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exemplified and established in the formation and working of a great many lines in this and other countries. It may be said that it is impossible accurately to determine the minimum of remunerative rates; and such, no doubt, is the fact. But extreme accuracy is not wanted; and it may, at all events, be established to the satisfaction of Parliament, of the public, and even of the shareholders themselves, that rates very far below those now prevalent may be established with perfect safety.
A tariff should be framed, on the results of this inquiry, applicable to all railways for which Acts have not yet been passed, and also to every existing railway that may apply to Parliament for new powers. Should there be circumstances peculiar to any given railway that would clearly justify a modification of the tariff rates, such modification should of course be made, whether for the advantage of the proprietors or of the public. The right of revision of charges or of redemption should also be reserved to the public on terms similar to those adopted in France, or others more favourable for the state; and such minor stipulations for the general security and advantage as may be thought reasonable, should be adopted.
And as the French system, with all its restrictions, leaves an ample margin for speculative competition, and for high premiums on shares, it should be considered whether that part of it, which provides for the reversion of the lines to the State after a certain number of years, may not be safely introduced into this country with immense advantage to the public.
Until a set of general rules, embodying these or similar provisions, has been sanctioned by Parliament, all Acts for lines which it may not be thought desirable to postpone, should be passed with the distinct proviso that these lines shall become subject to all the conditions of the improved system as soon as it is established.
It would be difficult to over-estimate the degree to which individual convenience and general prosperity may be promoted by a right policy on this subject; that is, by enforcing, in the case of the railways now before Parliament, the greatest degree of cheapness, immediate and remote, of security, and of every possible advantage, which the peculiarly favourable circumstances of our position enable us to secure. Perhaps the vast magnitude of the question with which Parliament has to deal may be best shown by comparing our railway revenue with the National Debt. The interest on the latter does not much exceed 28,000,000l. A capital of 560,000,000l. therefore, if producing 5 per cent., would yield a sufficient annual revenue to pay this interest.
Now, the cost of the railways already completed in Great Britain and Ireland is about 70,000,000l., and the estimated cost of the lines now in course of present construction is more than 60,000,0001. But it is the opinion of every one best acquainted with the subject, that the amount already vested in railways in this country is but a small part indeed of what will ultimately
be required. The host of schemes now before Parliament confirms this view; at the same time that the actual revenue on the lines already completed, and the estimated revenue from those that are being made or before Parliament, considerably exceeds 5 per cent. And if we take into account the steadily progressive and apparently boundless increase of business on almost every line, it is more than probable that the receipts on our railways, after the system has been completed, will amount to a gigantic
At all events, it may, I am satisfied, be unhesitatingly laid down that the total revenue of our railways, in some 20 or 30 years, will amount to a large proportion indeed of the interest on our Debt, or of 28,000,000l.; and it is neither absurd nor unreasonable to expect that it may even equal or surpass that amount. And if such be the case, it is plain that the adoption from the commencement of a system of terminable leases, which the experience of France has shown to be of easy introduction, would have relieved us within the present century, and perhaps in a much shorter time, from the burden of the whole or of the greater part of our Debt.
And happily, though we have neglected many opportunities for securing even a moderate portion of such gigantic advantages, we have still many in our power. We may deal as we please with the schemes now before Parliament; but if we neglect or throw away this opportunity of securing the public interests, none such can ever again occur. I would, therefore, beg of the legislature and the country not to neglect or evade their duty on this occasion. Let them no longer be amused by the alleged hazard of railways. If planned with the most ordinary judgment they are peculiarly safe investments. The monopoly of the producers is on the eve of being destroyed; and do not let us in the same session, and almost in the same breath, confirm a still more odious, more oppressive, and far more indefensible monopoly on the part of the public carriers. In dealing with railways Government and Parliament should have in view the single object of securing the best terms, immediate and ultimate, for the public. The shareholders, like the landholders, may safely be left to take care of themselves; and there is infinitely little fear of their being overreached, or of their becoming parties to a bad bargain.
It has been already seen that if the French system of conceding railway lines for terms of years had been adopted in this country, a revenue adequate, or more than adequate, to defray the interest of the National Debt, would, at no very distant period, have accrued to the public from railways. But though we have hitherto unfortunately overlooked such immense advantages, that surely is no reason why we should continue to overlook them. On the contrary, it should make us more anxious and more determined to profit by the means still in our power; so that by the better husbanding of them we may, in as far as possible, repair the losses occasioned by our previous folly and shortsightedness.
It is for the interest of the railway companies that the existing system should be changed. It is not in the nature of things that it should be permitted to go on. Inordinate profits growing out of monopolies obtained from the want of knowledge or the carelessness of the legislature, cannot continue for ever. They will be condemned in public opinion-an agitation will be commenced against them, and they will be suppressed amid the cheers of all except the few who may happen to profit by them. If the existing companies be not blind to the signs of the times, they will lose no time in reducing their fares and improving their accommodations; and if Parliament be not strangely neglectful of its most sacred duties and obligations, it will take care that in the establishment of new lines the public interests shall be effectually secured.
Speech of James Morrison, Esq., M.P., March 20th, 1845, on moving Resolutions respecting Railways.
No one who has attended to what is now passing on the subject of railways can fail to be satisfied that the railway system-with all the advantages and difficulties which belong to it has become permanent in this country; that it is increasing daily, that it will at no distant period extend itself over the whole country, and become universal; and that, from habit as well as from the real benefits derived from it, railway travelling will become not simply a thing to be desired, but an absolute necessity which cannot be foregone.
In ordinary circumstances it would not be necessary for me to do more than allude in these general terms to the extent, importance, and universality of railway travelling. But, sir, the circumstances of the present time are not of an ordinary description. We have arrived at a very critical period with regard to our legislation respecting this novel element in our social system. When railways were first proposed, men wondered: some looked upon their success as utterly impossible; most of us doubted, and none seemed to believe it necessary to take any precautions, or to act with forethought respecting them. That time has gone past—they have succeeded. Every year will bring forth great improvements, for as yet railways are but in their infancy; and they will shortly, as I have already said, become universal; and now, Sir, we are all, at a late hour indeed, convinced that the legislature must step in, in order as well to secure to the public all the advantages which this new mode of transit offers, as to protect them against the mischiefs (and they are not slight ones) with which we are threatened
by the establishment of a gigantic system of all-powerful monopoly.
It behoves us not to act hastly or blindly. We ought fully to understand what advantages we may derive from this new system -what evils we have to guard against; and then we should gravely consider what are the best legislative modes we can adopt to obtain the one and to protect ourselves against the other.
With the permission of the House, I propose, then, briefly to enumerate and to class the advantages which the various orders of the community may obtain by means of railways; to point out certain mischiefs against which precaution should be taken; and then to describe the system, which, in my opinion, ought to be established; laying down at the same time, as briefly as possible, the principles upon which our railway legislation ought to be founded,
And first, as to the advantages which may, in so many ways, be expected from this remarkable application of the power of
I need hardly, perhaps, do more than allude to the benefits which railway travelling confers upon the mere traveller, whether he travel for pleasure or from necessity. Life is absolutely lengthened to us all by this rapid mode of transit; space and time are almost annihilated, and the many long hours which heretofore were wasted in the tedious procees of moving from place to place will now be applicable to the ends for which travelling is used as a means. The consequences, moral and social, resulting from this will prove to be of the highest importance. Communication will take place with all parts of the country. There will be no districts to which the light of knowledge will not have penetrated; new ideas and improvement in arts and science will quickly be communicated from one end of the country to the other; old prejudices, narrow feelings of bigotry and hate will wear away, and we shall all be made wiser and happier by this general circulation of intelligence, this constant and general interchange of thought and feeling.
If, however, we pass from the mere traveller for pleasure to those who are driven to travel in order to further the real and serious business of life, so various are the benefits, and so numerous the sources from whence they flow, that it requires some consideration to enable one to bear them at once and completely in the memory.
If, for example, we regard the trader, who, in the prosecution of his business, is obliged to proceed from one part of the country to the other, or to transmit and receive information from many and distant parts of the country, we shall soon perceive the extraordinary advantages which the new system will afford him. To the manufacturer and wholesale trader, this rapid means of communication is of the last importance. Every saving of time in the business of communicating orders, every saving of expense in
the transit of the goods themselves, is to the manufacturer precisely the same advantage as an improvement in the machinery which produces these goods.
Goods, for example, produced in Manchester, are to be consumed elsewhere, and the capital of the manufacturer has to be employed partly in producing the goods, and partly in transmitting them to the consumer. If there be a saving in the transit, the gain to the manufacturer is the same as if it had been a saving to the same extent in the mode of production; and all the capital thus no longer needed to convey the goods to the consumer, may now be profitably employed in the production of the goods themselves, or in other processes of manufacture; and thus, while the producer gains what is in reality an increase of capital, the consumer derives advantage from the diminished cost of the article; the price is lessened because it can be brought to his hand for less cost; and it is apparent, that while the whole manufacturing capital of the country is increased by this admirable means of communication and transit, the real gainer in the end is the public, in the character of the consumer.
The benefit to the retail trader is not less important; for, by these means, he has the power of his capital very materially increased, and the risks of his trade no less materially diminished. The rapid means of communication and transit render it no longer necessary for him to keep on hand a large and various assortment of perishable articles. When a demand is suddenly made to him for an article not in his shop or warehouse, he at once writes for it to the wholesale dealer or manufacturer, and may obtain it by return of post. I may illustrate this by a circumstance which happened lately :-an order was sent to an establishment in Southampton, in the morning, for a class of some goods which they at the time had not; they transmitted the order by electro-telegraph to London, it came to the house in the City by messenger from Vauxhall, and the goods were dispatched by the return train, in time for the party who wanted them. The retail trader is by these means protected, to a great extent, from all those dangers which arise from a change of fashion while goods are on hand, from loss by the mere operation of time on goods, and from loss also arising from capital broken up in goods to meet constant demand. Thus to him also this improvement is equivalent to an increase of capital. And let it be observed, too, that both in the cases of the manufacturer, and wholesale and retail dealer, competition will immediately secure to the consumer the whole of the advantages thus obtained by the producer and distributer of the manufac
If now we proceed to consider other classes of the community, it will be immediately seen that no class will probably derive greater advantage from railway conveyance than the farmers. One of the great reasons why agriculture has been so backward in some districts as compared with its condition in others, is, in fact, the