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ART. II.-Railway Problems: An Inquiry into the Economic Conditions of Railway Working in different Countries. By J. S. JEANS, Fellow and Member of Council of the Statistical Society. London: 1887.

ENGLAND has long been proud, and not without reason, of the excellence of her means of travel. Her roads, her horses, her carriages, her speed and convenience of transport, were, fifty years ago, as a whole, absolutely unrivalled. That admirable system, of which each summer still produces such a faint reflexion as to move the pity of the old lovers of the road, faded like a dream before the progress of the locomotive. But it was England that cradled the railway system. It is to the genius and the industry of Englishmen that the world owes the invention and the practical introduction of the means of the greatest physical revolution recorded in history. How is it, then, that we are now everywhere confronted with the thorny perplexities of the railway question? How is it that, session after session, Parliament witnesses the introduction of bills for railway reform, each of which breaks down more hopelessly than its predecessors? How is it that, while English railway shareholders have to struggle for a pittance of return on the money-more than eight hundred millions sterling-that they have spent on our internal communications, commercial men are loud in their denunciations of the excessive and unfair charges of the great carrying companies, and manufacture is transferring her centres of activity from the mouth of the coal mine to the shores of our navigable rivers?

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Few things are more intolerable than that expression of triumphant condolence, I told you so!' Perhaps the more truthful the claim the more odious is the assertion. It is, therefore, only a strong sense of the gravity of the actual condition of the English railways that leads us to reprint, from the Edinburgh Review' of April, 1876, the statement, We believe that the railway proprietors, and therefore the public, have suffered, and are likely to suffer yet more heavily, from a mistaken policy, based on unacquaintance 'with controlling facts.' The managers of the railways of the United Kingdom may claim the unenviable distinction of being the only persons in a like position who steadily refuse not only to publish, but even to ascertain, the respective working costs of the different and mutually interfering kinds of business that they carry on. Such neglect

of the prime conditions of business success generally leads towards bankruptcy. As it is, every hundred pounds of railway capital now earns seven shillings a year less of profit than it did when the above words were printed.

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The railway managers of this country,' says Mr. Jeans, profess that they are unable to furnish the exact cost of 'working any description of traffic. It would be extremely ungracious to suggest that it probably does not suit their purpose to know too much on this subject. But it is beyond all question that if this item is not known on English lines, it is well enough known on foreign ones.' In most of the French railway returns, and in Mr. Danvers's report on the Indian railways for 1875,' says a reviewer in the Athenæum' of November 2, 1878, actual weights and 'distances are given, so that it is possible to arrive at the 'cost of the work done, and in some American reports every kind of detail is stated. But it is Mr. Rae (the Commis'sioner of Railways of New South Wales) who has been the first to bring forward, officially and exactly, that information which is the real clue to the question of railway 'profits and railway losses.' The report of the present Commissioner, Mr. Goodchap, for the year 1885 is now in our hands. It is difficult to speak too highly of this report, and of the value of the graphical and tabular forms in which exhaustive information is supplied in the appendix.

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Continental Europe has, in many respects, bettered the lesson that she learned, in the first instance, from England. The French, the Austrian, and the Italian railway managers -using the term in its highest sense-have been unwearied in the scientific, as well as in the practical, analysis of the conditions and cost of railway working; and their lines owe much of their prosperity to the sound basis of treatment thus laid down. Les Chemins de Fer Français, par M. Alfred Picard, conseiller d'état, ingénieur en chef des Ponts et Chaussées, ancien directeur des chemins de fer au Ministère des Travaux Publics' (a book which appears, from his remarks on French railways, to be unknown to Mr. Jeans), is an admirable and exhaustive work, a true literary record and monument of the French railway system. The report, in 1879, to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, by M. Le Hardy de Beaulieu, on public works, includes a comparison of the financial state of the Belgian railways with that of French and English lines which is full of warning as to the results of neglected accounts. These works offer but one or two of the numerous proofs that exist both of the

possibility of keeping proper railway accounts and of the national benefit secured by their publication.

In many respects the railways of the United Kingdom, and more especially those of England and Wales, are unlike those of other countries. They have cost, in round numbers, twice as much per mile as the average of foreign railways, and four times as much as the railways of the United States. They run trains at a higher speed than is elsewhere maintained. The facilities that they offer to passengers, in the way of hours of starting, are as exceptional as is their speed. The comfort of the vehicles (with some scandalous exceptions) is great. The old policy of driving passengers to take the more expensive seats by the extreme discomfort of the third-class carriages is now pretty generally abandoned; and it is rather to the introduction of special comforts for the first-class travellers than to any other method of influencing the choice of a vehicle that we have to look for any arrest of that gravitation towards the cheapest mode of travelling which is so marked a feature of the present time. Safety is now the rule, and is as remarkable in the densest traffic in the world as it is on the non-metropolitan lines. As to punctuality-an element of safety no less than of economy of time-we have no data for exact comparison with foreign railways; but on the whole there can be but little irregularity to counterbalance the gain of time due to higher speed. The saving of time to the passenger is the great motive and advantage of high speed on railways. The rate of travel of freight trains is of comparatively little importance over so small an area as that of our island. The economy of time to the traveller is a positive addition to the sources of our national wealth. But with these great advantages for the travelling public we have to couple the facts that the gross earning of railway capital in the United Kingdom is lower than that in any of the principal countries of Europe, that it is one-fifth less than that in the United States, and that it is appreciably less than that attained in 1874. As to the 10 per cent. dividends of 1844, they have vanished before the steady increase in the proportionate working charges which has accompanied pari passu the increase of unremunerative traffic.

The fact that the cost per mile of our railways has doubled, while the profit on the capital has appreciably diminished, is one of most serious import. It is one among many proofs that a main element of railway prosperity has been overlooked, at all events by English railway projectors. This

element is the cardinal question of the capacity of a railway for traffic. Such capacity may be regarded in two ways. The one is as to the actual amount of traffic, measured by the number and weight of trains, and the amount of live or paying load which they carry, that a pair of railway tracks can convey, due provision for collecting and distributing such load being made. The other is the proportion of gross and of net earnings per cent. on the capital laid out. The two are intimately connected, and the sharp limit which we find to be everywhere put on the latter shows the importance of investigating the former.

Those of our readers who may be disposed to enquire into the details of the question of the physical capacity of the railway for the transport of traffic we must refer to the report of the Select Committee on Canals, 1883, in which they will find much and valuable information on the subject. But without going into any detail, it is evident that the maximum capacity of a railway, be it more or less, can only be utilised on the condition that all the trains shall run at the same speed, and stop, for equal intervals, at the same stations. When, as at the commencement of railway travelling, trains are few and far between, this consideration does not apply. But the moment there arises the question of turning on to a pair of rails as much traffic as they can carry, the uniformity of speed becomes of paramount importance. It is not the question of actual speed. An equal number of loaded trains can follow one another over a pair of rails in twenty-four hours, whatever be their rate of motion, so long as that motion is uniform. But introduce two rates of speed-to say nothing of three-and the capacity of the line is at once decreased, and that (supposing it to be taxed to the full) in the ratio of the difference of the speeds. The time lost to allow the slow train to get out of the way of the following fast train, or to allow it to proceed to a station where it can get into a siding to allow a fast train to pass it, is so considerable that it will be found, as a rule, to pay far better to make two, or even three, railways (always supposing that there is an ample traffic), each to work at its own speed, than to run trains at two or three rates of speed over the same rails, involving at the same time increase of capital and decrease of capacity.

This fact on the cardinal importance of which it is needless to insist-is capable of very simple geometric demonstration. Passing over that-and the mathematician will grasp the law in a moment-it is admirably illustrated

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by the return of the number of persons engaged on the English railways in the year 1883. A writer in the Times' newspaper, on September 4, 1884, gives an analysis of this return, as showing the relation between the number of men employed and the mode of conducting the traffic; and concludes: It thus appears, subject to any correction for variation in rates of freight and of fares, that it takes nearly 'double the labour to earn an equal amount of gross revenue per mile when three speeds are introduced than when one only is maintained, and that the cost of the use of two speeds is intermediate between that of one and that of three rates of travel.' We thus obtain a simple and practical measure, apart from, but in exact accordance with, the mathematical proof of the decrease in the earning capacity of a railway dependent on any variation of the speeds at which the different trains are run.

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A great change has come over the utterances of railway chairmen and managers since 1876. At that time it was the custom to say that the mineral traffic was the most lucrative of any that was carried on the rail. Sir James Allport, as cited by Mr. Jeans (p. 402), gave evidence—or, rather, committed himself to the statement, that minerals could be carried on the Midland Railway at a price very little exceeding that which was paid, as reported by the Royal Commission of 1867, for the hire of wagons alone. No member of the Committee on Canals put the pertinent question, What has become of the prodigious profit on the whole traffic if so much is secured from that conducted at the lowest prices on the tariff?' Enormous sums have been laid out to provide for this bulky and low-priced freight; and now-not at one or two half-yearly meetings, but as a general rule-railway chairmen, while still maintaining that some profit is derived from mineral transport (on trunk lines of main traffic), admit that it is but a small one. To carry at a small profit,' they add, is better than 6 to lose the traffic.' That statement sounds plausible. It might, perhaps, have been true when a daily couple of passenger trains, and the same number of goods trains, each way, would have been enough to carry all the traffic between London and Birmingham. But the moment the limit of capacity for transport of a line is approached, small profit means large loss. It is not only the case that a slow and unprofitable train occupies the line to the displacement of a more rapid and profitable train, but that it actually blocks the way for two or three of such despatches. On this view, as

VOL. CLXV. NO. CCCXXXVIII.

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