The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 9 (February 25, 1927)
Gross Ton-Mile Statistics
Gross Ton-Mile Statistics
A committee consisting of Messrs. H. Valentine (Chief Accountant), W. Bishop (Supervising Accountant), R. P. Gillies (Statistical Officer), and F. W. Aickin (District Office) was recently set up to consider what alterations to present returns were advisable to secure, in the most useful form, statistics bearing on operating costs, with particular reference to the gross-ton mileage unit. With the assistance of Messrs. S. E. Fay (Operating and Equipment Assistant) and P. G. Roussell (Acting General Superintendent of Transportation), conclusions have been reached likely to result in increased operating efficiency.
The Railway Department has, with the growth of business, found it necessary to possess statistics covering most of the phases of its business, a constant analysis of operations being essential for the improvement of services and for securing economic working. The Railways have a commodity to sell—transport. They may also be said to be the manufacturers of transport. As with all sellers it is necessary to know the extent of the sales and the selling cost, and for this purpose standard units of measurement are required. A carrying concern cannot—like the trader—have a stocktaking, and, therefore, must resort to methods peculiar to its calling. Methods of working are constantly changing, and, without information showing the results obtained, it is impossible to know whether the changed methods have proved beneficial.
Statistics do not of themselves cure defects on the system—nor for that matter does the doctor's thermometer cure the patient. It has been said that a reliable set of statistics is to the administrative officer what the thermometer is to the doctor. Both point to weaknesses where such exist and make it possible to localise the faults either generally or specifically. If the former, attention can be focussed on certain aspects—perhaps a customary method of loading, while if the latter, the appropriate remedy may be applied. It is the intention of the Department to make systematic overhaul of all returns to ensure that only those that are of real value and fully justify their compilation are rendered. However interesting figures or returns may be, they should not be called for unless they are to be put to practical use. At this stage efforts are in the direction of securing information regarding the matters outlined above, namely, the sale of transport, and the cost of selling it.
There is a certain amount of antagonism exhibited by some railwaymen towards statistics. Some carp at the cost. It is therefore interesting to remember that the statistics taken out by several noted railway companies cost on the average one-thirteenth of one per cent. of the gross earnings. They have in every case improved efficiency in varying degrees. They only required to improve it by one half or one quarter per cent. to show a profit on the outlay. The prejudice is there, however, and must be overcome. The average practical railwayman of this country is not used to statistics—the science of figures—but he knows that economies have to be effected, efficiency increased, and the revenue swelled. He may then say that personal supervision and inspection can accomplish more than figures. To say that, is to speak without knowledge of the complexities and problems that face the administrative officer. A set of figures (obtained, moreover, at low cost) can say more in an hour to the man running the job than an inspector could write in a week. Apart from that, inspection is necessarily spasmodic and fragmentary however well it be done, and for that reason as an information medium it cannot page 26 replace the comprehensive summary of working supplied by appropriate figures. Again it has to be remembered that figures supplied by one branch of the railways are in some cases used for checking the operations of another.
The statistic-shy person cannot be altogether blamed for his attitude as statistics of the kind now taken have only recently become essential in this country. The methods of a few years back sufficed for their day, but owing to the changed order of things, are now inadequate. To date, a number of economies and improvements have been effected as the result of taking out modern statistics, and their compilation has been justified. On the other hand it is occasionally found that the method of compiling the statistics themselves can be improved. For instance, at the present time the vehicle mile statistics are extracted from the guards' reports, but with the present form of report the operation is too costly and there is liability to error. These figures can be obtained by making a simple alteration to the guards' report sheet whereby guards will show the composition of their trains on departure from stations where the load of the train is changed. By an improved method of indicating the train tonnage, it is possible to compile that most valuable transportation costing unit—the gross ton mile. From this a further important statistic for gauging operating efficiency, viz., “the gross ton mile per hour,” is readily obtainable.
Compilation of the additional statistics will entail no extra cost.
Mis-7 to be Remodelled.
The position then is that the familiar Mis-7 (guards' report form) is to be remodelled. At the left hand side of the report there will be a perforated docket which, when in use, will be folded over the main portion of the report, covering it to the extent of about four inches. By means of carbon paper, all entries made on the page 27 detachable part will be recorded on the main portion. The reports will be sent by guards to their district office as heretofore. The dockets will be detached there, checked, and despatched to the Chief Accountant's office, where the statistical information will be extracted. The actual alterations will not be decided upon definitely until various tests are made in the direction of simplifying recording operations, but the information required from guards will be matter that they already record, or know as a matter of course in the running of their trains. The items referred to are tonnage (gross and net), and the number of vehicles and mileage between stations at which the load of the train is changed. From the information so supplied on the docket it will be possible to obtain, inter alia, (a) train, wagon and car miles; (b) gross and net ton miles; (c) train hours; (d) assisting engine miles; and (e) a comprehensive summary of the loading of trains in relation to the ruling grades.
The statistical information compiled from the dockets will be summarised under appropriate headings of trains and districts and supplied to controlling officers weekly. Four-weekly summaries will also be prepared, and after full analysis of the gross ton-mile figures shown thereon a statement will be appended for the information of District officers, showing complete results of the period's operations. Local operating officers will, therefore, be able to check the results of their work promptly and take such steps as may be necessary to effect improvements.
Apart from the statistical portion there will be other minor alterations in the Mis.-7 report. Those mentioned above necessitated a complete change in the setting, and the opportunity has been taken to make one or two improvements. Greater space has been given for the report on the reverse side, more lines have been allowed for entering the numbers of wagons at starting stations, and a place has been provided for the insertion of counts of passengers (when required).
The altered system will come into operation with the next financial year, but the new guards' sheet will be brought into use somewhat earlier to enable all concerned to become familiar with it.
As a further step in the direction of increasing opportunities for promotion in the service, it has now been decided that any member of Division II. who passes the Senior Examination, will be considered as having qualified for promotion to Division I. in so far as the subjects taken by him are concerned. It will, of course, be necessary for him to pass a test in telegraph operating, balancing station accounts and pricing out stores, etc., to comply with the requirements of the Regulation. The Officer-in-Charge of the Railway Correspondence School expects to commence the course of tuition for the Senior Examination at an early date.