"The railrods ought to be and are, the great stabilizing influence in times of industrial stress", declared Mr. Walker D. Hines in a lecture given to members of the University in Emerson Hall last night. Mr. Hines was Director General of Railroads in the United States Railroad Administration during the war, and is the author of numerous pamphlets and articles on governmental and railroad problems, especially those relating to government ownership and control of the railroads.
"The railroads as we see them today", he continued, "are the product and climax of a hundred years of improvement and progress. In the beginning, the government refrained from restraining them in any way, and in many cases gave bounties to hasten the work of building and extending them, but gradually, more and more restrictions have been put upon them until now the government controls even rates and working hours". Mr. Hines went on to enumerate the different stages through which this development has been reached.
Public Depends on Railroads
"I firmly believe, from my own experience in such things", he continued, "that government ownership of railroads would be fatal. It would mean a decrease of initiative and rivalry between roads. This initiative is necessary, for it is the only thing which can prevent stagnation, and its corresponding effect on the country. The failure or stagnation of the railroads would mean the complete collapse of industrial prosperity. The railroads employ ten per cent of the laborers in the country, and buy one third of the annual coal output. The life, convenience, and comfort of the public depend on the success of the railroads. Government ownership and control would eventually mean this collapse, due to political corruption and inefficiency, with the worst possible results to the public welfare.
"The one thing that must be accomplished is to provide the country with adequate railroad service. Capital is needed in ever-increasing amounts, not to build new railroads, but to improve and continue the already existing roads. Unless the railroads, can continue at all times with their regular programs of construction and improvement, industry fails. One of the great problems of the future is to make the public realize the importance of a successful and sound railroad system".