Should Rule of Road be Changed?
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ABOUT a . quarter of a century ago, when road transport was nothing like so large and important an industry as it is to-day, there was much talk of changing the so-called " rule of the road" to force all traffic to drive to the right. Even at that time, so many obvious objections were raised against such a change that the idea Nkas effectively quashed. As with so many other old suggestions, however, this particular one has again come to the fore, and is apparently being seriously considered by at least some members of the Government.
Ikhat, if any, advantage Britain would reap from this drastic move is difficult to comprehend, whereas the problems involved and the dangers it would incur are so „great that the idea should be ruled out at once.
It may be held that visitors to this country are apt to find themselves temporarily incommoded when they use our roads, but this applies by no means to all of them, for there are still countries outside Britain which adhere to our system. Actually, all British drivers who have experience of the Continent and elsewhere, where the rule is the opposite to ours, find little difficulty in adjusting themselves to the circumstances—we found one day was quite sufficient—also our Army drivers quickly adapt themselves to driving on -the right when they arrive in countries having this rule.
Road Dangers Might be Multiplied On the other hand, the general public is notoriously difficult to instruct, and we are convinced that the alteration of the rule would immediately result in a great increase in accidents to pedestrians. In fact it might easily raise the number over a period of some years. If the idea is to benefit our export trade in motor vehicles, even here it would not be all onesided, for many vehicles that we send Out of the country go to places where the rule is the same as ours; in any case no great trouble is experienced in changing the steering arrangements when this is found to be desirable.
Whom, therefore, is the scheme designed to , benefit? Is it for those foreign manufacturers who send us their vehicle products? A glance at the relative statistics will show at once that the number of foreign-built vehicles, including cars, which was sent to us annually before the war, was practically negligible compared with our own production; moreover, many of the former were so designed that the change of driver's position and steering could be effected with a minimum, of diffi culty.•' _ Throughout Britain, however, the reversal of the rule would mean that every class and type of vehicle on our roads would be rendered obsolete, and the modifications thus rendered necessary, particularly in the case of trams, buses, trolleybuses, coaches and many municipal vehicles, to bring them into line, might be so drastic as to be almost impossible of achievement. In addition, all our traffic-control signals and traffic signs would require resiting and other changes involving considerable work.
Modifications Would Prove Excessive It would be quite impossible to carry out this work rapidly—in fact, it might well be .a matter of months, or even years. Imagine the work involved in altering a double-deck bus to meet such a new condition of affairs. Starting at the front end, the steering, all the controls, and the driver's seat would have to be changed over. In a bus-the driver is often perched by the side of the engine, and even if it were possible to move his little cab to the left, all those engine details which are now accessibly arranged at their proper side might thus be rendered inaccessible. The whole back 'part of the body would have to be rebuilt so that the entrance was from the other side, and the staircase completely altered. Even the frame members at this point might have to be replaced because of the arrangement of the platform, and, in some cases, also a step.
Sir Miles Thomas, as a motor manufacturer, points out that the bpilders of vehicles for export have little difficulty in arranging for left-hand drive for certain foreign markets. Cyclists, in particular, would be 'greatly endangered by the change. through .having to Mount and disthount. on the traffic side. All vehicles Would have to have their lighting systems altered.
No Tyres, No Vehicles;
NEW point in connection with the A Govern ment Road Haukte Organization was raised by Mr. K. G. Bouckley, of Transport Economy, Ltd., when he was addressing a meeting of hauliers called in connection with the formation of Committees of Action, in which movement he is taking a prominent part. It is a matter of importance to all hired-vehicle operators.
Reminding his hearers that the original purpose of the Scheme was to save petrol and rubber, and assuming that the ...Government was sincere in its 'plea for such economies, Mr. Bouckley suggested that, if the need for saving rubber continued to prevail there was a possibility that, during the summer, when nights were short and railway operations correspondingly extended, the Government might refuse replacement tyres for vehicles belonging to hired operators. It could do this by taking advantage of the special power conferred by the fact that, under the new arrangement and, terms, the Government provides the tyres.
The significance of such a course lies in the fact that when an operator's vehicle is off the road, as it must be if the tyres be badly worn and no replacements can be had, the vehicle becomes " unavailable "—as that expression is used in the new terms and conditions of hire. In these circumstances all payments cease. It is possible, thr-.±.-)re, having in mind the almost ephemeral nature of many present-day tyres, that some operators may, before the summer has been long, with us, find themselves without any income.
No Vehicles, No Pay
It may be that such drastic steps will not be necessary ; indeed, it is sincerely to be hoped that this will prove to be the case. On the other hand, there is no safeguard for the haulier, no guarantee that, in pursuit of the principle of carrying on rail all traffic that can be so carried, the Government will not follow the course suggested. In fact, having in mind the frequently reiterated statement that in planning and operating the R.H.O. the Government is not primarily concerned with ensuring that hauliers do, make profits, there seems to be a likelihood that the step may after all be taken, if by so doing the proportion of railborne traffic can be increased.
• What hauliers can doabout it is difficult to suggest. To intensify their care of tyres is one thing, but the utmost care in the -world will not suffice to make tyres last indefinitely, otherwise some operators at least would have practised that care more assiduously ere now.
It seems to be taken as a matter of course that the hired operators may suffer, not the controlled undertakings. That is, perhaps, a logical conclusion, in that the Government has guaranteed the revenues of the latter and is therefore anxious to see that value for money is obtained. That this could be the case, however, emphasizes the plea that there is inequality of treatment as between one section of the industry and another, giving increased justification for the view • that, in that aspect of its operation If in no other, the Government Organization should be modified so that all operators will be treated alike.