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Thursday, 23 November 1911

Senator McCOLL - I have no doubt they did. Mr. Mathieson was a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge man. I do not know where Mr. Oliver and Mr. Pendleton came from, but Mr. Mathieson was a Scotch railway manager, and was accustomed to narrow-gauge railways.

Senator Lynch - He was in Queensland before he came to Victoria.

Senator McCOLL - I am aware of that. He was accustomed to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge in the Old Land, and to the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge in Queensland. He was doubtless affected by his environment of English' workers, work-shops, engines, and rollingstock, and the narrow gauge adopted in Queensland, and he was not prepared to face the cost of conversion to the wider gauge. These Commissioners had to make their lines show a profit. They did not desire honour and glory forty years later. They wished to get a name 'for cheap management, and to be able to show that they could run their lines cheaper than they had been run before. They looked, as all imported Commissioners have done, to the present. We had an experience of this in the last Victorian Railways Commissioner, Sir Thomas Tait. That gentleman allowed the stock to run down to such an extent, while he was making a name for himself for cheap management, that we had to send out of the country for engines. These Commissioners were not engineers, and did not go into the merits of the questions of traction, economy, and commercial efficiency. They simply looked at the present cost, and desired to secure credit for an increase of railway revenue. There is a very extraordinary statement in the document from which I have quoted which I was amazed to see. The Commissioners say -

If the Governments of the respective Colonies determine to take steps towards the unification of the gauges, the Commissioners suggest that all new rolling-stock should be constructed with that object in view.

Will it be believed that those charged with the superintendence of the construction of railway stock in Victoria have been for some years past, in anticipation of the adoption of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, and without consulting the Government, or obtaining the consent of Parliament - because the Government have told me that they knew nothing whatever about it - constructing railway stock for Victoria for the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, instead of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge? They have been building waggons to carry lighter loads, and this must have increased the cost of working. I was amazed when I found this out, and, further, that the Government of the day knew nothing about it. It seems an extraordinary thing that those in charge of our workshops in Victoria could make such a change as to construct Victorian stock to run on a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge with bodies only fit for a 4-ft. 8|-in. gauge, and without the people, Parliament, or the Government being aware of what was done. The Commissioners further reported - " 3. In what proportion they recommend the cost of the change shall be borne by the respective Colonies."

The question of the distribution of the cost of the change was discussed by the Commissioners at great length ; but they were unable to┬╗ agree upon the proportion which should be borne by each Colony. " 4. The number of years the cost of the change should be spread over ; and the amount of money to be set aside each year as a sinking fund."

Having regard to the national aspect of the question as affecting the Australian Colonies as a whole, and to the fact that the change is not expected to bring about any immediate increase of railway revenue, the Commissioners are of opinion that the necessary fund should be provided by a loan raised under Federal control, and that a sum of money should be set aside annually as a sinking fund for the purpose of paying off the loan in such manner as may be deemed advisable by the Federal authorities. Further, that no portion of the cost of the unification of the gauge should be added to the railway capital. " 5. The date on which the commencement of the change of gauge might, with economy, be arranged ; and the probable length of time it would take to complete the work."

The Commissioners agree that the work can be carried out within five years from the date of Us commencement. (Signed) JOHN MATHIESON, CHARLES OLIVER,

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