"A SQUARE DEAL" The Ra uays Will Get It If
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They. Give It Railway Traffic for the Railways, Road Traffic for the Road Haulier, and Then, that is Estab
In This Trenchant, .Article the Author.: Indicates ,Flow. the Railways .are• Fightin&,40 Transport Openly and by Suink Methods IWAS amazed to read the railway companies' announcement as it appeared in the issue ot The Commercial Motor dated November 25. Please note that I wish: that -observation tobe interpreted strictly as it is written. .1. donot mean that I am surprised that the railway companies should use The Commercial Motor as a medium for "anything which they wish to communicate to the 'road-transport industry._ Far from it. That they took that course is merely one of many proofs of their astuteness.
What I am amazed at iS the wording of that announcement. I am astounded that they should have the effrontery to state, in The Commercial Motor, that " The railways have no desire whatsoever to interfere with other transport services or with any other business."
That the railway companies should endeavour to gull the ordinary public, by making such a statement as that through the' medium of the daily Press, is no matter for surprise. It is only to be expected. That they should imagine that they can " get away with it" amongst the readers of a journal published for those who are principally interested in the road-transport industry, however, is a piece of colossal impudence.
Whole History Shows Effort to Harm Road Transport.
The whole history of transport in this country during the past 10 years (that is to say,. since 1928, when the railway companies first obtained their powers to operate road service) is replete 1 with examples of venomous efforts on the part Of rail interests to do harm to their competitors in the road-haulage industry.
As far back as 1931, in an article entitled "Railway Smoke-screen," I indicated the lines which would be followed by the railway companies in their attitude towards the road-transport industry. In another article, in the issue of The Commercial Motor dated May 29, 1936, 1 compared the railway companies, and the probable outcome of their dealings with the roadtransport industry, with the famous case of the tiger and the lady who smilingly used that animal as a means for transport. I gave, in detail, particulars of the metheds which the railway companies were following , and would be likely to follow.
In the course of that article I prophesied that if the C.M.U.A.-A.R.O. merger—so essential if we were to have a body capable of fighting the railways—did not come quickly, it would not. come at all. Alas, that I should have been so true a prophet!'
Nothing has happened, in the interim, to vary my views as to the course the railway companies would take. . The railways must surely imagine that we, in this industry, have short memories or no memories at all. They must think that we have forgotten what happened in 1931, when the, perhaps, well-intentioned Road Traffic Act came into force. So soon as passenger-vehicle operators commenced to apply for their licences under the new Act, they found, to their amazement, that the railway companies were opposing them—opposing every one without exception, without distinction as to size, importance, utility or futility.
In 1934, when the _Road and Rail Traffic Act was implemented, precisely the same procedure was adopted. Indeed, the situation became so bad that the Licensing Authorities were compelled to suggest to the railway companies that they should cease the practice of objecting to all applications, when so many of these objections were without rhyme, reason or justification.
So we come tothe present time. It is curious that on the very day when I opened my copy of The Commercial Motor and saw the railway companies' announcement, I had communications, on my desk, from road-haulier friends interested in the haulage ot sugar beet. These correspondents did not reside in the same district and were not concerned with the same factory, but all of them complained of the same thing.
The railway companies are taking sugar-beet haulage from road-haulage contractors by the simple but, unfortunately, effective procedure of ,asking the farmer at what price the road haulier is doing the work and, thereupon, offering to do it for him for several pence per ton less.
Fair Competition Always Welcomed by Road Interests.
Competition in trade is to be expected and, if it is fair, is to be welcomed. If there was any suggestion that the rates for the road haulage of beet were extravagant or exorbitant, or that the road haulier was exploiting the farmer, and thus making it almost incumbent upon the railway companies to come to his rescue (having in mind those " duties and responsibilities . . . which the railways must bear at all times ") then nothing could be said.
Actually, it is common knowledge that the rates at which sugar beet is carried by road hauliers to-day show the barest miniman of profit. The prices at which the railway companies do the work, in the circumstances just named, are such that the work must be done at a loss. Competition, however, if it is to be fair, must be on an economic basis.
This raises a point for the consideration of railway shareholders. So much of the railway companies' roadhaulage work is obtained at these cut rates that it is certain it, is done at a loss. " It might be a good thing if those shareholders would call for a statement of accounts relating to the road-transport operations of the companies concerned, as such operations are, by law, compelled to be considered as ancillary.
It might well be discovered that part of the reason for the railway companies' failure to pay adequate dividends is due to the fact that this ancillary business is run at a loss.
If it be urged that the -railway companies are entitled p33
to quote these low rates, 'because they have vehicles which otherwise would be, disengaged, then the question becomes one into,which the Licensing Authorities might well inquire, as to whether the vehicles owned antl operated by' the railway companies are not surplus to their requirements.
Nor is that all. In the sugar-beet areas the railway companies are fighting applications for short-term licences, for sugar-beet carriage, with the. same intensity as though those applications were for full A hcenCes. The result has been that many operators to whom, for years past, sugar-beet haulage has comprised a considerable proportion of their annual earnings, have been unable to obtain licences.
Another new aspect of the railway companies' intentions towards the road-haulage industry, which seems to be somewhat at variance with their. desire not to interfere with other transport services, is now coming to light with regard to applications for. contract-A licences.. It is now suggested that, in the .case of -any application for such a licence, the applicant -•must, besides presenting proof that a formal contract is to -be made, also give details of the districts in which the traffic will be carried and of the rates.
There is, in fact, no end to the activities of the _railway
companies in their •fierce fight against the road-haulage industry. Their preSent propaganda is, in ellect, palisading of camouflage, behind which, each day and every day, fresh--means are devised for injuring and harming those engaged in the road-transport industry.
The means whereby the railway companies may be fought can only be that of utilizing against them the weapons .which they are using against us. The roadhaulage industry. also requires, this session, a short Act of 'Parliament to meet a need which is equally as national and crying as any the railways can cite.
Road Transport's Act of Parliament will be one which partially rescinds the Act of 1928. In the Act, it shall be laid down that the railway companies may not convey by road any material which for part of the distance has not been conveyed by rail. That is the only fair ground upon which the road-haulage industry
and the railways can fairly meet and co-ordinate. . If the railway companies are tb be given what they are. now asking of Parliament, then the road haulage . industry, in its turn, must be given such concessions. It should also have, perhaps, the right to object to the railway companies' application for A licences, on the same grounds as seem too easily to serve the railway
companies. I S.T.R.