Mr W. A. Webb, retiring Commissioner of South Australian Railways, in an interview yesterday, perpetuated the old fallacy that building roads parallel with railways is a wrong policy.
I must admit I am amazed, bewildered and a little dazed, to hear, in this enlightened day, a transport expert rise to say that traffic wanes and trade declines when roads are parallel with lines.
"Road parallel with railway lines!" Infallibly I mark the signs, when e'er I hear that well-worn phrase, of tangled thought in ancient days. My thoughts invariably flit to Nevertire and Waitabit.
Now, Waitabit and Nevertire, two towns in Wotsyerurry Shire, stood on a railway line about eight miles apart; week in week out, the trains ran daily up and down upon the lines from town to town.
Sundays excepted, every day, the engine puffed along the way. And Nevertire and Waitabit, in those far days were proud of it each happy thus to win renown as a progressive railway town.
But sternly did the powers that be send forth this adamant decree: "Since railway progress is our pride, no road shall ever run beside the line that goes from Nevertire to Waitabit within the Shire."
But roads there were, that round about the little farms ran in and out. Either to Nevertire they ran or Waitabit; that was the plan. But not one road ran into both because of the official oath.
Each like a spider squatted down within its web, each little town drew tribute for the country side, both isolated, both denied communication o'er the plain, excepting once a day by train.
But all the farms that lay betwixt the towns were rather badly fixed. Since no road ran to Nevertire, folk had to wade through miles of mire to get there, while to Waitabit the way was equally unfit.
Then came the motor car. But, lo! the railway "heads" had fixed it so no motorist of Nevertire, however urgent his desire, could drive to Waitabit except by tortuous roadways badly kept.
For still remained the stern decree which said no road shall ever be - no matter how a town repines - built parallel to railway lines.
While other towns within the State wax prosperous and up-to-date because the motor age has made fresh opportunities for trade, poor, isolated Nevertire and Waitabit stay in the more - except, of course, once every day, when trains puff by, but seldom pay.
Which gives me cause for wonder when some transport expert airs again the olden cry, the well-worn phrase, culled from a creed of olden days - "Progress deserts him who design roads parallel to railway lines!"
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003|