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Express service in South Carolina is rendered almost wholly by the American Railway Express Company. This service during Federal control was far from satisfactory, in some instances possibly due to the management and employees, and in other: ways to conditions over which the officials could have no control but which helped to contribute to inefficient service. Many new men had to be taken into the service and on account of the slow movement of freight the express company was burdened with a class of traffic that should never have moved by express. A great portion of the time in 1919 the express company was little more than a heavy freight carrier. This kind of traffic the company was not prepared to handle, and as a matter of fact entailed delays, and often loss and damage of property. Transportation affairs have been so clarified within the past three months that little of this kind of traffic is tendered the express company, and the traffic is rapidly getting back to normal, and fewer complaints are coming in against the service rendered. The greatest difficulty the Commission has experienced in maintaining express service at many points in South Carolina is due to the fact that at the average station the railroad agent is expected to handle express shipments. In many cases these agents, for one cause or the other, have deliberately and absolutely refused to handle express shipments, thereby bringing about an unfortunate state of affairs in such communities where the express office has to be closed even temporarily. However, recently there seems to be a better understanding between the express and railway companies and the Commission is usually able to bring about results that continue express service at places of this kind.
FREIGHT CAR SHORTAGE.
In the early fall months of this year this State suffered from an acute shortage of freight equipment due to the transferring of many hundreds of cars from this district to other districts, which condition was brought about through orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission. However, with the carriers repairing and placing into service hundreds of bad-order cars, and with the great decrease in traffic at present, no such shortage exists. On the other hand, the carriers have thousands of cars standing idle.
CLASSIFICATION AND FREIGHT RATES.
This is a branch of railroad service that requires much work by the Railroad Commission, and at the present time there is no exception to this fact as the work in the adjustment of these matters has been much heavier than at any previous time in the history of the Commission. Under the Transportation Act passed by Congress both interstate and intrastate rates were placed almost wholly, if not entirely, under the control of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and all this Commission can do is to plead for proper adjustment of the rates as they exist. The Commission has had several hearings before the Interstate Commerce Commission such matters and the present arrangement certainly works a hardship on the patrons of the carriers, to say nothing as to the time and expense incurred in appearing before the Interstate Commerce Commission on strictly local matters which could and should be handled by State regulatory authorities. However, as long as the present Transportation Act remains law these facts as to rates will remain as above outlined.
OVERCHARGE, LOSS AND DAMAGE CLAIMS. During the past two years this has been a source of much worry and has taken much of the Commission's time in aiding the public to investigate overcharge, loss and damage claims. In case of overcharge the Commission has handled each and every complaint on its merits. In regard to loss and damage claims, the Commission has done what it could to have same adjusted, but this body is not a court of proper jurisdiction to handle claims other than those for overcharge. We are pleased to note quite an improvement in this line of complaint.
CASES PENDING BEFORE THE COURTS.
At this time only one case is pending in the Federal Courts, other than rate case which is now before the Interstate Commerce Commission. As heretofore stated, the Charleston-Isle of Palms Traction Company case is still pending in the Federal courts. Since our last report the case of the Augusta-Aiken Railway & Electric Corporation against the South Carolina Railroad Commission has been decided in favor of the carriers by the Federal court.
The matter of intrastate passenger fares, excess baggage weight, minimum fares to be paid, and penalty for non-purchase of tickets at agency points, and switching charges as provided by law in South Carolina, has been heard by the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the case is still in the hands of that tribunal. What the outcome of these cases will be, of course, the Commission is not in position to state, and what further action, if any be necessary, will be taken in regard to same is a matter that the Attorney General and the Railroad Commission will decide at the proper time.
The Commission has requested the Attorney General of South Carolina to proceed in a legal way against the Southern Railway Company to force that company to construct overhead bridge over its track near Chester, S. C., and to comply with Commission's order to reinstate a connection track between Southern Railway and Piedmont & Northern Railway at Paris, S. C. Indications at present are that still another suit will have to be instituted against Southern Railway to compel the construction of an overhead bridge in Greenwood County. However, this matter is still being handled by the Commission and we trust be able to develop some plan that will avoid the necessity of carrying same into the courts.
COMPLAINTS AND HEARINGS.
The year 1920 has been a record breaking year for hearings and complaints. More than 100 formal hearings have been held by the Commission, and more than 300 conferences. This, of course,
has been due to the number of changes in service, adjustments of rates, change of train schedules, relocation of grade crossings, requests for additional station facilities, complaints as to telephone and telegraph service, as well as many other matters properly coming before the Commission. Under conditions which necessarily must continue to exist for some time many more hearings must be held and decisions rendered before a thorough readjustment of all matters can be had. In each of the conferences, as well as in the many problems handled and settled through correspondence, the Commission has carefully investigated and fully considered each and every complaint presented to it, and has decided same upon its merits and according to the law and the testimony available at the time decision was rendered, and in each instance has endeavored to bring about such results as were fair, just and equitable to all parties concerned.
FRANK W. SHEALY, Chairman;
Columbia, S. C., January 7, 1920.
ORDER NO. 192.
Increase Telephone Rates-Fort Mill Telephone Exchange, Fort
Mill, S. C.
Fort Mill Telephone Exchange, Fort Mill, S. C.
On October 11th, 1919, Commissioner Cansler received a letter from Mr. S. L. Meacham, proprietor Fort Mill Telephone Exchange, Fort Mill, S. C., asking the Commission for permission to raise rates for telephone service rendered by that company at Fort Mill, S. C. This letter was duly placed before the Commission, at which time the Commission requested the proprietor of this telephone company to obtain a petition signed by a majority of his subscribers stating that they were willing for the rates to be raised, and to secure a statement from the City Council of Fort Mill approving the proposed increase in rates. All these requests have been complied with and the petition, etc., are now on file with the Commission. Therefore in order to comply with request of the Fort Mill Telephone Exchange and the Council of Fort Mill, as above outlined,
IT IS ORDERED, That on and after February 1st, 1920, the following rates for telephone service in the town of Fort Mill, S. C., shall be the legal rates to be charged each subscriber of Fort Mill Telephone Exchange in the said town for telephone service: Business telephone one party, flat rate ..... .$3.00 per month Business telephone two parties, flat rate 2.50 per month Residence telephone, one party, flat rate 2.00 per month Residence telephone two parties, flat rate 1.50 per month Residence telephone four parties, flat rate ..... 1.25 per month The above rates to remain effect at Fort Mill Telephone Exchange until the further orders of the Commission. By order of the Commission.
FRANK W. SHEALY, (Seal)
Commissioners. J. P. DARBY, Secretary.
Columbia, S. C., January 7, 1920.
ORDER NO. 193.
In re Reopening Express Offices at Fort Lawn, S. C., and Rich
burg, S. C.
American Railway Express Company:
As per appointment, the Commission held a hearing in its office at Columbia, S. C., on January 7th, 1920, for the purpose of obtaining information as to the discontinuance of the express offices at Fort Lawn, S. C., and Richburg, S. C. From testimony presented at this hearing it developed that the prime reason for the closing of these offices by the American Railway Express Co. was that the company was unable to secure agents for the usual price paid for such service at points of this kind, therefore there was no other course to pursue than to close said offices. The complainants were represented at this hearing by Messrs. Abernathy and Cousar, and at the request of the Commission these gentlemen agreed to secure the services of some duly qualified persons to act as agents of express company at the points above referred to, with the understanding that express should be carried on passenger train one time each way per day, thereby relieving the agent as much as possible in looking after the express work at Fort Lawn and Richburg. Upon this assurance on the part of the petitioners,
IT IS ORDERED, That the American Railway Express Company, as soon as duly qualified persons can be obtained to act as agents for said company at Fort Lawn, S. C., and Richburg, S. C., shall reopen express office at each of these points, and