The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 4 (August 1, 1927)
Operating Statistics and Their Uses. — (Part II.)
As shown in my last article it can be seen that the information contained in the daily wagon report is very comprehensive. It gives the Divisional Superintendents a bird's-eyes view of the supply and demand of every class of wagon under their control. With the aid of graphs, as illustrated (Fig. 1), showing the position as regards the more important types of wagons (for example “L,” “La” and stock wagons) he is able to see each month how his various districts have fared; whether any one district has been short or over-supplied with a particular class of wagon, and whether the general supply in all districts indicates an over-all shortage or surplus. Possibly the shortage in one district corresponds to the surplus in another, and adjustments are made accordingly. If a close analysis of the wagon position in any one district is required, the daily summary from which the periodical return is compiled, will show the position at each station daily. Should it be necessary to keep a closer supervision on any one station a separate summary can immediately be compiled.
It is apparent, therefore, that the Divisional Superintendent and his District Officers can, by scrutinising these statistics, satisfy themselves as to the true position of wagon distribution. Apart from the necessity of accurate figures for regulating the supply and demand, these statistics have a much more important functior. They enable operating officers to know whether, during a period of wagon shortage, the shortage is occasioned by insufficient rolling stock or inability to move existing stock. If the total column of the T-13 return shows that all districts are wanting wagons, or that the wagons shown as spare are obviously inadequate-when lengthy hauls over single line, etc., are considered, the only conclusion to arrive at is that the number of wagons is insufficient to meet demands. On the other hand, however, if there is a marked shortage in one district after appeals have been sent to forward all available empties to that district, and any other district shows an unusual surplus of the particular class of wagon required, it is obvious the shortage is occasioned by failure on the part of the staff concerned to move available wagons, or inability to do so by reason of lack of facilities. An analysis of the daily returns will show which stations are at fault.
Experience will indicate the normal wagon distribution and when the staff have mastered the statistics and allocated the distribution of wagons accordingly the officers reponsible for scrutinising the returns at the end of the period will know at a glance whether any unnecessary hold-up of wagons has arisen. Disturbances, such as wash-outs, derailments, etc., will naturally affect the figures, but with page 25 all statistics practical knowledge must be applied to obviate misleading deductions.
It is the continual endeavour of operating officers to obtain the maximum use of the available wagon stock and to this end a study of the station summaries is essential. For instance, supposing a sub-terminal station, taking its wagon report after the last train, shows day after day a large number of surplus empties on hand, the operating officer concerned knows that perhaps five hours elapse before the next train is due to leave; he realises at once that these empties should be 100 miles nearer the point where they are daily required; he therefore considers the necessity for running an additional train, or altering his existing service to prevent what is nothing less than a serious wastage of available rolling stock. Assume, for instance, that it is a daily occurrence for 60 “L” and “La” wagons to be standing stationary when they should be running, while there is a corresponding shortage of 60 such wagons elsewhere. If there were no means whereby this position could be indicated clearly, it might happen that at the end of the year the Divisional Superintendent in making his report on the rolling stock programme would ask for 60 more “L” wagons. This would represent a capital expenditure of say, £15,000. Assume five or six more stations working under the same conditions, and it can soon be seen a very large unnecessary expenditure might be involved. It should be noted, however, that with the introduction of the new returns there is a check on the District Traffic Manager through the Divisional Superintendent's periodical summary (T-13). For, if certain districts show a continual shortage and others a continual surplus of “L” and “La” wagons, this return will demonstrate that the distribution is defective.
Unless some new comprehensive check is made on the demands of the various district officers when considering the building programme for new wagon stock, it is apparent a very heavy capital outlay can be involved, possibly with the result that the presence of a large number of additional wagons may tend to congest the existing facilities and diminish the utility of the rolling stock as a whole. This demand for more wagons than is really necessary may be no reflection on the District Officers who consider themselves short of so many wagons, but through lack of proper distributing methods. Each District Officer consults his Transport Officer, Stationmaster and Inspectors and studies his own daily records, but human nature being what it is there is a tendency for each member to protect himself by being on the safe side. This happens particularly when there is a general shortage, the supply is not equal to the demand and more wagons than are actually required are asked for.
Picture then the result of say 150 stations asking for only two wagons more than requirements. A fictitious shortage of 300 wagons results which represents a capital outlay of about £90,000, or a recurring expenditure including interest and repairs of approximately £9,000 per annum. In addition, as previously mentioned, there would be the cost of haulage, and, possibly, a need for increased yard accommodation.
I think this is a convincing example of the use of statistics. Many railway officers consider the cost of preparing statistics too high, but if these new wagon statistics save half the expenditure mentioned (and, judging by the effect they are already having in enlightening officers as to the possibility of making more use of available rolling stock, it is quite possible they will), it can safely be said the cost of compiling them will be amply justified.