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CHAPTER VIII RAILWAYS, PORTS AND IMMIGRATION
RAILWAYS, PORTS AND IMMIGRATION
RAILWAYS

It is often said that the foreign, mostly British, railway community on the River Plate constitutes an Imperium in Imperio.

There is no denying the great influence of that community, but that influence has been rendered inevitable and is wholly justified by the very large amount of capital which the railway companies have at stake in these countries; amounting in Argentina to some £200,000,000 and in Uruguay some £12,000,000, making a total of some 212 millions sterling. Of this total a very large proportion in Argentina and the whole in Uruguay is British.

The total length of railway lines in Argentina is close on 21,000 miles, and in Uruguay close on 1050 miles.

The predominant gauge in Argentina is that in use by the four “great” railway companies of that country, viz. the Buenos Aires Western, the Central Argentine, the Buenos Aires Great Southern and the Buenos Aires Pacific, that is to say, the broad, 5 feet 6 inches, while in Uruguay the great railway company of that country, the Central Uruguay of Montevideo, and its subsidiary companies use the Standard Gauge, 4 feet 8? inches.

TRANSPORTER BRIDGE, PORT OF BUENOS AIRES

Until 1909 each of the Argentine railway companies was (as the Uruguayan still are) controlled by the terms of its particular concession or concessions. In that year, however, a Law was passed, usually called the “Mitre Law,” after its initiator, the late Se?or Emilio Mitre (an eminent[123] Argentine statesman and son of the famous General Mitre, perhaps Argentina’s greatest President and Historian), by which all then existing companies agreeing to be bound by its provisions should be exempt from all National, Provincial and Municipal taxation and Import Duties on material until the year 1947; they, on their part, to pay to the National Government a single tax of 3% on their net earnings, the amount of such earnings to be ascertained by deducting 10% (for working expenses) from their gross receipts.

Only one Company was then enjoying even more favourable terms under its original concession than those given by the Mitre Law; but as that concession was approaching the time of its expiration it would have been ill-judged on the part of the Company to have shown itself recalcitrant to the evident wishes of the Argentine Government.

Therefore it exercised its option in favour of the Mitre Law, as did all the other Companies.

Though the Argentine and Uruguayan Railway Companies rely for their usually very handsome profits much more on haulage of Cereals and Live Stock than on their passenger traffic, it must not be supposed that the latter is in any way neglected by them. Quite the contrary is the case. Possibly nowhere else in the world (except, perhaps, in Russia) is railway travelling as comfortable as on the River Plate, either as regards day or night accommodation or catering, the latter at moderate prices. All is roomy, well arranged and extremely comfortable; but the trains de luxe of the River Plate are those which the Buenos Aires Great Southern Company runs to and from Mar-del-Plata in the season, with Pullman Drawing-room and Dining Cars. The permanent way is good and the running smooth over almost the whole of the two Republics. Trains going to the hotter regions are provided with baths.

Besides British, considerable French and Belgian capital is invested in Argentine railways. The “Province of Santa[124] Fé” and the “Province of Buenos Aires” railways are controlled by French Companies.

Incidentally it may be mentioned that in recent years most of the shares of the “Anglo-Argentine” Tramways Company (which owns the principal tramway system of the Capital) had found their way to Belgium.

A short while ago a United States Syndicate, deemed powerful and feared as menacing a monopoly, obtained control of some of the River Plate line............
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