3 MARCH 1939, Page 53





THE sixteenth annual general meeting of the Southern Railway Co. was held on February 23rd at Southern House, London, E.G.

Mr. Robert Holland-Martin, C.B. (the chairman), said that last year, speaking at a moment when the political barometer did not indicate storms, he had told them that the directors had set such a course as should lead to even better results in the future, but he had taken occasion to point out, particularly with refer- ence to their boat-train traffics, on which so much of their revenue was earned, that those traffics were dependent on the international situation and that any change of conditions on the Continent might very quickly bring down their receipts. The political weather had grown worse as the year wore on and last year they had had storm warning after storm warning to the hindrance of business and pleasure. Bearing that in mind, he hoped it would be agreed that their great business had not felt the storm unduly.

Passenger train traffic was up by £68,000. Passenger traffic accounted for £36,000 of that, and mails and parcels were up by L32,000. That increase in passenger train traffic revenue was partly due to the 5 per cent. increase in fares other than in the suburban area. In the electrified areas there was an increase of £180,000, a very satisfactory increase and one which must make every share- holder realise how much the Southern owed to its electrified ser- vices. The capital spent on electrification in every case so far had earned a net income largely in excess of the interest required for the service of the loans. The Southern gross passenger receipts alone of those of the four railways showed a slight increase and their goods receipts had dropped by only 31 per cent. as compared with the average decrease of the other three companies of 71 per cent.


Steamboat receipts were up by £74,000. Their boats sailing to and from Southampton had contributed £31,000, those from Dover and Folkestone £38,000, and from Newhaven £5,000. Of the Dover and Folkestone receipts £19,000 was due to the train ferry. That service was becoming more and more popular. The passenger service was full to capacity every night; 76,000 passen- gers had crossed by the ferry in 1938 compared with 73,000 in 1937, and 76,00o tons of cargo had been conveyed as against 60,000 tons in 1937.

Now as to Southampton Docks, the centenary of which they had celebrated on October 12th last, when a memorial column was un- .ted to mark the proeress of the docks and their rise from very

ill beginnings to their great importance to the country at the present day. Today Southampton was the premier passenger port of the Kingdom, dealing with 47 per cent. of the total passenger traffic of the country, compared with I8 per cent. at the next highest, and as a cargo port it was fourth in importance with a total import, export, and re-export trade valued at £73,7oo,000. Unfor- tunately the clouded international atmosphere was inimical to progressive trade and their net receipts had fallen by £61,5oo. Of that reduction £10,500 was due to a smaller number of ships; 40,50o due to lesser tonnage of goods and receipts derived from their handling, and £16,500 to lesser use of the graving dock.

Warehousing, on the other hand, was up £8.000. That strengthened them in the proposal for a scheme which they were examining carefully to build a new warehouse of modern design on their reclaimed land.

Should the international horizon clear they might expect a reater movement of people and merchandise, and that, together .ith the increase ijn dock rates, which had been sanctioned as from March 1st next, gave the directors hope for the future.

Progress continued to be made on the docks extension estate of 130 acres. Depots, factories or offices had recently been built or were building for General Motors, Limited (six acres); Messrs. Cadbury Brothers and J. S. Fry, Limited; Messrs. G. C. Hibbert and Co., Limited, and the H. J. Heinz Company, Limited. The two specimen light factory buildings recently erected on the estate by the company had been let, one to His Majesty's Office of Works and the second to the Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company,

Limited, for use as a distribution depot for their products. •

The inauguration of Imperial Airways Empire Flying-boat Ser- ces in 1937 had caused increasing use of the facilities afforded by docks, and both passenger and mail traffics carried by the air '.ers had substantially advanced in the past year.


As regarded their Isle of Wight services, the slight reduction of -'7,000 passengers carried between Portsmouth and Ryde—the com-

pany had carried 2,524,627 in 1938—had been due to the special increase caused by the Coronation Naval Review traffic in 1937. Between Lymington and Yarmouth they had carried 7,147 more passengers.

The new ferry boat, the Lymington, was placed in service between Lymington and Yarmouth. She was built to a design which had been very successful on Lake Constance with Voith- Schneider vertical propellers.

To sum up, the net result of the year's working was that they had avarable for dividends on the ordinary stocks £1,474,263, a sum less by £604,000 than they had had twelve months ago. To pay the full dividend of 5 per cent. proposed on the preferred ordinary stock would take £1,379,330, leaving a carry-forward of £94,933- Their carry-forward was thus reduced by £131,871, which, in all the circumstances, they thought was justified. He hoped that the results in a year fraught with difficulties would meet with approval.


They were out to make travelling as pleasant as possible for their patrons, but modern practices added to their difficulties. Until a few years ago passenger traffics were more or less spread, but today passengers approximated more and more in the hours of starting and leaving work, causing many complaints of overcrowd- ing at th.-. peak hours. The directors knew only too well of the discomforts of those peak hours, but how to obviate them was very difficult. Peak hours presented many problems, all of which they were tackling with a will, and they asked for the patience and sympathy of the shareholders.

During each 24 hours of the six working days the Southern terminal stations in London were entered by no less than 2,545 trains containing 371,000 passengers, but in the three hours, 7 a.m. to to a.m., 540 trains came in with 243,000 passengers, nearly two-thirds of the total for the day. At night the exodus was carried in similar conditions. Could anything be done to remedy that congestion? The staggering of office hours had been suggested. they were experimenting in that themselves.


Railways were alleged by their detractors to have large blocks of their capital represented by water—assets to which no value could be attached because excessive prices had originally been paid for them by the projectors of the railway. Even if that had been the case originally, such expenditure had long since been written off; for many years all works, land, coaching stock, locomotives and steamers had been consistently written down so that even in the most favourable market to make up and equip any of the four main British railways as they existed today would necessitate raising far larger sums of capital than now stood in the capital accounts of any one of them.

Undoubtedly much of the capital paid for by the original invest- ment, though added to at the shareholders' own exnense by moneys earned by the railway and used for writing-down purposes, did not bring anything in to the shareholder, who today represented the original investor by purchase or by succession. Why was that? It was because the archaic controls that bygone Parliaments--in days when railways had the monopoly of transport--had imposed on the railw.,is, in relation to the rates and conditions which governed their merchandise traffic, paralyse them in their en- deavour to compete with other forms of transport which were uncontrolled in the matter of charges.


The railway companies were, therefore, now asking the British public to support them in a square deal—a square deal that would free them from their out-of-date shackles and enable them to give a yet more efficient service to the public. They who were entrusted with the direction of the undertaking were fighting that battle, not for their shareholders only, but for far more than that—to preserve for the use of the country the railways created by the savings of the public themselves, which had done so much in the past for the trade of the country and which would be vital in the event of war. They were there today ready and able to deal with that trade if the antiquated and effete conditions under which they worked were brought up to modern requirements. That did not mean, as the carrying trades recognised, that a rate war would he waged. The agreements arrived at with the road hauliers precluded that. There was room for both, but each must carry the goods appropriate to it, at rates that were remunerative for the services provided.

He was glad to tell them that agreements had been reached with the road hauliers and with the iron and steel and other industries, and he hoped that when the matter was brought before Parliament most of the interests involved would already have reached agree- ment. If that was so, it would certainly be to the advantage not only of the transport industry but of the traders and the country at large. The railways of this country were almost unique among the world's railways in not having cost the taxpayer a farthing. Their Square Deal campaign was designed to save the railways from becoming a burden on the community, which they surely would be if they were allowed to get into such a low financial condition as to require State assistance to enable them to continue to function efficiently.

The report and accounts were adopted.