16 MAY 1931, Page 46


Yet another influence for which the railroad management is in no way responsible is the extent to which motor competition has been aided, directly and indirectly, by the State. At the risk of making the country hideous, motor roads have been constructed to an extent involving millions of expenditure, and while the, railroads, as ratepayers, have had to take a heaVy share both in local and in national expenditure, all those concerned in the motor traffic have come off lightly. Professing concern for the industrial welfare of the country, successive Governments and local authori- ties have catered mainly for the unproductive amuse- ments of the community, notably by providing more and more roads for joy-riders to rush through the country, greatly to the discomfort, for the most part, of all residents in the districts who have the privi- lege of paying the rating charges. The more the developments, and especially the political and social developments, of the post-War years are considered, the more it will be seen that in this matter of catering for increased leisure, increased wage 'without a corresponding value given, and increased amusement, is to be found an explanation of the commercial and financial distress from which we are now suffering. The only hope for the rail- ways, as for many other industries, is that all legislation and trade union restrictions tending to interfere with the economic wage and the ordinary laws of supply and demand Shall for a time, at least, be abandoned, while if the problem is to be relieved to some extent by plans for electrification, grandiose schemes for electrifying the whole railway service must give place to a practical consideration of first electrifying the systems in the congested areas where profitable results would most probably accrue.

In the railway as in other industries, however, there is far too great a tendency to allow matters to drift until such time as by some general revival in trade the situa- tion shall improve. If there were to be a revival in world trade to-morrow, neither Great Britain nor her railroad systems would reap much advantage if we still demand a mode of living, expressed in wages and in leisure, greater than that of competing countries.