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Opinion of the Court.
the argument in support of it to find what there is unreasonable in giving that advantage to through passengers. What disadvantage do Motherwell passengers suffer by this? I think that no answer was given to this, except that there was none. This petitioner's complaint may be likened to that of the laborer who, having worked all day, complained that others who had worked less received a penny like himself."
The case of Foreman v. Great Eastern Railway Co., 2 Nev. & Mac. 202, was decided by the English Railway Commissioners in 1875. The facts were that the complainants imported coal, in their own ships, from points in the North of England to Great Yarmouth, and forwarded the coal to various stations on the defendants' railway, between Great Yarmouth and Peterborough. The complaint was that the defendants' rates for carrying coal from Yarmouth to stations in the interior, at which complainants dealt, were unreasonably greater than the rates charged in the opposite direction, from Peterborough to such stations; and that such difference in rates was made by the defendants for the purpose of favoring the carriage of coal from the interior as against coal brought to Yarmouth by sea, and carried thence into the interior over the defendants' railway. The Commissioners found that it was true that the defendants did carry coal from the interior to London, Yarmouth and other seaports on their line, at exceptionally low rates, but that this was done for the purpose of meeting the competition existing at those places. It appeared that the rate from Peterborough to Thetford, 51 miles, was 4 shillings, while the rate from Peterborough to Yarmouth, 100 miles, was only 3 shillings. The Commissioners said: “As, however, the complainants do not, as far as their trade in Yarmouth itself is concerned, use the Great Eastern Railway at all, the company cannot be said to prefer other traffic to theirs; nor does the Traffic Act prevent a railway company from having special rates of charge to a terminus to which traffic can be carried by other routes or other modes of carriage with which theirs is in competition.”
In Harris v. Cockermouth Railway, 1 Nev. & Mac. 97; S. C. 3 C. B. (N. S.) 693, the court held it to be an undue preference
Opinion of the Court.
for a railway company to concede to the owner of a colliery a lower rate than to the owners of other collieries, from the same point of departure to the same point of arrival, merely because the person favored had threatened to build a railway for his coal, and to divert his traffic from defendant's railway. But Chief Justice Cockburn said: “I quite agree that this court has intimated, if not absolutely decided, that a company is entitled to take into consideration any circumstances, either of a general or of a local character, in considering the rate of charge which they will impose upon any particular traffic.
As, for instance, in respect of terminal traffic, there might be competition with another railway; and in respect to terminal traffic as distinguished from intermediate traffic, it might well be that they could afford to carry goods over the whole line cheaper, or proportionately so, than they could over an intermediate part of the line.”
In the case of Budd v. London & Northwestern Railway Co., 4 Eng. Ry. and Canal Traffic Cases, 393, and in London & Northwestern Railway v. Evershed, 3 App. Cas. 1029, it was held that it was not competent for the railway company to make discriminations between persons shipping from the same point of departure to the same point of arrival, but, even in those cases, it was conceded that there might be circumstances of competition which might be considered. At any rate, those cases have been much modified, if not fully overruled by the later cases — particularly in Denaby Main Colliery Company v. Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Co., 11 App. Cas. 97, and in Phipps v. London & Northwestern Railway, 2 Q. B. D., 1892, 229, 236.
The latter was the case of an application under the Railway and Canal Traffic acts for an order enjoining the defendants to desist from giving an undue preference to the owners of Butlins and Islip furnaces, and from subjecting the traffic of the complainants to an undue preference, in the matter of the rates charged for the conveyance of coal, coke and pigiron traffic; and also for an order enjoining the defendants to desist from giving an unreasonable preference or advantage to the owners of Butlins and Islip furnaces and the
Opinion of the Court.
traffic therefrom, by making an allowance of four pence per ton in respect of coal, coke and pig-iron conveyed for them by the defendants. The sidings of the Duston furnaces, belonging to the complainants, were situated on the London and Northwestern Railway, at a distance of about sixty miles from Great Bridge, one of the pig-iron markets to the westward. The sidings of the Butlins and Islip furnaces were situated on the same railway to the east of the Duston furnaces, and a distance from the pig-iron market as to Butlins, of about seventy-one miles, and as to Islip of about eighty-two miles. Duston had only access to the London and Northwestern, but Butlins and Islip had access not only to the London and Northwestern, but also to the Midland Railway. The London & Northwestern Company, which carried the Butlins pig-iron eleven miles further and the Islip pig-iron twenty-two miles further than the Duston pig-iron, charged Butlins 0.95d. per mile, and Islip 0.84d. per mile, while they charged Duston 1.05d. per mile, so that the total charge per ton of pig-iron from Duston to the western markets was five shillings two pence, while the total charge per ton from either Butlins or Islip was five shillings eight pence.
When the case was before the Railway Commissioners, it was said by Wills, J.: “It is complained that, although along the London and Northwestern Railway every ton of pig-iron, every ton of coal, and every ton of coke travels a longer distance in order to reach Islip than in order to reach the applicant's premises, the charge that is put upon it, although greater than the charge which is put upon the traffic which goes to the applicant's premises, is not sufficiently greater to represent the increased distance. . I first observe that these are, in my judgment, eminently practical questions, and if this court once attempts the hopeless task of dealing with questions of this kind with any approach to mathematical accuracy, and tries to introduce a precision which is unattainable in commercial and practical matters, it would do infinite mischief and no good.
It seems to me that we must take into account the fact that at Butlins and Islip there is an effective competition with the Midland. Although effec
Opinion of the Court.
tive competition with another railway company or canal company will not of itself justify a preference, which is otherwise quite beyond the mark, yet still it is not a circumstance that can be thrown out of the question, and I think there is abundance of authority for that. It follows also, I think, from the view which I am disposed to take of these, being eminently practical questions, that you must give due consideration to the commercial necessities of the companies as a matter to be thrown in along with the others.
I wish emphatically to be considered as not having attempted to lay down any principles with regard to this question of undue preference, or as to the grounds upon which I have decided it. In my judgment, undue preference is a question of fact in each case.”
The Railway Commissioners refused to interfere, and the case was appealed. Lord Herschell stated the case and said:
“ This application is made under the second section of the Railway and Canal Traffic act, 1854, which provides that
no railway company shall make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to or in favor of any particular person or company, or any particular description of traffic, in any respect whatever, nor shall any such company subject any particular person or company, or particular description of traffic, to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatever.'
“The question, therefore, which the tribunal, whether it be the court or the Commissioners, before whom such a question comes, has to determine is, whether an undue preference or advantage is being given, or whether the one party is being unduly prejudiced or put to a disadvantage as compared with the other. I think it is clear that the section implies that there may be a preference, and that it does not make every inequality of charge an undue preference.
“Of course, if the circumstances so differ that the difference of charge is in exact conformity with the difference of circumstances, there would be no preference at all. But, as has been pointed out before, what the section provides is that there shall not be an undue or unreasonable preference or
Opinion of the Court.
prejudice. And it cannot be doubted that whether in particular instances there has been an undue or unreasonable prejudice or preference is a question of fact. In Palmer v. London & Southwestern Railway Co. (L. R. 1 C. P. 593), Chief Justice Erle said: 'I beg to say that the argument from authority seems to me to be without conclusive force in guiding the exercise of this jurisdiction; the question whether undue prejudice has been caused being a question of fact depending on the matters proved in each case.'
“In Denaby Main Colliery Company v. Manchester, &c., Railway Co., 3 Railway and Canal Traffic Cases, 426, when it was before the Court of Appeals, on an appeal arising out of the proceedings before the Railway Commissioners, Lord Selborne, then Lord Chancellor, said: “The defendants gave a decided, distinct and great advantage, as it appears to me, to the distant collieries. That may be due or undue, reasonable or unreasonable, but, under these circumstances, is not the reasonableness a question of fact? Is it not a question of fact and not of law whether such a preference is due or undue ? Unless you can point to some other law which defines what shall be held to be reasonable or unreasonable, it must be and is a mere question not of law but of fact.'
“The Lord Chancellor there points out that the mere circumstance that there is an advantage does not of itself show that it is an undue preference within the meaning of the act, and further, that whether there be such undue preference or advantage, is a question of fact, and of fact alone of the act of 1854. No rule is given to guide the court or the tribunal in the determination of cases or applications made under this second section. The conclusion is one of fact to be arrived at, looking at the matter broadly and applying common sense to the facts that are proved. I quite agree with Mr. Justice Wills that it is impossible to exercise a jurisdiction, such as is conferred by this section, by any process of mere mathematical or arithmetical calculation. When you have a variety of circumstances differing in the one case from the other, you cannot say that a difference of circumstances represents or is equivalent to such a fraction of a penny dif.