I assume that Senators have made themselves familiar with the terms of the two Bills—the Railways Bill and the Road Transport Bill—and have also had an opportunity of acquainting themselves with the discussion which took place concerning them in the Dáil. It is, however, necessary that there should be given to Senators a general picture of the transport situation existing in the country with which these Bills are designed to deal, because, without that general picture in their minds, it will be difficult for them to realise the necessity, as we see it, for the adoption of these provisions. Since the establishment of Saorstát Eireann, there have been a number of enactments relating to transport, and the position here has undergone many considerable modifications during the period. When the Saorstát came into existence, there were a number of separately owned railway companies operating. Road transport, as we now know it, did not exist and, although the position of the railway companies was by no means satisfactory, nevertheless, they were not faced with problems of the same nature as those that face them to-day.
Shortly after the establishment of the Free State, a Commission was established to inquire into the railway position, and it recommended that the railways should be nationalised. In that connection it is interesting to note that every commission which was established at any time in recent years and, in fact, for a long period back, to examine the railway position here recommended nationalisation as the remedy. In the year 1924, however, the Government then in office introduced its railway proposals, with which Senators are, I am sure, familiar. The main scheme of these was to amalgamate into one company and to make part of one organisation all the railways which were situated entirely in the Saorstát. That left us with the position in which we had the Great Southern Railways Company as the principal railway organisation controlling the lines which had formerly been operated by independent companies, and which were situated entirely within the boundaries of this State.
In addition, there are a number of railway companies operating services both in the Saorstát and in the Six Counties, the principal of which was, of course, the Great Southern Railway Company, but there were also four other companies of some importance. It was contemplated that the Amalgamation Act of 1924 would make possible the achievement of such economies in railway management and administration that a period of comparative stability and prosperity for the railway companies would follow. At that time, however, no due attention appears to have been given to transport development then proceeding in other countries, but which had not been experienced here. I refer to the growth of the omnibus companies and the development of the business of carrying goods and passengers by road.
It was not until 1925 and 1926 that road services developed here on any large scale. At first, no very great importance was attached to it. Many people who examined the matter appeared to be of the opinion that these road services would prove to be uneconomic and would not last. In due course, however, different opinions began to prevail. In 1927, an Act was passed which enabled the Great Southern Railways to operate road services subject to very great restrictions imposed that time because it was feared that the Great Southern Railways with its resources would be able to drive out of existence other companies who were then operating road services. That position continued for some time. It was soon seen, however, that the Act of 1927 was of little value to the companies.
Finally, in 1931 two Bills were introduced by the Government then in office and these represented the first serious attempt which had been made to deal with the situation which had developed here and which was producing for the railway companies a position that was becoming impossible. The two Bills introduced were—the Road Transport Bill and the Railway (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill of 1932. These achieved between them firstly regulation of the business of carrying passengers by road and, secondly, the removal of certain difficulties experienced by the railway companies. The railway company was empowered under certain circumstances to reduce or abandon railway services and were released from other obligations. It became clear, however, throughout 1932 that the situation had not been adequately met and that something more drastic and fundamental would have to be done if we were to have in existence here a transport organisation capable of being maintained on an economic basis and providing for the country the services required for the convenience of the people and the development of the country's industry and trade.
In so far as legislation is concerned that was the position that existed when this Government came into office. The two Acts of 1932 had been passed but were not at that time in operation. The appointed day under the Road Transport Act of 1932 was fixed by me and the task of making the necessary arrangements to bring the Act into operation on that appointed day, 25th July, 1932, fell to the present Government. The operation of the Act was carried out by the present Government so that it was not until the end of last year that road transport business was brought under control so far as it related to passenger carrying. The Railway (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act had in some respects achieved its results. The consideration of applications under it for the reduction of services, and the closing of the lines again had to be undertaken by me and the orders that were made under that Act were made by the present Government.
From the beginning, taking the whole transport situation and placing it under review we had been convinced ourselves that the provisions of the two Acts to which I have referred were inadequate to deal with the situation. We had expressed that view when in opposition and consequently felt that we were bound to consider the position carefully and bring to the Dáil and Seanad our own proposals in the shortest possible time. The railway position was as I said serious. No doubt, most Senators are themselves aware of that. It is hardly necessary to prove that statement by quoting any array of statistics. The Railway Act of 1924 established a system of standard revenue and standard charges to be fixed by the Railway Tribunal. The Railway Tribunal was asked to take into account the earnings of the company in the three years prior to the Great War and any changes in capital liability which had occurred in the meantime—and it was asked to fix on that basis or in regard to these matters a standard net revenue which the Great Southern Railways could earn with efficiency and good administration. That standard net revenue was fixed by the Railway Tribunal who also prepared a classification of merchandise and a series of standard charges which were to be charged by the railway company and which would be sufficient having regard to the volume of traffic likely to be offered to bring in the standard revenue.
In fact the standard revenue was never earned. In each year since 1925 with one exception the gross receipts of the railway company fell continuously. Although for a period the net receipts showed an increase, that increase arose entirely out of the fact that by measures of economy, expenditure was cut much more rapidly than receipts declined. It was obvious that that process could only go on for a short period and that if the decline in the receipts was not checked further economies could not be effected without seriously damaging the earning prospects of the company and that the net revenue would fall. A change took place in 1929 and from that year onward the net revenue fell off very considerably. In 1929, the net receipts were £817,000; in 1930, £713,000; in 1931, £625,000 and in 1932, £405,000.
To a very large extent, the decline in receipts of the railway company was due to the fact that it had engaged in an intensive competition with road operators in order to get traffic at all. It is clear that until last year and even only to a small extent last year there was no substantial diminution in the actual volume of traffic offering to be carried. Because of the competitive element that made its appearance for the first time, the railway companies had to quote cut rates and they were frequently making application to the Railway Tribunal for liberty to charge exceptional rates, that to reduce rates more than 40 per cent. below the standard rates fixed by the Railway Tribunal. That was the position we found, and it was in relation to that that we considered the matter. We were struck by the fact that the expert bodies which, from time to time, had examined the railway situation here and recommended nationalisation. We gave the advisability of nationalising the railways very careful consideration, indeed. We decided, in all the circumstances, not to attempt it. It appeared to us that it should be possible to secure by legislation whatever benefits might be derived from nationalisation without the immediate disadvantages we foresaw. I admit that in order to do that a degree of co-operation from those owning and controlling the railways of a very high order will be required but I think that we can rely upon that and that it is only in the event of co-operation of that kind not being afforded or new difficulties which we do not now foresee arising it will be necessary to reconsider that aspect of the problem. We felt that if we were going to get anywhere we had not merely to get an amalgamated railway system but to get an amalgamated transport system. We felt that it was quite useless to contemplate putting the railways back into the position they occupied before road transport had developed. The advent of road transport conferred great advantages on many people in the country. It opened up areas that the railways did not touch and it afforded facilities that were of considerable utility to many parts of the country. We could not contemplate wiping out those facilities. We felt, however, that if they were to be maintained they should be maintained as part of a general transport system. Our aim was to get one organisation into existence which would control transport in all its forms and within which any change in the nature of the transport facilities demanded by the public could be carried out. Our idea was that that transport organisation should provide rail-services where rail services were most economical and should provide road services where those were most suitable, that any change in the old transport organisation of the State occasioned by improved facilities for road transport or altered conditions upon the railroad would take place within that organisation with the least possible dislocation of labour or finance. It was because such an organisation could obviously be brought into existence on the basis of nationalisation that consideration had to be given to it. We decided however to try to get that organisation into existence upon another basis—the basis envisaged in these Bills.
These Bills propose to make it possible for the Great Southern Railways Company in its area and the other railway companies in their areas to establish themselves in what is described as a monopoly position. In other words, they will control not merely their rail services as formerly but also road services in their areas. They will be required by law to provide such services as are required, and they will be subject to a number of checks to ensure that the monopoly position will not be exploited to the detriment of the public. Each of the companies will be enabled to achieve that position by a policy of acquisition. I do not think that it would be right for us to bring about a position in which persons who had invested their money in road transport services should be made to lose that money as a result of legislative action or that they should be put into a position where they could not compete fairly against their rivals and so driven out of business. We felt that if a monopoly position was to be created and unified transport control brought into existence, it should be achieved by a policy of purchase, a policy of acquisition, rather than by a process of intense competition, with destruction of the capital involved. The main purpose of these two Bills is to enable that position to be brought about.
The Road Transport Bill provides, broadly speaking, for the bringing of the business of carrying merchandise by road under a form of control similar to that now operating in respect of passenger services. By the Act of 1932, no person is entitled to run an omnibus service in the Saorstát unless he is the holder of a licence issued under that Act. The Act provided that those who were operating what were called "existing services" should become entitled to licences practically as of right. They could be refused on various grounds but, in fact, those operating existing services were given licences without question. The definition of "existing services" under that Act was, in my opinion, somewhat harsh in so far as it ruled out persons who had commenced to operate those services and in some cases invested considerable sums of money in them before the Act had been introduced, and before they could have known it was the intention of the Government of the time to make it illegal for them to continue those services. In the Bill now before the Dáil, we adopt what I think is a better procedure. We take as the essential date the date upon which the First Reading was given to the Bill in the Dáil. Any person who was operating a service upon that date or in the period between that date and the 1st July of last year is held to have been operating an "existing service" and becomes entitled automatically to a licence in respect of that service for the future. The Road Transport Act of 1932 also provided for the issue of licences from time to time for new services as required. In relation to that matter, we have not followed the precedent of the Road Transport Act, 1932. Under the Bill now before the Dáil—in so far as it relates to merchandise services only—no new licence can be issued except to a railway company, to a shipping company, to a canal company, or where, in the opinion of the Minister, a service is required in the public interest and no railway company is willing to provide it, to an independent operator. The intention is, however, definitely to ensure that the business of carrying merchandise for hire on roads will be fixed at its present magnitude, and that any development from the present position will be under the direction and control mainly of the railway companies. We provide that licences to operate road services may be given to shipping companies. I think that is a necessary provision in order to ensure that shipping companies will be in a position, if necessary, to maintain themselves independently of the railways and also to ensure that no question will arise of rail policy operating to benefit one shipping company as against another.
In the Road Transport Bill now before you, we also take power to provide, under certain circumstances, for the compulsory acquisition of licences. It is hoped that the power of compulsory acquisition will not have to be resorted to and that, in fact, the railway companies will be able to acquire the businesses of their principal competitors by agreement, but it is felt that the power of compulsory acquisition should be present so as to prevent a situation arising in which the whole aim and policy of the Bills might be defeated by the action of one or a group of road operators standing out and refusing to facilitate matters. That power of compulsory acquisition is taken not merely in relation to licences issued under this Bill, but also in relation to licences issued under the Road Transport Act, 1932. It works in two ways. If an authorised company, whether a railway company or a tramways company, desires to acquire the licence of an operator, whether the operator is engaged on merchandise carrying or passenger carrying, the company will attempt to do so in the first instance by agreement. In default of agreement, however, it may apply to the Minister for Industry and Commerce for an order for compulsory acquisition. The Minister would have to be satisfied that the making of the order was in the public interest and, if so satisfied and makes the order, then the terms of the acquisition are fixed by an arbitrator to be appointed by a Reference Committee, who will take into account the pecuniary loss and expense inflicted upon the licensee by the acquisition of his licence.
It is also open to a license to apply for an order to be acquired. It would, I think, be wrong to have the position that a railway company could choose for itself whether to get the business of a particular competitor by acquisition or by competition. It is clear that it would be almost impossible for those competitors to compete under those circumstances if they knew that at the end of the period of competition, after they succeeded in maintaining their existence against the railway company, they could then be compulsorily acquired in any event. Having regard to our view that any unification should be by the method of acquisition, we propose to make it impossible for the railway company to adopt that policy in respect of any competitors by giving to these competitors the right to be compulsorily acquired, if they demonstrate to the Minister that public interest demands it. It would be our policy to operate that power so as to ensure that a road operator whose position was being undermined by uneconomic competition on the part of the railway company should have the right to get acquired by that company before his capital had been exhausted and the value of his services had been seriously diminished.
What I have said I think gives an almost clear picture of the whole of the purpose behind the Road Transport Bill. There are, of course, a number of provisions in the Bill—it is rather a long measure—and they are all designed to achieve purposes incidental to the main scheme. We can probably discuss these provisions more satisfactorily in Committee. The main scheme is to make subject to a licensing arrangement the business of carrying merchandise by road and to provide for the transfer of licences, where it is considered desirable, from independent operators to railway or tramways companies. I think, however, I should make special reference to the position in respect to the City of Dublin. Under the Road Transport Act, 1932, it was contemplated that the control of transport would be centred in three main areas—the area of the Great Southern Railways Company, the area of the Great Northern Railway Company and the City of Dublin, and that the main operators in these areas would be the railway companies or the tramways company in the city. That purpose was to a great extent achieved in the area of the Great Southern Company. That company acquired the business of most of its rivals for the carriage of passengers and throughout the whole of its area there is only a very small number of independent operators remaining. As a result it has been able to stabilise to a large extent the passenger position and there is no reason to believe that it will not be able gradually to build up for itself what will be a profitable part of its activities.
In the area of the Great Northern Company the same success was not achieved, mainly arising out of the fact that the company were apparently unable to effect an agreement to purchase with some of their principal competitors. In the City of Dublin very little change took place at all. All those who were operating existing services got licences. A number of those who were unfortunate not to have been operating services for the whole of the qualifying period did not get licences. Apart from that change, nothing else has happened. We have, of course, eliminated what was frequently referred to as pirating, that is, the operation of buses on particular routes only at particular times when a good deal of traffic was likely to offer. Although we have eliminated pirating, we have not by any means eliminated competition or the evils associated with competition on particular routes. The racing of buses and the various devices adopted to get passengers, sometimes only at great risk to the public, are still going on on many routes, and there is not at the present moment any indication that the situation is likely to change in the near future unless this Bill becomes law and, in consequence of it, changes are brought about.
We propose to have this acquisition clause apply in relation to passenger licences in the city as well as in the areas of the railway companies. I do not contemplate that the power of compulsory acquisition will be used extensively. I found, however, when considering the position in Dublin last year that I was practically powerless to get any movement at all towards improvement here, mainly arising out of the fact that those controlling the existing services had what appeared to be fantastic ideas either in exaggeration of the value of these services or the reverse. Attempts to get joint consideration of the problem and some agreement as to policy in relation to it did not succeed. It will be possible, in view of the powers conferred by this Bill, to force consideration, to bring the people concerned to the point where they will have to consider policy in relation to these matters, and I hope that by the judicious exercise of these powers we will get a large measure of agreed policy which could be carried into effect with the least possible dislocation over a period of time and without imposing hardship upon anybody. If that is not possible, I certainly intend to use the power in order to produce here in the city the situation originally contemplated where the intense competition which we have experienced will cease to exist and where licensees will be charged in relation to particular areas to provide not merely good services for the conveyance of the public, but also continuously improving services.
The only other thing that I think should be mentioned in relation to the Road Transport Bill is the provision made for the exemption of certain areas from the scope of it.
In so far as the Bill is concerned with the carriage of merchandise, it is proposed to exempt certain areas which are included within a radius of 15 miles of the principal post office in Dublin, 15 miles of the principal post office in Cork, and ten miles of the principal post offices in certain other port towns. These towns were selected because there are conducted from them regular steamship services. It was thought, in relation to these towns, that it was necessary to have this provision so as to ensure in the first instance that these steamship services would not be unduly interfered with, and, secondly, that the nature of the distribution trade which exists in connection with these towns would not be brought under control. I might say that our main purpose was to achieve exemption from the scope of the Bill of areas round Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and one or two other towns. We had, however, to get some foot-rule by which to work, some standard by which we could distinguish one town from another, and the standard was that from these towns there were regular steamship services, and they appeared to us to be the most suitable. The position is that there exists, taking Dublin as the main example, a number of persons carrying goods of all kinds for reward who are not ordinarily carriers in the accepted sense at all. They would not contemplate, as a rule, the acceptance of business involving the transportation of goods either to the west of Ireland, the south of Ireland, or over long distances. The carriage of goods associated with the metropolis, the produce of market gardens, milk supplies, or the distribution of goods to suburban residents, does not take anything from the railway companies. That is not the type of business railway companies are likely to be interested in. The exclusion of these areas from the scope of the Bill for all those people engaged in that type of activity to keep in it without being subject to any control. It makes the administration of the Bill simpler, and achieves another purpose to which we attach importance.
If we were to make these areas subject to the main provisions of the Bill, by deleting the provision for exemption, everyone engaged in the business of carrying goods for hire in these areas would be entitled to and would certainly request the issue of licences to carry goods. It is extremely likely if they had to get licences that they would apply for licences to carry goods, not merely in and around Dublin and Cork, but over much wider areas, and consequently would become competitors, or potential competitors of the railway companies, and would have to be acquired before the railway companies could establish themselves in the monopoly position we contemplate. On the other hand, if we maintain the exempted areas we give a very substantial inducement to these people not to extend their activities outside those areas, but to confine themselves entirely within them, carrying on without being subject to the restrictions on long distance business. The inducement which we give is this: A person who gets a licence under the Bill is subject to certain definite restrictions. In his application he is required to state the class of goods he proposes to carry, and the area in which he proposes to carry goods. In respect of these goods in that area he must give the same facilities to everyone. He must carry goods of all the kinds specified in his licence when offered to him between any two points in the area. He must carry them for one person on the same terms and subject to the same conditions as for another. If a person receives a licence of that kind in respect of goods to be carried outside the exempted area he will be also subject to the same conditions, and to the same restrictions, when operating within the exempted area. Consequently such licensee will be at some disadvantage as against a person who confines his activities entirely to the exempted area, and does not therefore require a licence. There is that inducement provided to people ordinarily engaged in short distance suburban distribution traffic, or carrying on business in or around the cities, to confine themselves to that type of business.
The provisions of the Railways Bill are part and parcel of the same general scheme. It was originally intended that there would be only one Bill. Certain legal difficulties are responsible for the fact that there are two Bills instead of one for consideration. I understand the intention is that the financial clauses of the Railways Bill will be discussed separately. I would like to say that they cannot be considered apart from the general scheme. They are part of the general scheme. Even though special considerations may arise in reference to them, they stand or fall with the main body of the proposals.
The main changes effected by the Bill, apart from the financial changes, are, I think, well known. It is proposed to simplify the procedure for the reduction of services on parts of the lines of the companies or for a cessation of services on these lines. Under the Act of 1932 there is power at the present time to make an order authorising a railway company to cease running services, or to reduce services which are now being run under statutory authority on any line or branch line. As Senators are no doubt aware, there exists in relation to a number of branch lines, in certain portions of the systems throughout the Saorstát, a statutory obligation upon the railway companies to run certain defined services. The railway companies must continue to provide trains on these lines no matter what traffic is offered and no matter what the circumstances unless released from that obligation by an order made under the Act of 1932. Over the rest of the system there is, at the present time, freedom conferred on the railway companies to run any services they like. I do not think it is possible to abandon a line or a portion of a line without promoting legislation. They are certainly at liberty to reduce or to vary the services any way they like without interference from anyone. For example, a number of branch lines, particularly in the South of Ireland, were closed last year by the railway company on their own authority. They did not require any special authority for the purpose. The lines were built by the railway company and they were entitled to close them if they so desired. In relation to other lines where services were reduced the reductions had to be preceded by a statutory order made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
The change made under this Bill is, at first sight, not very substantial, but it alters the position considerably. In the first place we require the railway companies to maintain, in respect to the whole system, a certain service of trains—the service of trains which ran during the first seven days of January, 1933. We provide that an order may be made authorising a railway company to reduce or to abandon any of these services subject to certain conditions. One is that they must provide alternative services on the road sufficient to handle any traffic likely to offer. The principle behind that provision is clear. If we are going to have the railway companies in a monopoly position so that they would be controlling both the rail and the road services, and that the public would be depending on them for transport facilities, there must be an obligation on the companies to provide facilities having regard to the fact that we have practically taken from ourselves power to enable anyone else to provide them. We must put on the railway companies a very definite obligation to ensure that the services are there, and if the railway companies propose to stop the services on a particular branch line, or portion of the main line, or to reduce the services considerably, then we require them to provide road services sufficient for any traffic offered.
If the reduction in services takes place merely in consequence of a diminution in the volume of traffic, then no order is required. The railway company are quite free, under the section, to vary their services in any way they think fit, because of a diminution in the volume of traffic. If, say, 5,000 passengers on an average travel by train to Howth on a Sunday during one particular year, and because of greater attractions elsewhere only 2,500 travel in future, then obviously half the service only will be required. The railway company in such circumstances could reduce the service to that extent without any question of an order being necessary or without any fresh obligation being imposed upon them. But if the railway company decided that the 2,500 passengers going to Howth could be more conveniently carried by road than by rail and shut down the line, substituting an omnibus service for the rail service, then an order would be required by the railway company, and it would have to provide an omnibus service. It would also be obliged to provide alternative employment or compensation for the railwaymen who were rendered redundant by the closing of the line, as well as to maintain the bridges, level-crossings, fences and other works which are being maintained in connection with the railway line.
Our policy is, therefore, quite clear. The railway companies are required to maintain the same service of trains which they had in January, 1933, but they may reduce that service if the traffic diminishes. If, however, they decide to change their policy in relation to the traffic and have it carried by road instead of by rail, then they must get an order from the Minister for Industry and Commerce to enable them to do so, and also undertake the obligations that are imposed upon them by this section in relation to the provision of an alternative service, maintenance of bridges, compensation of employees, etc. That section will be one difficult of administration if there is, in fact, any substantial falling off in traffic in the future as compared with the critical week fixed in the section. I am not very much perturbed about that, because I think we can safely contemplate that, in so far as goods traffic is concerned, the volume of traffic offered is not likely for some time to come, at any rate, to fall substantially below that offered in the first week of January in this year. So what we have really done is to fix the minimum service for the railway companies. They can increase that service as much as they like and provide additional facilities either on road or rail. It is only in the event of a definite change in policy on their behalf, a definite decision to substitute road services for rail services, that Section 8 comes into operation at all.
There are certain changes concerning the number of directors, the method of electing directors and matters of that kind, that I do not think it is necessary to deal with at this stage. They will arise more appropriately on the Committee Stage. There is an obligation placed on the railway company to produce a scheme of superannuation for its employees. The Railways Act of 1924 provided for the preparation by the Great Southern Company of a superannuation scheme in agreement with the trade union representatives of the workers. The Act did not provide what was to happen if there was no agreement, and that is precisely what happened. The scheme was prepared, but the trade union representatives did not approve of it, and because of the disagreement nothing happened. The Act of 1924 became inoperative in that regard. It is necessary in certain circumstances of that kind to bring in a third party. We propose to bring in the Railway Tribunal. The company is obliged to prepare a scheme and to submit it to the Railway Tribunal. The Tribunal can hear all interested parties and either approve of the scheme as submitted or approve of it with modifications. When approved of by the Railway Tribunal the scheme comes into operation and so the deadlock is resolved.
There are certain other provisions that it is hardly necessary to deal with at this stage. It is proposed under the Bill to enable the Great Southern Railways Company to operate an air service if they are so inclined. I do not know that they have any immediate intention of doing so, but it is felt, having regard to our experience in regard to omnibus services, that they should be at least empowered to do so in advance rather than that the position should be allowed to develop in which they could not take any part in it until rival services had been established. We also propose in this Bill to remit certain debts due by the Great Southern Company to the Government. That, however, is one of the financial provisions which, I think, can be more appropriately discussed on the other Bill.
I would like to say that it is my conviction that the operation of these Bills will result in a substantial improvement in the transport position here. I think that view is generally shared by persons who have given this question deep study. We may disagree as to the manner in which the aim intended is achieved, but I think that nobody can seriously dispute the fact that if we are going to get an economic transport organisation here we must have unified control, one organisation providing facilities for the different forms of transport. We must eliminate the cut-throat competition that is now going on which makes it impossible either for railways or for road operators to get an economic freight for any goods they are carrying. With unified control, subject to all the safeguards that are necessary in the public interest, we can make it possible for the new transport organisation to fix its freights and conduct its services on the basis of getting paid for the work done—of getting paid on a remunerative basis sufficient to provide for all working expenses, maintenance and depreciation and making provision for a reasonable return upon the capital invested.
It may be that difficulties that we do not see at the moment will arise, and that, in some respects, our scheme will prove to be defective. If so, we will only have to amend it again or adopt some other measures in the future. But I think these proposals should get a reasonable period of time before they are rejected, or before any one comes to the conclusion that they are not going to achieve the results aimed at. It is true that the railway companies are meeting with special difficulties in this year. These difficulties have been exaggerated to a great extent, and certain Senators may have been misled in consequence of them. The new conditions existing here now have, of course, a very direct bearing on the future of the railways and on our transport organisation generally. I think that the directorates of the different companies have taken these considerations into account. The industrial policy of the Government, its aim to secure the internal production of a very large number of different classes of goods formerly imported is going to have a very special bearing on the transport position. I do not think that is going to disimprove the transport position—quite the contrary. In relation to most of these goods it is true that the number of places at which they will be produced in the country will be far fewer than the number of ports at which they were formerly imported. Consequently, a greater amount of internal transportation will have to take place. The railway companies contemplate, as a result of these industrial activities, that they are going to have more business to do. That applies almost entirely to the Great Southern Company. The cross-Border companies had definitely to consider their position. They had to examine the traffic that was offered in previous years and they have come to the conclusion that because of the new circumstances existing here a very definite proportion of that traffic is permanently lost to them. Goods which they had the business of importing into the country in the past were now being produced here, and, consequently, the transportation associated with the importation of these goods will not offer in the future. These companies also took into account the circumstances of the emergency duties operating here and in Northern Ireland and came to the conclusion that certain losses were likely to accrue as a result of these also but that these losses were likely to be only of a temporary nature and, that, therefore, they could plan on that basis. Whether that view is correct or not I do not know, but it seems to me that Senators should be very careful not to come to any conclusions based upon the assumption that the present position is, to any very great extent, affected by the emergency duties. I do not think it is true. The railway companies are, of course, interested to some extent in the prices which producers can obtain for their produce, but they are concerned to a much greater extent with the volume of traffic carried. They are much more concerned with the volume of the traffic of these producers than with the value of the produce, and the volume offering at present is not very much less than that which would be offering if these emergency duties were not in existence at all and may not show any substantial increase if these duties cease to operate. Live stock was, of course, one of the principal items of traffic with which the railways were concerned. Throughout March, certainly, and April there was no diminution in the number of cattle exported from the country. The price of these cattle may show a considerable falling off as compared with last year, but the number of cattle carried shows an increase on last year and, consequently, the amount of transportation required for that purpose did not show any diminution. The same applies to other classes of goods and, in so far as there has been a diminution for outgoing or incoming goods, it has possibly been entirely replaced by increased internal transportation. Take for example bacon pigs. The export of bacon pigs has fallen off. The number of bacon pigs acquired by Saorstát bacon factories has considerably increased. To a large extent the diminution in export is accounted for almost entirely by the increased production at home. That does not affect transportation except to a slight extent and, consequently, cannot be taken into account in determining transport policy. Even if it were taken into account, it is not reasonable to assume that it is going to be permanent. Assuming, however, that trade is bad in any event, and that some increase will follow upon better times, we can, I think, put our transport organisation upon a sound basis. I think it can be done even having regard only to the present volume of trade, and that it can be put upon a sound, even though not very profitable, basis. It will enable freights to be levied which will provide for operating costs and maintenance costs as well as for some return upon the capital invested. If that is so, any increase in prosperity will be a much greater improvement in the position of the transport organisations and they can look forward to a future when they will be able to earn substantial profits for distribution amongst their shareholders as well as for allocation for reserves to meet bad times that may possibly come on still further in the future.
The only basis for that, however, is, in the first place, unified control, and, secondly, getting into the minds of those responsible for transport policy a realisation that they must be not merely the directors of railway companies but that they are charged with the responsibility of providing whatever forms of transport are required for the needs of the community. If road transport is found to be more economical, or is demanded by the public, then it must not be sacrificed entirely to the needs or requirements of the railways. Railways are and will be for a long time to come the most economical method of transport in a considerable part of the country and most economical for a great variety of goods. So far as that position obtains, they must be retained but they must be not merely a separate organisation but an integral part of a wider transport system meeting all the requirements of our people in every area. It is for that purpose these Bills are designed and, in so far as that end is accepted by all as desirable, any criticism of these Bills should be directed, I think, towards their effectiveness in bringing about that situation rather than in talking at cross purposes having in mind an entirely different set of circumstances that might arise.
We could go back to the system which obtained before the 1924 Act and let unchecked competition exist and permit the one best able to survive to drive out the others, but if we did that I think we would do a considerable amount of national damage. Accordingly, we did not proceed on these lines but decided instead to impose a very considerable degree of control, believing that by doing so we can best serve not merely the interests of the present owners of transport organisations but the interests of the country as a whole.