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till they have been fully supplied, their construction will be continued. It is not to be supposed that any district of which the traffic will afford a return for the expenditure on a Railway will long be without one. Notwithstanding, therefore, what has already been effected, there will be found, for many years to come, in the supply of the legitimate accommodation of the country with railways, such a return for the capital invested in their construction, as will form a sufficient inducement to embark in them. But after our past experience, it would be the extreme of folly to suppose that future Railways will be constructed with more beneficial results to the public than those which already exist, if they be not subjected to an efficient public control, and more especially if the publicity of accurate accounts both of income and expenditure for the information of the legislature be not secured. Indeed, it is not less for the permanent interest of shareholders than of the public, that the publicity of accounts should be insisted on. The former at present know very little of what is going on, and are afraid to elicit disclosures which may affect the marketable value of their property. Besides, many of them have shared too largely in the abuses which have prevailed, to be desirous to establish that efficient control by which alone good and honest management can be secured. The best Director hitherto has been he who was the most successful in the lobby and Committee-rooms of parliament, and not he who best managed the proper business of the Lines. The private interests of the moment became in this way too powerful to be overcome by any other means than those at the
command of a Government strong in the support of the legislature.
We must not, however, shut our eyes to the difficulties which must for some time stand in the way of new Lines disposed to exact merely a fair compensation for their outlay. All sorts of expedients will, no doubt, continue to be resorted to for preventing independent action on the part of any Company. Except a Line be a whole within itself, it will too often be in the power of others to subject it to such inconvenience as, without great determination and perseverance, will have the effect of driving it into a common arrangement at the expense of the public. Captain Laws, whose reputation for skill in management of Railways, is admitted by all the witnesses who have been examined on the subject, describes very graphically, in his evidence before Mr. Gladstone's Committee, the modus operandi by which one Line is driven into the views of others :*-"You could not compel them to make their trains fit yours; and if they did, they could still inflict a degree of inconvenience upon the passengers, by making them get in and out of the carriages, and stopping in certain places in a way that would be nearly a perfect bar to any one taking his family. If you were determined to throw your weight into the other scale, because you thought it was the right one, you might force your way by submitting to considerable inconveniences. **** If two Lines were in competition, you could not blame me for favouring that in which I was indirectly interested, in preference to that which was a determined rival. Then, I say, I should take care to
*Fifth Report, Railways, 1844, Min. of Evid., p. 480.
arrange my trains so that the passengers should suffer some degree of inconvenience, as much as I could inflict, if he went by my rival instead of me." He then proceeds to illustrate the various other ways by which an independent Line "may be driven into the combination at any terms the other parties choose to dictate." The legislature has therefore done that already which renders it not a little difficult to return to a proper system; still it is right that we should always keep the correct course in view, as an object to be aimed at in all future legislation.
But, to insure these beneficial results, Railways must be undertaken with a view to the profits they can legitimately afford in themselves; and the whole system of making Branches and Extensions, for the sake of issuing new shares, with a view to premiums, must be brought to a termination. Unless we close this source of all manner of frauds, we may, under certain conceivable circumstances, have the monetary affairs of the country again thrown into confusion. Should Railways again raise their heads, the high prices of shares would in that case lead to new investments, not considered with reference to ultimate returns, but to the immediate pocketing by existing proprietors of the sums to be realized by the issue of shares. It is impossible to prevent, under such a system, a disproportionate share of the disposable capital of the country from being diverted to Railways, and all the consequences that flow from such a diversion. The country cannot afford to be subjected, after short intervals, to manias, and panics, and widespread bankruptcies. Our national character, hitherto the highest in the world for fair commercial dealing, can
not stand many such exposures as have lately been made in recent bankruptcies.
At the hazard of being charged with repetition, I must again and again inculcate the paramount necessity of guarding, by every means which can be devised, against the practice in which the speculation mania has its source. Railways doubtless will be more cheaply constructed and cheaply wrought; but they cannot be cheaper to the public, if Companies be allowed to evade accountability as at present, by mixing up the affairs of different Lines, and paying the guaranteed dividends on some from the revenues of others. Everything hinges on Parliament's closing this source of mischief. When Captain Laws was asked in 1844, whether Railways could be made cheaper hereafter than they had been, he gave this memorable answer: “I have not the smallest doubt; but whether they will be made much cheaper in the mania which now exists, I have some doubt. Iron is much cheaper, but
The way in which
this is only one portion of the thing. they are every day buying off opposition, and the expenses in Parliament, appear to be much upon the same principle that they have been formerly." The mania no longer exists, but a well-founded expectation of profit will again stimulate to enterprise. New Lines will hereafter be made at a cost infinitely below that of the Lines first constructed. If the earthwork, for instance, of the Caledonian, which passes through one of the most difficult districts of Great Britain, cost only £10,000 per mile, we may assume that few Railways will now cost above £15,000 per mile. The public have a right to expect that every facility should be given to the construction of Railways; for the imposing
a heavy tax at the outset in the shape of legal charges, is like laying a tax on the raw material of a manufacture of the first necessity. If then Railways can be con-structed at much less cost than formerly, it would be the height of injustice, were the Lines already in existence to be allowed to stand in the way of future Lines. We are entitled to say to the old Companies, "The use you have made of your monopolies justifies our interference with them. You have expended more on your Lines than you ought to have done, and to obtain a corresponding dividend you must charge oppressively high fares; but is that any reason why the public should not do themselves justice by constructing cheap Lines, which may afford the requisite accommodation for lower fares? Are you to be considered as so many territorial sovereigns, who may close your respective districts against all future attempts to run Lines through them, to compete with yours? It may sometimes be necessary to grant monopolies, and it may be just to uphold them; but, this can never be the case, unless it can be clearly made out that they are, on the whole, advantages to the public."
Should the legislature be disposed to allow every facility to the construction of new Lines, and to set its face against the renewal, under favourable circumstances, of the system of adding Line to Line, and Branch to Branch, by means of issues of fresh shares at par, when at a premium in the market, and thus reduce the demand for new Lines to its natural level, namely, a suitable return for the capital embarked in the undertakings, the very last parties who ought to murmur are the existing proprie