It used to be said that railway companies asserted, in justification of their rates, that they were fixed on the principle of “what the traffic could bear,” and the companies were reproached on the ground that the principle involved an injustice, but a principle which involved the imposition of rates beyond what the traffic could bear, could hardly be said to be either sound or just. However that may be, the Government have imposed upon the Irish railways a burden of working expenses which they cannot bear. What is the remedy? Whatever course is adopted, it is devoutly to be hoped that it will be fair and just to the proprietors of a railway system, which has done so much for Ireland, and in respect of which the proprietors have received on their capital an annual return averaging less than 4 per cent.! No bloated capitalists these. Irish railway shareholders largely consist of people of moderate means, and their individual holdings, on the Midland Great-Western, for example, average only 570 pounds per shareholder.
Whilst I am by nature optimistic, I must confess that in these latter days my optimism occasionally receives a shock. Nevertheless, I believe that the spirit of justice still animates the British people and Parliament; that fair treatment will be accorded to the owners of Irish railways, and that they shall not suffer by the policy which the Government, under the stress of war, have pursued. Railway directors are alive to the seriousness of the position, and may I think be trusted to see that no precaution will be neglected to secure for their companies fair terms from the Government. Shareholders also I am glad to observe are banding themselves together for the protection of their interests.
Soon after the Vice-Regal Commission had concluded its public sittings, and long before its Reports were issued, I had the pleasure of receiving from the associated companies a cordial minute of appreciation of the work I had done, accompanied by a handsome cheque. Nor was this mark of appreciation confined to me. My friend, Croker Barrington, Solicitor to the Committee, who had given yeoman service, and my capable assistants, were not overlooked.
Sir William Goulding was proud of his chairmanship, and well he might be, for during the long and trying period of the Inquiry he kept his team well together and (no easy task) discharged the duties of Chairman with admirable tact and ability. He was well entitled to the Resolution of cordial thanks which the associated companies accorded to him. I should, I feel, be lacking in gratitude if I failed to acknowledge also the invaluable help afforded me by my brother managers, help ungrudgingly and unstintingly given.
The Irish railways did not stand still. Their march along the path of progress and improvement continued sans interruption. From 1906 to 1910 (the Commission period) railway business, measured by receipts, advanced in Ireland by seven per cent., compared with six per cent. in England and three per cent. in Scotland!