Clifden Railway

Galway Express 04.04.1885

We have been requested by our worthy High Sheriff, T.G.P. Hallet, Esq., to publish the following, and we do so with the greatest pleasure.

To the Right Honourable William Ewart Gladstone, M.P. First Lord of Her Majesty's Treasury, &c, &c.

The Memorial of Magistrates, Ratepayers, and Inhabitants of the County of the Town of Galway and Neighbourhood, in Public Meeting assembled, on March 30, 1885, in the Court House, Galway.

Respectfully Sheweth:

1. That the proposed Galway, Oughterard, and Clifden Line of Light Railway, about 50 miles in length, is a revival under the Tramways Act of a scheme of railway construction initiated many years ago by private enterprise. The proposed Line is an extension of the Midland and Great Western system of Irish Railways through the picturesque district of Connemara to the Westernmost ports of the Atlantic, and seeks to open up and develop the mineral, pastoral, agricultural tourist and residential capabilities of this highland district, and the important Fisheries of its lakes, rivers and seacoast.

2. That many efforts have been already made, and much money spent, to secure the construction of this line. Three times its presentment has been—twice by completing companies—before the Grand Juries of the County, of the County or the Town, and the Town Commissioners of Galway, and on each occasion these bodies have unanimously affirmed its great utility. At the last Summer Assizes the Grand Juries and Town Commissioners actually passed the line with the necessary guarantee, but after a lengthened enquiry, the decision of the local authorities failed to secure the confirmation of the Privy Council. The Lord Chancellor, however, in giving the judgement of the Privy Council (which is appended to this Memorial) not only admitted the bona fida character of the scheme, but pronounced it to be an undertaking of "immense" and "almost national importance".

3. That the cause of these failures to construct the Galway and Clifden Railway has been the possible severity of the pressure of the required guarantee on the rates of the district through which the Railway would run. The capital cost of the Railway, as passed by the Grand Juries, and placed before the Privy Council, was £210,000, with a guaranteed interest of 5 per cent per annum. The total interest of this capital would be £40,500 per annum. Deducting from this interest the 2 per cent offered by the Government, equal to £4,200, there would be left, ensuring working experience paid, a possible charge of £6,300 per annum on local rates. The rateable value of the whole Railway district is, however, under 74,000 and 11—12th of the Railway passes through a rateable area of only 41,000. Already on those districts the annual pressure of rates is excessive—on the County of the Town of Galway, 6s 8d—on the barony of Moycullen, 7s 6d—on the Barony of Ross, 7s 1d—on the Barony of Ballinahinch, 5s8d. The Grand Jury of the County of the Town, with the Town Commissioners, with less than 1—12th of the mileage, voted 1—8th of the annual cost, amounting to 6d in the pound, but this threw a burden of 2s 6½d in the pound on the County Baronies, a burden which the Privy Council, considered that they were unable to bear. The Lord Chancellor, as a means of saving the line, put forward the idea of a lower rate of interest on the Capital of Construction and a small rate in aid from the whole County for the Belief of the Baroness. But at the sitting Assizes just over, no proposal containing a lower rate of interest was forthcoming and the County Grand Jury did not agree to the idea of a rate—in—aid from the whole County, the result being that the scheme of the Railway is now in abeyance.

4. That, your Memorialists cannot allow this Railway opening up to progress a district of country equal in reality to a principality, and totally devoid of railway communication—a railway pronounced by the Lord Chancellor and Privy Council to be one of "immense", of "almost national importance" —to finally pass away without making one last effort to bring it before the attention of the Government. They do not argue that because a railway is of national importance, that, therefore it must be necessarily made by the action, nor do they desire to dictate specific ?? of any kind, but they would respectfully seek attention to what appears to be the underlying difficulty of the Tramways Act in reference to Connemara. They desire that the Connemara Line of Railway, if constructed at all, should be constructed as a paying concern. But the payment or non—payment of a railway must depend upon its original cost, and the original cost is a question not only of the obvious element of the amount of capital expended in its construction, but of the less obvious and more insidious element of the rate of interest at which that capital is borrowed. In the present case the required guarantee of interest is 5 per cent, per annum, and it is said by promotion that under the Tramways Act, in relation to the credit of the Connemara Baronies, the money cannot be got for less. In a 5 per cent, under the Act, 2 per cent is Governmental, and 3 per cent is local, or guaranteed by the ratepayers, but assuming, as from the price of Consuls we are entitled to do, that a Government Guarantee of 2 per cent, per annum is worth £662/3, then the 3 per cent guaranteed by the ratepayers is valued only at £331/3. In other words, the local ratepayer, under a five per cent guarantee has to borrow money secured on the rates under the various conditions of a 9 per cent rate of interest. It is to this frightful waste of the resources of the district that your Memorialists desire to direct the special attention of the Government, and to respectfully ask whether it could not be remedied—whether, for example, by means of a primary Government loan or guarantee, charged as to its local proportion on the rates, instead of the present primary local loan or guarantee, charged as to its Government proportion on the Treasury, or by other means, as remedy could not be found to save at once the ratepayers and the railway.

5. A 5 per cent guarantee for the proposed line, when working expenses are paid, means 10,500 a year of annual earnings in order to pay annual interest. A 4 per cent, guarantee means 8,400 a year. A 3 per cent means only 6,300 a year : each 1 per cent lowering the railway liability, and hence the requisite annual earnings by 2,100 a year. A 3 per cent guarantee divided equally, as to its ultimate charge, between the Government and the ratepayer, would be 1½ per cent, or 8,150 per annum for each, and this charge divided according to the mileage proportion, adopted in the presentment before the Privy Council, would amount to 6d for the County of the Town, and under 14d for the Baronies, as against 2s 8½d. In this case the Government, too, would itself save on its grant ½ per cent, of 525 per annum. If the Government were to grant its maximum 2 per cent to the Railway, collecting one from the Ratepayers, the maximum charge on the County of the Town would be 6d, and that on the Baronies would be 3d. In this case 1 per cent of the Government grant of 2 per cent could be made the first charge on the earnings of the line, and thus as soon as the line earned 1 per cent, above working expenses, the liability of the Government and locality would be reduced to 1 per cent, for each, or 1,050 per annum. In this 3 per cent form of loan or guarantee to the railway, the ratepayers would be responsible to the Government for their share, as in any ordinary case of loan or guarantee for Municipal, 1 and improvement, or other purposes and would be also responsible for the maintenance and working of the line. The actual money grant of the Government would in no case be more in annual amount than at present under the Act, and would be considerably less in time. The money liability of both Government and Ratepayer would cease with three fifths of the earnings above working expenses required by a 4 per cent form of guarantee. The line would require only 6,300 of annual earnings, as against 10,500 to make it a paying concern, free of all rating and taxation.

6. In venturing to bring this consideration of a primary loan or guarantee from the Government charged as to its local portion on the rates, your Memorialists are not unaware of the objections which may be made to it. It may be said "that such a primary loan or guarantee would imply an interchange of position between Government and locality, that it would diminish local responsibility and increase Governmental, that it is contrary to the spirit of the Tramways Act, and that it would form a precedent for application to other districts." "In reply to the objection of precedent, it may be submitted that Connemara can only be quoted as a precedent by districts that are smaller to it, and it may be questioned if all Ireland can supply and example of an equally large area devoid of railway accommodation, of equally low valuation and hence one in which the construction of a railway would involve equally heavy pressure on the rates. If such can be found, to that along the precedent would apply. Moreover, as a special precedent in favour of the Connemara Railway, there is the saga of the Nimo Roads, constructed by the Government many years ago, along the very line which this railway would pass.

7. With regard to local responsibility, your Memorialists would always desire to maintain this great principle with its correlative of local freedom; but even local responsibility must be limited by local power, and the required taxation is greater than the district can bear. They feel that in strict rule a railway of this kind should be constructed by private enterprise without the incidence of either local rates or Imperial taxes. The Tramways' Act is itself, however, a confession that the strict rule of political economy is inapplicable to the circumstances of the case. The Imperial Parliament by that Act recognised Ireland's need to Imperial assistance in the matter of Railways, and the grant of a 2 per cent, guarantee for their construction, your Memorialists recognise as a liberal and generous one. But the conditions of that Act, however well adapted to the average needs of Ireland, has no adaptation either in the terms of its grant or its power of taxation, to the special needs of Connemara. Distributive justice suggests that a grant should have some proportion to the need, and the father of political economy himself ahs laid down that taxation should be in proportion to ability; but the effect of the hard and fast average line of the Tramways Act is to lessen the grant as the need increases, and to increase the tax as the ability diminished. The poorer the district the more it has to pay, the less the ability the greater the rate, and whilst comparatively rich districts in Ireland are getting their railways at a local responsibility of 8d, 4d, or 6d in the pound, the already over—taxed baronies of Connemara would incur a rate paying responsibility of 2s 8½d.

8. It is this sense of the impossible responsibility in which the Galway and Clifden Railway would involve its locality that encourages your Memorialists to bring the question before the Government. The Imperial funds liberally granted by Parliament to the Railway necessities of Ireland are fast disappearing, absorbed by the richer districts, rich enough to take advantage of their conditions, but useless to the poorer districts like Connemara, for which they were originally intended. The Lord Lieutenant favourably received an influctual deputation from Galway on this subject twelve months ago. Since that time every possible effort—increase of the borough guarantee, appeal for a rate—in—aid to the County—has been exhausted, and now the fate of the Railway entirely depends upon the imperial authorities. Did the limits of this Memorial permit, much might be said to show the importance of this Railway as an Imperial question; the complete moral and material isolation of the large district of her Majesty's dominions, through which it would run—a highland district that has bred the Connaught Ranger, and has given him, as its world—famous contribution, to her Majesty's armies; the unfortunate evils that this isolation tends to produce; the use of the railway in controlling these evils, but still more in destroying the cause on which they are so largely dependent. The Railway, by relieving the necessitates of this district, would be a healing measure to discontent, that lessons and embitters population, tends to disunion, and weakens the resources of the Empire; but the "immense" and "almost national importance" of this Railway has been already affirmed by the judgement of her Majesty's Privy Council in Ireland, and your Memorialists appeal to the Head of Her Majesty's Government, to grant his powerful influence and support to make it a possible undertaking.