The L.C.C. Electric Tramcar Losses.
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By The Editor.
The accounts for last year's working of the L.C.C. electric tramcars are now issued. They show a deficiency on the undertaking., for the year ended the 31st March last, of no less than £88,526, and no provision has been made for renewaIn. L.C.C. tramcar committeemen and officials, but a few years ago, were busy belittling the motorbus; they vicariously stated the working costs at something above is. per mile, and the tramways manager, Mr. A. L. C. Fell, was short-sighted enough to prophesy that motorbusas would be seen only within the walls of a museum in years to come. How changed is the try to-day. The report which is before us is almost entirely devoted to pointing out the fatt that mctorbus competition has brought the tramcar undertaking to its presentdifficulties.
£89,000 Worse than the Year Before.
The results for the last financial year are approximately £89,000 worse than they were for the previous year. Extra car-miles have cost to much. The Fironce Committee, in commenting upon the figures, points out that the standardized provision for renewals, on the basis of .67d. per car-mile run, had it been set aside, would have increaa.ed the loss by a further £165,000. It is also pointed out that the estimates for the year showed a net surplus of £43,399, and suggests that no reliable estimate of the results of the eiwaing year can be formed.
The deficiency has to be metby a transfer from the general reserve fund ; this fund will fall below 8119,000 by the end of the year 1.914-1915, without any charge against it for renewals. By the end of the present year, it is pointed out by the Finance Committee, the shortage in the renewals fund, on the basis which was settled by the Council on the 23rd June, 1908, will approximate 2485,000.
Blaming the Superior Motorbus.
The Highways Committee, which is responsible for the tramways undertaking. now seeks to lay the whole blame on tha motorbus. Nothing is said, of course, concerning the
earlier ridicule which was heaped upon this type of vehicle by prominent members of the committee. All this is conveniendy forgotten, or at least omitted. The Highways Committee, with more boldness than the Finance Committee, puts forward a net estimated deficiency. withoutany provision for renewals, for the ensuing year, of £46,682.
The Highways Committee proceeds to pointout that the average passenger receipts per track-mile have steadily fallen from £20,223 in the year 1908 to £15,967 in the year under review, and the average receipts, during the same period, from 11.47d. per car-mile to 8.94d. per car-mile. It. does not explain why so many waste car-miles have been run.
It advances the following reasons for the present position : the unremunerative character of some lines; inability to carry passengers on rome routes to desired destination ; motoromnibus competition. In regard to these, we have the following comments to make. The Council no doubt thought it had goud reasons for laving down any particular routes ; as to '' dead-end " termini, the general commercial community canuot be made to suffer further from tramcar obstruction by linking up these termini, and some system of turning the ears in squares or circles, as is dune in Paris, will have to be introduced, at the cost of the tramway undertaking. We should say that the studied affront to which Lord Peel, as chairman of" the L.C.C., subjected Alderman Sir T. V. Bowater, Bart., Lord Mayor of London, on the occasion of the visit of London authorities to Paris at the beginning of last month, has rendered the prospects of the L.C.C. more remote than ever in respect of any such linking up through the City of London.
As regards motorbus competition, this has been successful because the public wishes to use the vehicles, and because the ratepayers of London now fully realize that the tramcar is an ont-of-date proposition, and a handicap in the streets of any large city. As to the advent of these vehicles on routes where tramcars previously enjoyed the monopoly, against which a protest is made in-this connection,. we .might remind
the L.C.C. pro-tramcar enthuoiasts that in many eases horsed buses were there before the tramcars, and that the motorbuss are Legitimate successors to the older vehicles.
Motorbus v. Tramcar.
The L.C.C. Highways Committee hopes to improve the tramcar position by the increased use of trailer tramcars, and by the development of through-running arrangements. The report, which we do not quote in extenso, gives *one. details. The Highways Committee proceeds to make an essay into the region of controversy, and to compare tramcars and motor mrinibuses. It asks consideration for the extent to which the two systems contribute to public funds, the relative capacity of the two systems to meet the requirements of the public, the relative effects upon street congestion, and the cheaper fares upon the •tramears.
It states that the estimate of the Council's 'Akers, of the current annual saving to authorities in consequence of trackpaving maintenance, is £128,000, but it says nothing about the extra wear and tear on the sides of the highways, which are repairable by the Borough Councils, due to the greater concentration of the traffic on those portions of the highway. We believe that this extra expenditure is enormously in excess of the alleged saving. It is also protested that a proportion of street improvements is charged against the tramway undertaking, but there arc sound reasons for asserting that the tramcars, which enjoy the monopoly of the steel track, and hinder the passage of ordinary wheel vehicles at many points; by renew" of the alignment of the traek, benefit to sure an extent that more should be charged against them, and less to improvement account.
The total amounts charged to the tramways mamma during the veer 1913-1914 have been as follow rates ell tracks and buildings, £124,259; repair of pomanent way, 12104,801; and street widenings, £31,168. It is claimed, thereere, that the rates have been relieved to the extent of £260228. That is one way of stating the case, we admit. The Fieance Committee points out that it has been done at a realized loss of 133,526, and a failure to provide for renewals to the extent of £165,000. We should call this robbing Peter to pay Paul, lind a most unsatisfactory result. for all the labour and incanvenience involved by the continued efforts to bolster up an out-of-date anti discredited system, for we so class elect-lie-ear traction in Greater London. We wish to point out, before leaving this section of our review, that it is not stated whether the repair of the permanent way, as put forward, is strictly limited to paving repairs, or whether repairs in part.due to the maintenance of the electrical equipment are included. 'The Highways. Committee apparently atill imaginee that it has a juategrievance in paying rates on its pertiument way, and on the maintenance of the emelt paying, in exchange for the exclusive right to use the flanged wheel on the metal track in the public highway, whereas motorbuses, which have no such monopolies, but enjoy only the same facilities which other ordinary wheeled vehicles enjoy, are not 60 charged. The Committee is welcome to the argument it advances.
Relative Carrying Capacities.
As to the relative capaeities of the two systems. the Highways Committee appears to forget, as Sir Joha Berm and other individuals have always been ready to overlook, the fact that relative seating capacity is no complete critetien of carrying capacity. Two motorbuses are not required to do the work of one tramcar, except in theory and ou the ridiculous hypothesis that both vehicles are always full and at rest ; that is not the way which stage carriages are used. Proper comparisons must take into account relative point-to-point speeds and the percentages of occupied seats, both of which facture the L.C.C. special pleaders studiously fail to include. As to effect upon street congestion, the placing of the ratio at 10 of obstruction by the electric tramcar compared with 3 of obstruction by the petrol motorbus, for which the independent Traffic Branch of the Board of Trade was responsible, is good enough for us, and, we should hope, for every impartial mind. As to passengers per hour got away from a centre even the Thames Embankment compares unfavourably with Oxford Circus; tramcars have every chance on the former, but motorbuses at, the latter have no special help. When London motorbus proprietors add more crush-hour vehicles, as they will, the tramcars will lose more and more traffic..
The Highways Committee points out that workmen's fares, and other unremnnerative rates, hold sway on the L.C.C. system. This means that it favours the policy of allowing the man who wishes to travel to do so at the cost of those mem
hers of the community who do not travel. The general body of ratepayers has to make good losses on the cheap fares. Why should such an obligation be imposed upon a private uu dertaking ? If municipal traders approve the course of charg, lug the unpaid proportion of werkmen's fare against other people, we have nothing to say against it, but we desire it economic aspect to be appreciated. The existing workmen's fares on the L.C.C. tramcars are rendered possible only at the expense of the general community, and possibly seven tenths of the general emminunity never sets foot inside one of the vehicles. The workmen, no doubt, like to travel below cost, and do so. We merely wish the facts to be clear.
Suggested Over-taxation of Motorbuses to Enable the Costly Tramcars to Live.
The Highways Committee next suggests that id. per omnibus-mile might be charged against motorbuses in London for road maintenance. It does not explain why this should be done, and it is appareetly oblivious of the fact that the petrol tax for improvement, which is approximately half the proposed additional maintenance rate, is more than enough to pay the total annual maintenance, including foundations, el typical Lomita' motorbus-used thoroughfares, such as Piccadilly. Oxford Street, Regent Street, and the Strand. It is only hostility to the motorbus that can have persuaded the Highways Committee even to entertain a suggestion of the kind. Why should they be helped out of their " mess" by an undue and severe tax on their rivals?
Why Should Motorbuses Pay Twice ?
Such a charge would be approximately three times as much as is necessary for mantaining the whole highway, and would present the ore of roads to every other vehicle for nothing. LC.C. tramway officials had better call in the assistance of estimatore who can properly compare highway-maintenance costs with the yield frcm any taxation 'upon motorbuses.
It is amusing, hereanent, to find that the L.C.C. finds the total expenses per omnibus-mile to be 8.02d., whereas Mr. 3.1cEirey, the general manager of the Manchester tramcars, quite reoently stated them, in a. report to the Bristol Corporation, to have been 9.76d. in 1912. Our friends in the tramway world are slowly, if reluctantly, being forced down nearer to facts as they are, in regard to the possibilities of motorbus operation. The total expenses ire but little above 7d per omnibus-mile, in London. Rubber tires are now costing 0.5d. per mile per set. That fall has upset tramway hopes.
Must There Be Tramrails ?
We do not, intend, at he present moment, to follow members of the Highways Committee farther in Lheir plaintive notes. Whilst they feel that it is impossible to do away with tramways, and claim that the necessity for their retention is clearly demonstrated, we wish heartily to commend to them, and not for the first time, the. expediency of their resolving to do without tramways and tramcars, and to admit that the motorbus is the proper solution. We trust we shall yet see an L.C.C. election fought on the relative claims of the two systems, with one of the great parties offering to get rid of the tramways and the tramcars, OVP1' a short term of years, and so to allow ordinary users of the highway—pedestrians, cyclists, horse-owners, and motorists alike—to be freed of the greatest nuisance of the day, and to be benefited by the unimpaired and full enjoyment of the latest creation of mechanical genius—the modern motorbus.