A DECLARATION OF WAR.
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"The Inspector" Insists that Evidence is Already Available that the Railways' Policy is to be Definitely to Hinder any Development of Competition by the Independent Users.
THAT THE railways desire to initiate greater activities on the roads as part and parcel of their far-flung organization still remains one of the dominating factors on the political horizou of the industry in which we are all interested. At the time of writing, the position remains that the Bill got through its last reading by the very narrowest of majorities, it is no secret that opposition to the measure has certainly "grown no less in the interval. Opinion has consolidated a great deat in certain influential quarters, and the professed altruistic intentions of these giant corporations are now being regarded with increased scepticism.
So far as the railway people themselves are concerned, they have been at considerable pains toleave the public with the impression that their sole object in. making application for these increased powers is to stiffen their own organization, and to enable them to develop railway transport by enlarging. theauxiliary services, which they quite rightly claim can be made into very valuable feeders for their general traffic. It is deliberately intended to leave the public with the idea that the railway coinpanics in noway wish to binder the development of the virile competitor which has come to life during the past few years, but merely to take their, share in this great new development, and to enable themselves to profit by the progress that has been made with mechanical haulage on the roads.
There is a growing conviction, however, that the railway companies, in addition to securing powers to operate on the roads themselves very freely, deliberately intend, whatever they may say—or neglect ' to say—to the contrary, to wipe out as much as they possibly can of this new and. ominous competi
tion from the roads. It is very definite, in the writer's opinion, from information that has come to hand from various quarter, that the railway companies are by no means going to satisfy themselves by acquiring powers to run ancillary rea-d services; they are going to take the very many' means in their power to put hindrances in the way of the development of road services by others than railway corporations. It is very true that small straws show whichever way the winds blow, and it is an ascertained fact that, at any rate, by no means unimportant members , of certain railway staffs • are already taking such action as can only he explained by their instructions that nothing is to be done by the railway companies that will encourage independent road haulage traffic. These instructions may not have been given directly by the railway executives, . hut one cannot' avoid the conclusion that it has -been allowed to become 'known to railway staffs generally that, not only must the railways acquire road transport powers, bet they must avoid in all ways giving any assistance to those who are running services "that may be in any way considered as in opposition to the transport programme of the
railway companies. .
* * * . . Two small instances may be quoted that have. come
to the writer's notice recently. One big railway group has, through its advertisement department, refused to allow the exhibition of advertisements by motor-haulage concerns on the score that such announcements are calculated to inform the public that goods can effectively and economically he carried by road. The objection taken by the advertisement department in question was that the announce
ment was in opposition to the trading interests of the railway companies; in other words, the railway companies are not prepared to give this facility for free trade in motor haulage, but wish to limit it by refusing the expansion which comes-from judicious advertising, so far, at any rate, as announcements on their property are concerned.
The other " straw," in another part of the country, concerns notices to vacate premises under railway arches, held for some while by small independent motor-haulage concerns; the same reason being advanced, but by another department, be it noted, eamely, to the effect that the facilities granted were in competition with the railway companies' own business.
Another point, which cannot be characterized as the straight Kart of dealing that one could wish for in the matter, is that, while the present Bill was. being discussed in Parliament, considerable play was read-e with the statement that the railways had undertaken not to manufacture their own machines. It may have been accidental, or it may have been intentional, that this part of the railway's intended programme was not amplified by the statement of the known facts to the effect that the undertaking not to manufacture only holds for five years, and that while the railway companies are taking no powers with the present Bill to manufacture their own vehicle plant, they also offer no stipulation that they will not, at that very early future date, make re newed application in that direction. It would. appear that the public is asked to believe that the railway companies intend to make no in-roads on the manufacturing side of this great industry, whereas, as a matter of fact, they, are only holding their hands for a brief period whilst experience is gained, and whilst their resources for fresh manufacturing programmes are limited in the present financial state of the country and also whilst extensions of workshops and production programmes have no particularly favourable prospects. In effect, the public should be told that this safeguard is only a limited one, that there is nothing on earth to prevent the railway companies from applying for powers to manufacture the whole of their mechanical haulage plant in five years' time.
Whilst deprecating any alarmist consideration, the writer would very strongly urge that there is good reason for assuming that the railway companies have ultimately in view the securing to themselves of the bulk of the haulage -work of the country, whether it be on road or ran. They laughed. at the idea of the parallel of the present circumstances to thekilling of the canal interests, but it Was a satirical latigh, and it is quite certain toaday—and small proofs are already becoming evident—that what the railway companies did to the canals some while ago, they intend to do to independent commercial road haulage in the future. It is very important, indeed, that users should not be blinded to this extreme probability either by omission by the, railways to state the cardinal considerations in Parliament, or by neglect on the users part to take notice of the many small ways in which the railway companies are •alreadv deliberately refusing add, or opportunity, to the proper development of the industry which means bread and cheese to the majority of us. -The railways are definitely out for the blood of the hanlime he he a contractor or aprivate owner.