PROGRESS IN PASSENGER TRAVEL.
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The Latest Doings and Developments in the Bus and Coach World.
An Ingenious Convertible Body.
Divided and Hinged Side Panels Slide Down to Form Comfortable and secure Longitudinal Seats.
14 ANY a user of a passenger-carrying vehicle of small seating capacity or a light motor van cannot utilize it during the whole of the week for the specific purpose for which it was built, and in such cases the vehicle must remain idle for what might otherwise be a useful part of its life, and possibly another vehicle used. Where More than one vehicle is employed, this is not a matter of great importance, as one type
• of vehicle curt be utilised for the transport of goods and the other for the transport of passengers, • but there are many owners desirous of using their vehicles for both classes of work, and the only solution of the difficulty in such circumstances is to make use of a body which will meet both requirements. There is already a number of dualpurpose bodies on the market, but some of these hybrids are by no means satisfactory in every respect. The ideal to be aimed at ia to design a body which will not, when used either for conveying passengers or for goods-carrying, give the impression that it is a makeshift; also, it must be arranged to ensure for the passengers the maximum comfort and protection from bad weather, whilst, when used for the transport of goods,the space available must not, he restricted by fittings, such as seats or cushions; also, the goods mast be protected from bad weather.
A body which appears to meet all these requirements has been designed and built by Messrs. Plater and Co., coachbuilders, 376, High Road, Streatham, London, S.W.16, in conjunction with Mr. Collier, of Brixton. This body has many moat original features, and should fill a long-felt want The design and the special features incorporated are provisionally protected, and the vehicle has been registered as the Plates van. The body shown in the illustrations is mounted on a ton Ford chassis, but it can be constructed to fit other chassis if required. As is van, it presents a neat, workmanlike appearance, and rt, is difficult to believe that it is actually convertible for carrying passengers, even when examined from the interior, as the double doors at the rear open to practically the full width of the body, and there are no loose seats to obstruct loading.
The partition behind the front seat is hinged at the top, and can be easily lifted and secured to the roof by a strap, thus enabling long articles to be carried and making an open-fronted vehicle when used for passengers. To prevent noise, the partition butts against rubber
cushions in the roof, and for communication between the driver and passen
gers during bad weather a small hinged window is fitted in the centre of the partition. The double doors It the rear are also provided with small windows, as is usual in box-van constrution, but there is this important difference—that the top halves of the doors can be dropped into the bottom halves when the vehicle is used as a passenger convey ance.
Now we come to the most important point in the construction_ This is the large upper panels at the sides of the body. In the ordinary van these panels are often in one piece, but in this instance they are made in halves, hinged together and carried in slides in the body uprights.
The hinges are exceptionally strong, running the full width of the divided panel as each side of the vehicle, and being extended to form supports or legs for the seats when theseare in position. When used as a van the supports are simply locked flush to the sides uf the body, the panels being additionally secured by ordinary carnage locks at each side in order to prevent rattling. Brass channels are fitted to the ends to prevent twisting or warping, and also to eliminate wear owing to the sliding of the panels in the grooves of the pillars. The pillars dron over a fence plate, and the
centre hinged joint ie lapped with the objects of securing weather protection and preventing rattle. Attached to the sides of the body, just within the doors, are two swing brackets so arranged that they are automatically locked in position either against the sides or when swung out. To convert the vehicle into a passenger-carrying omnibus or shooting brake, the bolts holding the binged extensions are unfastened and the panel locks freed by means of an ordinary carriage key. Each side panel is then lifted slightly, the lower half pulled out, and the whole panel dropped in its grooves. The lower half of each panel 38 then brought out at right-angles and the hinged extensions of the legs fitted into sockets in the floor, whilst additional support is given by the swing bracket already alluded to. Loose cushions and squabs are then placed in position, and the vehicle becomes a passenger conveyance. For protection in bad weather, roll-up side-curtains, each fitted with three large celluloid windows, are provided, and these are held by push-on buttons carried
on the outside of the body. ,
. The work of making the conversion to either type of vehicle can be done by one person in three or four minutes.
As a passenger vehicle this body is designed to carry 12 persons, five on each of tha side seats and two at the front with the driver.
The side-curtains are almost invisible when rolled up and held by their straps, and the lower edge of each is provided with a spring rod, which fits into clips at each end when the curtain is down, and thus assists in preventing the entry of rain. The cushions have spring frames, and the squabs are provided with brass clips by which they are slung to the hacks of the seats, whilst to facilitate the entry and exit of passengers a neat folding step is provided at the rear. The body is thoroughly well built with English oak and ash framing and mahogany panels, and the weight is very little more than that of an ordinary van body. Except for the cushions and squabs it is absolutely self-contained, and there are no loose bolts to he lost. If necessary, a roof rail can be provided, and in this case the cushions and squabs can, if required, be wrapped in a waterproof sheet and carried on the roof. The price of this serviceable body is approximately £165, which is certainly very reasonahle considering the quality of the workmanship and material. The makers are willing to consider applications for selling agencies.
Unnecessary Competition in the Passenger-Carrying Busin.ess.
Or HE' PASSENGER CARRYING
business has developed during the recent trade depression much more than was at one time anticipated. The present success of many passenger services isadue principally to the peculiar circumstances in this lansiness. In the first place, an omnibus service provides travelling facilities for people who require them under all conditions of general trade and pleasure, and often there is no effective competition. For the purposes of this article, provincial and rural services only will be considered, services in London and the larger cities being excluded. Apart from those services which exist in the Metropolis. Manchester, Birmingham. and
B22 other large towns, there are very valuable undertakings run with a view to serving country populations and linking up numbers of country towns. A more or less efficient omnibus service exists in almost every part of the country.
The provincial passenger-carrying business is divided into two main classes. Eirst, there is the regularly organized bus service; and, in the second place, there is what might be described as the more casual business, the owner of small buses, motor coaches, and similar vehicles that are used, not so much for running on a regular service at scheduled times as for the convenience of running here, there, and everywhere on jobs that cannot be so easily undertaken by companies or other owners of fleets of buses kept in being, as stated above, for use in connection with properly organ
ized and regular services. • Apropos of this matter, one of our provincial correspondents writes as follows:—
" Having some knowledge of commercial motor matters in the provinces, I know that there is a demand for both types, and in order to make my argument more concrete, I will take instances without mentioning names. " In the town in which I live, which has a population of between 40,000 and 50,000 people, there are regular services of omnibuses running daily to all parts of the surrounding country. On most routes these buses do very well, that is to say, they nearly always have a fair load. Licences are granted by the local authorities, who understand that the company to which they are granted will undertake to serve certain localities with ,motorbuses. ." In the same town there is a fair demand for the char-a-bancs, or private bus, that can be had at short notice to take a load of people to a football match, a race meeting, an ordinary outing, and similar pleasure functions. Those who have been careful in the treatment of their customers, and, having an eye to business, have been particular in their endeavour to work up a connection, do very well. The only thing that kills their business is over-competition. "A man I know—I will call him A— runs a coach to the important football matches every Thursday; he also runs it for various other purposes during the week, and gets a fair living at the job; whilst another man—B--who, we will say, bought a small coach last summer, thinks there is something in it, and immediately comes in, not to open up new business in an area not yet touched by A, but to under-cut A, thereby -rendering the business unprofitable for both, and depriving the public of a valuable convenience.
" That is a matter which the owners of motor coaches and buses should take into serious consideration. There is absolutely nothing to he gained by conducting business on such lines, for both users suffer as well as the puislic. The public are willing to pay a reasonable charge. If A is not adequately meeting the demand, then there is room for somebody else. If he is, B should have the . good sense to keep out, or, if he desires to he active, to open up business in another direction. " But this is not the most, serious part of the subject. I know several routes that are well served with omnibuses by a large company, but there are occasions when the buses at certain times are so overloaded that some of the passengers 'are left behind. This happens occasionally on a Saturday afternoon and evening, and regularly at holiday times. " While the regular service on this particular route 'was sufficient for ordinary purposes, it was found that at certain, times of the week one omnibus was not sufficient to carry all the passengers. Some of them would be left behind, either to await the next bus or make their journey by other means. But this state of affairs was not -allowed to continee for long by an enterprising bus company. So, in order to meet the needs of the public, the company providsd an additional bus to start at a given, point on that route to relieve the vehicle on regular servicesThis system was • operating smoothly, until one day tlie proprietor of the casual coach came along, and at the best time—:that is, at the time when most passengers were desirous of travelling—started from the calling point of the regular bus belonging to • the other compa'ny five minutes before it, so as to take away its customers. This is not eompetition, but a grossly unfair method of business. "On the route Under consideration, on a recent Sunday night,' I saw first the omnibus of the casual _ proprietor pick up three passengers and start away five minutes before the 'scheduled time 'of the regular bus from the stopping stage.He was followed in two or three 'minutes by ,a relief bus belonging to the company running the service. This bus picked up three passengers and started off, to be followed in a minute or two later by the regular vehicle, which only carried half-a-dozen passengers.
"Those three buses did 10 miles apiece 'for not more than a combined load of 15 passengers. The casual man will not find it sufficiently profitable to travel seven miles each way to pick up three passengers at is. each, and it will not pay the bus proprietor to run a relief bus. The inevitable will thus happen, arid the relief bus will be taken off, the casual man will drop out, and then, when the rush comes, there will be no • relief."
There are many otherwise moderately paying country services that are soon rendered unprofitable by the competition of an individual who takes away just a sufficient number of passengers to deprive one firm of its profit, and to make none for himself.