Information on the mail routes from Queensland to the rest of the world in 1876
Rockhampton Bulletin, Monday 10 September 1877, page 2
The report of the Postmaster-General for 1876 has come to hand, and shows the operations of his department during the year. The information supplied is interesting and on the whole affords encouraging evidence of the continued progress of the colony.
The first part of the report is devoted to the ocean mail services. The contract of our Government with the E. and A. Company for the mails via Torres Straits has been carried out in a highly satisfactory manner; and although instructions were given by the Company to their captains not to anticipate the time of arrival at Brisbane by more than twenty-four hours, the average duration of the numerous voyages from Singapore was only six hours in excess of the previous year, while on the outward trip to Singapore, it was positively shorter by thirty-two hours. This at first sight seems paradoxical, but it is explained by an examination into the circumstances attending the operations of the service in 1875, as it was only during the latter half of that year the Company had a sufficient number of their new boats ready to maintain a ten-knot speed, and the average of the year was unduly increased by the protracted voyage of the steam-ship Brisbane, which ran upon the Angelica Reef, where she remained eighteen days. The average time occupied in the outward trip in 1875, was 19 days 19 hours ; and omitting the trip of the Brisbane, 18 days 7.5 hours; while the average time to. Singapore last year was only 17 days 11 hours The average time for the inward trip from Singapore to Brisbane, last year, was 18 days 23 hours.
The E. and A. Company having been naturally declined to maintain a ten knot service for a subsidy insufficient for a nine-knot service, the speed stipulated for in the contract, the Postmaster-General endeavoured to induce the Company to keep up the higher rate which their vessels had proved their capacity for, in consideration of a premium being paid for every twenty-four hours earlier arrival at Brisbane than required by the time-table arranged in terms of the contract. This would have greatly enhanced the value of the service by ensuring time for replies in Brisbane by course of post all the year round, whilst by the contract time this is only possible during six months of the year. But the premium offered was considered by the Company a paltry remuneration for the extra expense it would entail in maintaining their steamships, and they promptly declined to undertake the proposal at all in the form submitted. The matter was brought before Parliament dining the latter part of the session of 1876 by Mr. Palmer, who carried a resolution for a committee to consider the advisability of increasing the subsidy during the remainder of the contract term lo an annual sum not to exceed £40,000 in consideration of a ten-knot service being given and Brisbane being made the postal terminus of the contract; but the Government exhibited a decided hostility to any increase of subsidy, and the matter was allowed to drop. The speed maintained during the past year is, not-withstanding, greater than the contract rate, and the time occupied compares favourably with that of the two other services.
It is shown by tables accompanying the report that the average time occupied in the transit of mails from Brisbane to London via Brindisi was 53 days 9 hours, and via Southampton 61 days 13 hours. Taking the Brindisi route, the Torres Straits mails averaged from London to Brisbane, 50 days 6 hours, and from Brisbane to London 53 days 9 hours. The Queensland mails via San Francisco occupied, in transit from London to Brisbane, 53 days 22 hours, and from Brisbane to London 49 days 22 hours. The time occupied by the Melbourne-Suez-Brindisi route was, from London to Brisbane 51 days 7 hours, and from Brisbane to London 53 days 1 hour. It appears by a comparison with these figures, that the. Torres Strait service gave quicker communication inwards, from London to Brisbane, by hours than the Suez-Melbourne line, and by 3 days 16 hours than the San Francisco line; while the time outwards, from Brisbane lo London, was against the Torres Straits line, being 8 hours shorter via Melbourne-Suez, and three days 11 hours shorter via San Francisco. The unfavourable relative position of our own line on the outward trip is owing to the delays at Singapore, the efforts to make an arrangement with the P. and O. Company to dove-tail with their India and China lines at that port having been fruitless, and the negotiations with the Messageries Maritimes to carry our mails between Singapore and France having been allowed to lapse without result. However, all the Queensland ports of call, other than Brisbane, derive greater advantage by the Torres Straits service in proportion to their distance northwards.
The E. and A. Company's steamers have been permitted to call at Cooktown, for purposes of trade, conditional on the detention thus occasioned not interfering with the contract time for the whole trip; and advantage bas been taken of their calling at that port, to make arrangements for landing and shipping English and other mails, and the necessary action for carrying out this arrangement was taken in connection with the London and other offices. Cairns at Trinity Bay and Thornborough, on the Hodgkinson, have also been included in the sorting lists, and correspondence at these places is now sent via Cooktown.
The nett cost of the service is estimated at £15,921 for 1876, which is a few hundred pounds larger than for the previous year, but there was a large increase in the quantity of correspondence last year; and the total cost of ocean mail communication is some £1500 to £2000 less for 1876 than for the year immediately preceding the establishment of the Queensland service, when the quantity of correspondence was comparatively very small. The receipts last year by- "Less estimated proportion of postage due by the United Kingdom, less amount due by Straits Settlements, and less nett balance" in favour of Queensland on Intercolonial account, make up a sum £4508 which is a set-off against the £20,000 paid to the E. and A. Company as subsidy.
The facilities which the Torres Straits mail steamers have afforded to Chinese immigration undeniably constitute a drawback lo the value of the service, but it may be hoped that recent legislation will remove all danger of further injury from this source, and in that event the service must on every ground commend itself to the hearty support of this colony, and more particularly to those portions of it deriving advantage from calls of the mail steamers en route. From Rockhampton northwards the benefits derived from the Torres Straits mail boats are numerous and almost beyond calculation, while the service has really saved the colony a large sum annually of cost by ocean mails.
The proposed alterations of the Suez-Melbourne service to fortnightly mails, carried at a greatly increased rate of speed, may place the Torres Straits line in a less favourable position comparatively; but we believe it will never do away with the desirableness of maintaining the latter, although it may stimulate our Government lo increase the efficiency of the service by securing a speed of ten knots. Our space does not permit of this question been further discussed at present, but we shall probably have occasion shortly to recur to it.