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I CHESTER TRAMWAYS BILL. I PUBLIC MEETING. SPIRITED DISCUSSION. I A public meeting was held on Thursday evening at St. Paul's Schools, Boughton, for the purpose of discussing the Chester Corpora- tion Tramways Bill. A fairly numerous gathering was presided over by Mr. E. W. Swetenham, who was accompanied on the plat- form by Messrs. James G. Frost, Carson, Cmhrane, F. Storr, Col. Read, the Rev. F. Edwards and the Rev. J. St. Clair Mayne. Letters of apology for absence were received from Mr. John Frost, Dr. Archer, and Mr. Wickham. Dr. Archer, in his letter, stated he had been informed on the very best authority that the proposed scheme of electric tramways would cost £ 20,000 per mile, and at that rate the extension of eight miles or there- abouts would cost £ 160,000. In his opinion that would impose an intolerable burden on the ratepayers, and one which would not be com- pensated for by any corresponding benefit to the city. Where was the population in Chester or its suburbs to make such a system pay ? To his mind they had not got the popu- lation to do so when it was con- sidered that the interest and sinking fund on such an outlay would swallow up something like £7,000 or ZS,000 per annum before a farthing of profit could be made. There was a burning question before the public at the present time which, he thought, was far more important than the tramways, which affected the health and safety of the inhabi- tants, and ought to be dealt with without delay-he referred to the water supply. (Hear, bear.)-Mr. Wickham wished every success in the endeavour to prevent Chester from being run away with in the matter of the trams. That they should have purchased a worthless part of the present company for a large sum of money seemed to him, under the circum- stances, to have been folly; but to give the Town Council a free hand to embark in any wild scheme of municipal tramways extension, without learning first exactly what they were going to do and how much they had to pay for it would be not folly but madness. The Chairman, ia opening the proceedings, said he did not think the streets of Chester were suited for electric tramways. Nearly every street was too narrow, and it would be extremely dangerous to run elec- tric trams along such thoroughfares as Frodsham- street, Chapel-lane, and North- gate street. People had written to the papers on the subject, and said they must keep up with the times and modernise Chester. If they wanted to do that they must take away I the Rows and Walls. He could not see how the proposed system was going to pay, and he thought, its adoption would lead to a great increase in the rates. Tenants who did not pay rates directly, were greatly mistaken if they thought their landlords would not raise their rents in the event of an increase of rates. To run electric trams would be extremely dangerous. They read almost every day of tramway accidents, especially in Liverpool. As far as he understood the principal sup- porters of the Bill hailed from the Hoole direction, and were people who would not suffer much if the scheme was not a success. Mr. F. Storr then addressed the meeting at considerable length. Referring to the recent public meeting at the Town Hall to consider the subject, he said that, seeing the small attendance, he appealed to the Mayor for an adjournment in order that they might have a little more information and a little more light. But they did not get it. The adjournment was refused until later m the evening, when it was brought forward for quite another purpose. The only alternative, therefore, was to demand a poll, and to give the citizens an opportunity of saying yea or nay as to whether this great expenditure should be incurred. If the circular of the committee, signed by the Town Clerk, had been sent out to the ratepayers earlier than it had been, and if they had been taken into the confidence of the committee as they ought to have been, he did not think they would have had to face the poll. In the first place they heard a great deal about the fact that the Corporation were not going to exercise the powers they sought. The committee stated in tneir circular "The Act, when obtained, will confer wide powers, but will not commit or pledge the Council to exercise them." What did the Mayor say, however, in his speech to the Corporation ? He said if the Corporation, hav- ing taken over the tramways, intended to work them as a success, they must be prepared to extend the area of the tramway system. He could not see that that statement at all bore out the view about their reservations in the exercise of their powers. This statement also appeared in the circular "It should not be overlooked that the Tramways Company, with inflated capital, have been paying increasing dividends. In 1896 and 1897 they paid 4 per cent., in 1898 a fraction under 5 per cent., and in 1899 6 per cent., besides building up a reserve and con- tingency fund." The Mayor, in bringing the matter before the Council, said that the under- taking had not been a commercial success, and there was not much encouragement for any independent company carrying on their business on commercial lines. These were two distinct cases in which the Town Clerk and the Mayor-the two highest authorities they had —were absolutely at variance on the question. Was there anyone who would say that the trams were a commercial success ? (Cries of No.") Speaking as a ratepayer of Chester for 20 years, he thought they had been anything but a success. What was X18,000 given for ? The old rails ? (A. voice Bankrupt stock and laughter.) Had the Corporation managed the purchase of the tramways in another way they would have acquired them tor a very much cheaper sum than they had done. (Hear, hear.) Another question which interested them was, would the tramways be a paying concern if they had them ? Assuming their Bill was passed, the Corporation would have to exercise their powers of constructing within seven years, otherwise their powers lapsed. Seven thousand pounds- would be spent every year for the next seven years at any rate to pay off the debt, which would entail a rate of 9d. in the E. If Hoole wanted tramways they should amal- gamate with Chester, and share the blessings of 9d. in the £ rate. How many people would have to be carried in order that the tramways might pay P He did not think he would be very wrong if he assumed, from experience, that the trams would run a hundred hours per week. In order to provide sufficient people to pay a loan, 322 passengers at penny fares would have to be carried per hour before the re- demption of the loan would be provided for, and if the ten minutes' service that was talked about was given there must be 11 passengers in every car at any given moment in the hour in order that the trams should pay. Was there any possibility of anything like that happening in Chester ? (Cries of Certainly," No," and Why not?") The working expenses would hardly be less than 6d. per car mile, and in order to meet the working expenses on that basis 306 people would have to travel in those cars every hour of the day, or 9,500 people, nearly a fourth of the population of the city, had to pass through those cars every day. He thought, therefore, in the face of those hgures, which were the estimated figures given in the Bill, they might look forward to having to put their hands deeply in their pockets. Mr. H. Crowder said, after careful considera- tion, they could only come to the conclusion that they must have trams in Chester. (Hear, hear.) If they were to preserve every ancient feature of the city for the sake of a few Americans who visited it in the summer, they would ruin the city. The gentlemen who sup- ported the Bill would be the very last to carry out the chairman's suggestion to pull down the Rows, i.e. He was a ratepayer and a property owner in Hoole, and was also a property owner in Chester. He lived in Hoole, nevertheless he thought it very reasonable that Hoole should pay a fair share of the rates of the city. Toshtw that he did not advocate the Bill from any selfish motive, his house in Newton, which was rated last year at iC8 17s., would in Chester have been rated at JE14 5s. 2d. He felt it was most unfair that he, living outside the city boundaries, should allow the Chester rate- I payers to pay rates for his benefit. (Hear, hear.) It had been insinuated that Hoole was not willing to amalgamate with Chester. Hoole and Newton had certainly voted against amalgamation, but the voting had been the work of officialism. He was confident that if there was a fair, straightforward poll offered to the ratepayers of Hoole, they would decide to be incorporated with the city. The Chairman No, no. Mr. Crowder: I live in the neighbourhood, sir, and you don't. The Chairman: Keep to the subject of the trams, if you please. Mr. Crowder, proceeding, said they were told that the electric tramway system was to cost X150,000, and that the old tramway system was paying six per cent. If they laid out X150,000, borrowing the money at three per cent., the difference was 94,500. Therefore they had a clear profit of £ 4,500. How, then, did they make out that the system was going to be a financial loss ? He was confident that a new system would pay very well. It had been said the old system did not pay, and that people would not use the trams. Could they expect them to do so in view of the fact that a friend of his had to pay 3d. for conveyance from the General Station to the Grosvenor Park. Mr. Crowder proceeded to speak with reference to the Chester water, whereupon he was called to order amid cries of Trams, trams," and Address the chair."—Addressing the gentle- men on the platform, Mr. Crowder said I want to shew what the City Corporation has done in the past, and how you have stood in the way of progress. I say you gentlemen have ruined the city of Chester, or, it you have not, you would do to-morrow if you had your own way. (Laughter.) I say the water question— (Cries of Trams" and Order.")—Resuming his seat, Mr. Crowder addressed to the Chair- man and his supporters the words "I think you gentlemen ought to be ashamed of your- selves." Mr. Pritchard expressed himself in favour of the acquisition of the trams by the Corporation, but not of extensions of the system. The Rev. F. Edwards, remarking that one speaker seemed to think they were holding a hole and corner meeting, explained that he only allowed the school to be used that night on the condition that the meeting was to be an open one. Speaking with regard to the Tram- ways Bill, he was of opinion that the Boughton road was too narrow for tram lines. Mr. T. Hibbert said they had been told, on good authority, that the tramways would cost X10,000 per mile (single line) and £15>000 per mile (double line), not £ 20,000 as Dr. Archer suggested. By means of the Corporation's tramway scheme workingmen had the oppor- tunity of getting from their houses on the borders of the city into the town speedily. (A voice Where are the houses ") There was a little colony at Boughton Heath. In the Corporation's Bill they had an opportunity. His advice was to accept it. (Applause ) Mr. Storr said all be asked was that the rate- payers should carefully weigh the matter over, and vote according to their own cenzdences. (Hear, hear.) On the question as to what was to be done with the unfortunate position in which the action of the Corporation had placed them, he believed the Corporation should work tha tramways, but lie would not consent to an outlay of £ 160,080. If the Corporation had worked in the true interests of the citizens they would have gone to the Board of Trade and secured a pro- visional order for one tithe of the araoun: the Bill would cost the ratepayers. Mr. Carson pointed out that at the first meet- ing of the ratepayers on the subject no answer was given to the question as to what the amount to be spent was. They asked the cost of certain portions of the tramways, and there was no engineer present to inform the ratepayers on the authority of his reputation what the cost of the work was going to be. He never knew of another instance where at a publio meeting for the pur- pose of consulting ratepayers the engineer con- corned was not present prepared to give the in- formation the ratepayers were entitled to. It had been pointed out very strongly that the Cor- poration were bound to buy the tramways. There had never been a case in which a company made a bargain with a corporation in which it was not quite understood on both sides that it was subject to the acquisition of the powers to raise the money. Of the CI50,000 proposed to be raised £ 120,000 was the cost of the purchase of the present tramways, so that the bargain between the Corporation and the Tram- ways Company fell to the ground unless the former got the borrowing powers. The money required for equipping a power house equal to the efficient working of eight miles of tramways had got to be found oin f =bit tion, and be under- stood that money was going to be obtained by means of a provisional order. At a meeting of the Town Council in June last they were delighted to see the question of the tramways taken up. The question was then asked whether it was supposed the tramways would pay, and the Mayor replied that there would be ample time for further discussion when they had the particulars as to cost. Since that meeting not a single word was reported on the subject until the meeting at which the Council determined to go in for the BilL He moved the following resolu- tion:—"That while realising the advantage of the traction of the city being under municipal control, this meeting is of opinion that this Bill should not be proceeded with in its present ex- travagant and unsatisfactory form." Mr. Cochrane seconded. Mr. Hibbert mcved an amendment: That this meeting of ratepayers cordially approves of the promotion of the Tramways Bill by the Corporation, and pledges itself to vote in its favour." Mr. Crowder seconded. In answer to Mr. Harry Jones, the Chairman said the only effect the passing of the resolution would have was that it might affect the decision of those who intended to vote. The Chairman ruled that he could not put Mr. Hibbert's motion to the vote a.s an amendment, as it was a pure negative. Mr. E. J. Muspratt expressed the opinion that the amendment ought to be put. Colonel Read having addressed a few words in opposition to the Bill, the meeting voted for and against the resolution, and the Chairman declared that it was carried. The meeting terminated in some confusion, as many persons were under the impression that the resolution was negatived by a large majority. In fact one gentleman questioned the chairman's ruling, and expressed the opinion that the amendment, and not the resolution, was carried. —————— ——————



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