Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 05 June 1931
Dearne Valley Traffic Pool Adopted
34 Years Agreement
Mixing public and Private Enterprise
The Logic of Facts
The constituent authorities of the Dearne District Light Railway undertaking met in conference at Wombwell on Friday for the second time in a fortnight, on this occasion to settle the period of the co-ordination and the pooling agreement with the Yorkshire Traction Company already decided on three of the four Councils—Wombwell, Bolton and Thurnscoe—approved the pooling arrangements, and advocated the long term recommended by the Committee: approximate 34 years, covering the period of repayment principal and interest on the construction cost of the undertaking.
The fourth Council, Wath, desired a 21 years’ term. A majority of 16 to 8 at the conference supported the longer term, the Wath representives voting against.
Wath for the Short Agreement.
Mr. P. B. Nicholson (Wath) said he opposed even the 11 years agreement at the meeting of his Council. He favoured a period of five years. Transport systems had changed considerably in the last eight years, and might be expected to do so again in the next seven or eight years. Constitutions of their councils also changed, and he did not feel they ought to thrust something binding on their successors.
Furthermore, individuals at present on the Committee might change their minds as one or two of them had done already. He suggested it would be a very much better plan to give the agreement a five-year trial.
Mr. T. Vaughan. (Bolton) suggested that if they were going to criticise the proposals like that, they were going to be just where they were a fortnight ago. They had been instructed to get their Councils’ views and report back. That done, everyone ought to be big enough to sink personal opinions and go with the majority.
Mr. M. Swift (Wath) asked if they had a break clause in the agreement.
The Chairman (Mr. F. Collindridge) said they had not.
Mr. Swift suggested that if they had a break clause, say, at the end of ten years, they could safeguard themselves and not throw so heavy an obligation on the administrators of the future.
Case for the Full Term.
The Chairman said it should be stated why they wanted the long-term agreement. He gave figures at the last conference which showed their receipts were going down; that in spite of all appeals to the loyalty of the ratepayers who owned the undertaking, the people were preferring the ‘bus to the tram. That fact caused them seriously to consider what would be the position of the tramway undertaking in a few years. There was a discussion, too, as to what was the most lucrative part of their route and a feeling that there were portions of that route where they were net doing well, which they could leave to other vehicles.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that they had a five years’ agreement and at the end of the five years they found another concern advancing and theirs, perhaps, going back; what would be the opportunity of their successors to make a better agreement than they were making now? They had already run for two years under tentative co-ordination arrangements. In the first year the trams put more into the pool than the ‘buses; in the second year the position was reversed. When the tramway was first thought of transport services in the Dearne Valley district were very scanty, and those who mooted the scheme did a public service in deciding they should be bettered. But in the pears that followed the laying of the tramway they had seen another mode of transport advance greatly. Not much more than a decade ago people were having to travel in vehicles they would not deign to enter to-day.
Mixing Private and Public Enterprise.
If he could have his way, they would have so pooling at all. The tramway should be run purely as a public service, without any idea of profit-making, but simply on a basis ensuring that the accounts at the end of the year should balance. But as they were not in the happy position of being able to go so far, they were deciding to mix public with private enterprise with, they believed, beneficial results. If they went too far on their own there was the danger of the ratepayers saying they could no longer stand the losses, and telling them they must “shut up shop.”
Because he did not want that to happen he supported the pooling with its attendant long-term agreement.
In reply to Mr. Cookson (Wombwell) the chairman said that if the Traction Company reduced their mileage in order to increase revenue that was a pure matter of business. Under a pooling arrangement they discovered which routes they could cut down on, and not only the Traction Company but the pool would suffer if they did not cut down.
Mr. Nicholson suggested that the Committee should consider the question of fares, when completing the agreement, and find what losses would be involved if they brought their fares on to the level of those of the Traction Company in districts not run over by the tramway.
The Chairman raid that question ought not to have been raised there. ln most instances the very low fares were due to cut-throat competition and to employment under conditions which their own undertaking would not consider for a moment. It was done, also, in order to drive other people off the road and obtain a monopoly to enable proprietors to see what they could wring out of the people.
“This undertaking isn’t run, and never will be run, with the idea of making people pay more for their ride than is economically right. if anyone doubts that, what happened in 1934 on the first day the trams were run? All the undertakings running over our route reduced their fares twenty-five per cent. (A member: 50 per cent. in some cases). If anyone was the forerunner of reduced tares in the Dearne Valley, it was the Dearne District Light Railway Committee. We are willing to do more in that way if we can do so without saddling the ratepayers of districts not directly interested in the undertaking.”
Mr. E. H. Large (Bolton) moved that the conference recommend the Committee to adopt the long-term agreement of approximately 34 years.
Value Of The Light Railway.
Mr. .J. Parker (Thurnscoe) seconded. He remembered the time when there were no trains in Thurnscoe. The trains did not seem to have been a great financial benefit to the district, but they had done one notable thing for Thurnscoe: the cost of travelling to Barnsley by road, which used to be 1/3 each way, was now 1s. return. That was the chief reason why he seconded the resolution. “The Light Railway has done one big thing for this area: it has brought down fares to an economic point. If the Light Railway was abandoned, fares would go up immediately.”
Mr. Swift suggested that, without affecting the resolution, they might obtain greater protection for themselves by considering the insertion of a break clause.
The Chairman said such a clause, if it operated to their advantage, would also operate to the advantage of the other party to the agreement. He did not think a break clause would be good for the Light Railway.
- Nicholson moved an amendment that a five-year agreement be recommended.
Mr. I. Bramham (Wath) said that when their Parliamentary Bill was under consideration, they were informed that all the constituent authorities must be in agreement before the resolutions could be implemented. What was the position now?
The Chairman said the ruling he had given, was that the Committee were the authority in the matter of agreements, though the Committee had in certain instances delegated their powers to the councils. In this instance the Committee could decide.
Mr. Nicholson Nicholson proposed to alter his amendment to one calling for a break clause on a five-year term, but the Chairman ruled this out of order.
Mr. Bramham moved and Mr. Cook (Wath) seconded that a 21-year agreement be recommended. Mr. Cook said they were bound to move that, as it represented the feeling of the majority of their Council, and whether an amendment were accepted or not, the Wath members felt there ought to be a break clause in the agreement.
The Chairman asked, if the matter were referred back for the further consideration of the Wath Council, whether unity on the point of the term of agreement might be reached, and Mr. Swift said it might or it might not.
Mr. Cook said he was perfectly willing to spend another evening in the Wath Council chamber discussing the matter.
Mr. Large said he would oppose a break clause as against their own interests. They knew what break clauses meant, particularly in their Gas Board, where they had worked to their disadvantage because of the changes in the rates of interest on loans. In his opinion, if there were a break clause, it would be not they but the Traction Company who would want to use it.
The Chairman: I can think of no better argument against the break clause than that.
The conference was adjourned for a few minutes while the Wath members retired to discuss the matter in private, and on their return Mr. Cook said they had nearly a full Council meeting when the question was discussed, and they felt they could not now go against the opinion then expressed by a clear majority.
Mr. Vaughan moved that the question be now put, and the Chairman said it amounted to a vote on whether they should adjourn the proceedings to give the Wath Council another opportunity of discussing the matter, or whether they should resolve there and then on a definite recommendation to the Committee. Mr. Vaughan’s resolution was carried.
The conference then decided to recommend the long-term agreement of approximately 34 years.
Aid. G. Probert (Bolton) moved and Mr. Cook seconded a vote of thanks to Mr. Collindridge for his handling of the two conferences, which was heartily carried.