Cost of Tolls too high for new Gundagai Bridge
21 December 1867The Tumut and Adelong Times
We have all rejoice over the benefits which the completion of the magnificent iron bridge over the Murrumbidgee confers, especially on districts south of its blanks; have exultingly anticipated the increased facilities for the transit of goods, produce, flocks, herds, &c., that the conquest of the obstacles the great river presents in times of flood would effect; and have lauded the wise liberality and true economy that Government has evinced in the resolve to render the work uniform and complete by constructing a permanent approach that will enable travellers of every description to avail themselves of this viaduct in all seasons.
In a great measure, our expectations have been realised but modifications in the present scale of charges seem desirable and even necessary to develop the utility of the bridge to its fullest extent, and to afford to all classes an opportunity of participation in the advantages it offers.
The amount levied for the transit of vehicles, horses, and foot passengers is not, we believe, considered immoderate; but the toll of 4d. a head for mobs of cattle, 6d. per head for mobs of horses, and of 1d. per head for flocks of sheep is generally regarded as excessive.
In support of this view we may mention that within the last month several flocks consisting of from five to thirteen thousand sheep approached Gundagai, and that it was intended they should there cross the Murrumbidgee.
The superintendant in charge, however, on ascertaining the amount of toll that would be exacted, caused them to be turned back, and avowed his determination to wend his way to Wagga Wagga and to cross there, rather than submit to what he deemed an exorbitant charge.
When it is considered that he would have had to pay £54 3s. 4d. for the transit of one flock alone there does seem considerable force in his objection, and the fact of his being willing to make a detour of 100 miles to cross by a private bridge sufficiently proves the earnestness and sincerity of his dislike to the rates as levied at Gundagai.
As regards cattle, also the charge of 4d. a head seems un-necessarily high, and is calculated, to induce the owners or those in charge of large herds to resort to the hazardous mode of swimming the cattle across the river, to avoid disbursing a serious sum to obtain the safe but expensive mode of transit the bridge, under existing regulations, affords them.
The exaction of such tolls not only defeats the object for which they are imposed, but inflicts a serious injury on a portion of the public, by rendering benefits in which they should participate nugatory so for as they are concerned.
Everyone will concede the right of Government to secure an adequate recompense for its original outlay; but in such cases just and considerate policy does not grasp greedily for the highest obtainable sum, but exacts a moderate payment that is sufficiently remunerative without being unduly burdensome.
In the end this course will ever be found not only the fairest and most popular but the one that will produce best returns. If the shareholders of the private bridge at Wagga Wagga can afford to content themselves with a lower toll than that charged at Gundagai for crossing the river, surely that is presumptive evidence that the present rate at the latter place should be reduced.
At Wagga Wagga, we understand, a sort of sliding scale is adopted, so mulch being charged for the first thousand head of cattle or sheep, and a lower sum for each succeeding like number; but this mode is open to the objection that the comparatively poor man and small owner has to pay for the transit of his flock or herd at the maximum rate, while his wealth neighbour who owns a thousand head to his one, draft's a large proportion over at the minimum rate.
Even-handed justice demands that such imposts as the tolls we speak of should be fairly distributed, and that those who are best able to afford it and who make most use of the accommodation, should pay their due proportion.
Such, we believe, are the sentiments of' our Gundagai, neighbours, who are about to memorialise the proper authorities relative to this subject, and to suggest that the present bridge tolls be lowered to 3d. a head for horses, 2d. a head for cattle, and a farthing a head for sheep.
This, we think, would amply suffice, and would probably be found to' pay better than the rates now exacted.
As, moreover, the toll keeper if he is not satisfied with the statement given of the numbers of the flocks or herds, can cause those in charge to make an affidavit as to their number before a magistrate, there would be no difficulty in carrying out this plan.
We trust the recommendation of our neighbours will be complied with, and that here-after we shaft not hear of sheep or cattle travelling miles away from their direct route to avoid toll exactions.