12 months ending November
30th, 1927. was £23,456,378. . .
On this basis, allowing for the, increase in licences,. the yield for the _financial year 1928-29 is likely to he £26,164,000. The total yield of motor taxation for 1928-29 will therefore. be £13,600,000, _plus £26,1(14,006, Or £39,750,000 IPProximately, some 18,750,000 More than the
cost to the country of motor transport. •
The railways pay some £8,000,000 a year in rates, but it should be pointed out that this sum represents the total -local rates paid by the railway companies, who themselves before the Joint Select Committee on the Railway-Bills, did not claim that more than £1,600,000 went towards the roads. -It should be remembered also in this connection that the railway companies have approximately 83,000 horse-drawn vehicles using the roads, and that these are not subject to any form of special taxation.
Railways Will Benefit by De-rating.
The railway companies are under the Government Derating Bill, to be relieved of an amount which has been variously estimated from £4,000,000 to 16,000,000 of rates. This relief is to be used to subsidize, and therefore, presumably, to increase certain railway traffics, notably mail for export and the heavy industries. The petrol tax, i.e., the road transport industry, is being looked to -as the source for supplying the wherewithalfor these de-rating plans. Details of the railway traffics to be sethsidiied are given in a Ministry of Transport return, "Railway Freight Rebates (Anticipation), 1928," code number OH) 3215. The figure of £4,000,000 is the amount of the railway relief under the De-rating Bill mentioned in the course of a Parliamentary debate and widely reported, in the Press, vide The Mote, November 23rd, page 8, speech by co. Ashley, Minister of Transport, on railway freight rebates,
The motor industry and the road transport industry are not antagonistic to the railways, but misleading statements and biased propaganda should at all times be so challenged that the general public possesses the true facts,— Yours faithfully, GEORGE W. LUCAS, President.