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Ignoring the Public.

11th April 1907, Page 1
11th April 1907
Page 1
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Page 1, 11th April 1907 — Ignoring the Public.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

It has to be admitted that directors and managers of motor omnibus companies have had none too much time to acquire the necessary practical experience to enable them to combine engineering, traffic, and commercial requirements into one harmonious whole. If we seek parallels during the early days of electric car traction in the United States, or, going much further back, during the initial stages of railway development in this country, it is easy to find valid excuses for much that obviously mars the existing condition of many motorbus undertakings. We had occasion only last week to deal with the growing evil of loitering stage carriages, when we pointed out the not inconsiderable losses of patronage that undoubtedly occur as the result of unnecessary idling at street corners, and the reprehensible overdriving that goes to balance the time schedule. Another interesting consideration is dealt with in our columns to-day, and we commend the able criticism of Mr. J. Brown, F.R.S., whose views cannot be held to represent other than the mass of informed provincial opinion. Mr. Brown complains of the manner in which motorbuses fly past would-be passengers, and gives a detailed explanation in support of his contention that it is often a physical impossibility for the average visitor to London to pick out the route or destination of any motorbus at the present time. In this we most heartily agree, whilst deploring the short-sightedness of the socalled organisation which allows such defects to remain. Even if the companies which own both motor and horse vehicles are satisfied that the latter will pick up the less nimble and observant passengers, companies which are proprietors of motorbuses only cannot have that alternative before them as a compensating factor in respect of the fares which are lost through the present jumble of names. The Metropolitan omnibus companies will do well to reconsider their attitude in regard to this question of lettering at the front of their vehicles. When Sir E. R. Henry issued his second set of draft regulations in September last, strenuous opposition was raised to clause number 32, which provided that " no writing or lettering in the form of an advertisement will be allowed on the front or rear of the carriage, which must be reserved exclusively to exhibit clearly the destination and route on which the carriage is plying." The Chief Commissioner of Police received several deputations of manufacturers and users on this arid other points, and the obtaining conditions, when they were issued in November last, did not contain this supposedly offending regulation. It had been altered, as No. 36, to provide that such writing or lettering might be adopted so long as it was not "in colours of black upon white or white upon black, or in such a form or position as to hide the destination indicater or route board." We question very much whether the gain secured to the companies by this concession, which allowed them to maintain the use of the front boards as a source of advertisement revenue, has been entirely to their advantage. The public is quick to appreciate any genuine move in the direction of the studying of its convenience, and we believe that the first company which chooses to forego the space on the front of its vehicle, above the driver's canopy, in order that the route and destination may be set out more appropriately to secure their ready impression upon the retina and brain of the average man and woman, will recoup itself any loss of advertisement revenue many times over.

Motor Wagons in Army Service.

There is little doubt that the value of the motor wagon for army purposes, both during manceuvrcs and in actual warfare, is now thoroughly appreciated by the War Departments of all the Great Powers. The scheme of registration for commercial motors in this country has met with a fairly satisfactory response at the hands of owners of these vehicles, and we are satisfied that there will be a large increase over the number at present so registered, quite apart from any sentimental grounds, as soon as the business advantages of the scheme are,,.appreciated.. It is a sound proposition for any commercial motor userto have entered into a contract for purchase by the War Department under which he is assured of a definite minimum price according to a schedule that has been settled on an equitable depreciation basis with the Commercial Motor Users' Association, whilst any small annual registration fee is so much to the good.

We have before us, in the current issue of the " United Service Magazine," an interesting article from the pen of Lt.-Colonel H. A. Bethell, R.F.A., in which some of the

chief merits of motor transport are put forward. The author points out that the ammunition columns and park of a British Army Corps, including a cavalry brigade, occupy a road space of to miles, compared with a road space of

exactly two miles when motor is substituted for horse transport as regards the load-carrying vehicles. He quotes statistics to prove that the horse wagons for an Army Corps must cost ..414,000 a year, compared with 462,000 a year for mechanical transport, if either were kept and

maintained by the War Department in toilet ot peace. This, of course, is a prohibitive plan, and the author pro ceeds to give the capital cost of horse transport at £226,950, and of motor transport at .124,120, for an Army .Corps. Ile then proceeds to argue on the basis that a retaining tee of one per cent. per annum on the cost price would show a saving of 4.1,o28 per Army Corps per annum, in respect of reg-istratio.), for motor as .omparect with horse transport, and a saving of more than j;loo,000 when the enrolled mechanical transport was purchased on mobilisation, He is of opinion, from the Army standpoint, that the price ot a motor wagon will go up to at least L'1,000 on me outbreak of war, but we hardly look upon this as a likely occurrence. Should it do so from any unforeseen cause, we must point out that the owner of a registered wagon would still be in a better position than the owner of an unregistered wagon, and for the following reasons. Notice of purchase can only be given under the terms of the registration scheme if the country is certified to be in a state of national danger, and, were that eventuality to arise, we anticipate that the registered wagons would be acquired under the scheme, and that unregistered wagons would be commandeered without much consideration for the feelings of their owners. If, however, the wagons were required for war-like purposes out of the country, and. in the absence ol any certificate from the Secretary of State for War that the country was in a state of national danger, a registered owner would be able to hold out for a good price as well as any unregistered owner, whilst the fact of his having proved himself amenable to the existing scheme of registration would probably result in a preference for him. The article to which we are referring expresses the view that one of the principal uses of motor wagons will be in connection with the advance of any army, in order to keep up supplies ten mites in front of the rail-head. It points Out that Franco-German experience proved the enormous difficulty of getting up ammunition during art advance, arktl that the use of mechanical transport must be enormously superior to horses in that connection. One interesting passage we quote literally. It reads : "This is where the superior endurance of the steam motor wagon conies in. After waiting about all day long in rear of the battle, it can start off on a 20-mile march to a railway depot to replenish, and be back in time for the next day's fight. This is more than a horse wagon can do." 1-le does not consider that the motor wagon will prove superior to the traction engine for dealing with the ammunition park itself, partly because the smaller unit takes up more room, and partly because the number of motor wagons would be insufficient.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bethell is 'over-sanguine when he states his belief that the whole of London's omnibuses will be motor-driven a year hence, and we are unable to endorse his views that existing types of heavy motorcars can operate satisfactorily in uncivilised countries where there are no roads. A limited measure of success has been obtained with strongly-built wagons having large wheel diameters and clearances, but these adaptations of home types, though they are well suited for use on the indifferent roads or tracks of many countries, cannot be regarded as really applicable to virgin ground. They unquestionably are filling a gap, but it will not be until we witness the arrival of the ideal walking machine that many undeveloped countries will be conquered by mechanical transport.

A Lesson from Paris.

Paris cochers were little better disposed towards the taximeter, on its introduction in the French capital, than arc inc great bulk of London cabmen to-day, but their change et attitude has been so complete that it should have its lesson for the Englishmen who profess a preierence for their uncertain existence as drivers of hansom or four-wheeled Cabs. What is the position in Paris to-day? We find that the most successful of all the Parisian motorcab companies nut upwards or 3,000 men on its books waiting for the chance of having taximeter cabs allotted to them, whilst a large number or the older drivers have been able to save such large amounts out of their earnings, in several instances exceeding an average of 155. per day, that they are clamouring for the right to invest their savings in the companies which employ them, or threatening alternatively to start their own motorcab companies. These facts should weigh heavily with those who are seeking to hinder the extension of motoreabs in the Metropolis, and who are forcing the London companies to employ men other than those from whose ranks the motorcab driver should naturallybe recruited—the typical Landon cabby who knows his streets and his short cuts so well, and whose acquaintance with the amenities and peculiarities of London's traffic renders his class by far the most fitted for the purpose in view. We trust that better counsels will prevail, and that any official hampering or misdirection of the men will be discontinued before the motorcab movement is many weeks older.

Coal Tar Spirit.

Our Berlin correspondent directs attention to certain tests which have been made in the application of benz,o1 to the ordinary internal-combustion engine, which matter has been engaging the attention of several of Germany's leading motor manufacturers for some considerable time. Director Spranger was good enough, when we visited the Marienfelde works in December last, to show us the results he had achieved to date, but we were not, at that time, at liberty to mention the large measure of success he had attained. There is no physical difficulty in the way of the successful use of benzol as a substitute for petroleum spirit, and this fuel has a smaller range of boiling points than the average petroleum spirit on the market at the present time. The matter of its wide adoption, or the question of its having any permanent effect upon the price of petroleum spirit, is entirely one of supply, and we are reluctantly compelled to remind our readers that the total production of the various qualities of coal tar spirit in the United Kingdom is only at the rate of about four million gallons per annum, a total which is not capable of any very material increase. This total is only about one-eighth of the present consumption of petroleum spirit in the United Kingdom, and it is insufficient to meet the requirements of London motor omnibus companies. It is an unfortunate fact, therefore, that no general benefit can follow the diversion of coal tar spirit from its present uses to consumption in the cylinders of explosion engines, though the favoured few may be able, by reason of special facilities, or by purchases in particular districts and under particular circumstances, to effect economies for themselves. Present prices for coal tar spirit vary from about gd. to is. per gallon in bulk, and any large fresh demand must bring about a rise awing to the existing demands for the Arts and Manufactures.

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