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40th UITP congress at The Hague reported by Martin Hayes

11th May 1973, Page 89
11th May 1973
Page 89
Page 90
Page 89, 11th May 1973 — 40th UITP congress at The Hague reported by Martin Hayes
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Subsidies accepted but‘no'to free travel

DELEGATES to this week's UITP Congress at The Hague heard seven papers relating to the future development of public road transport services. Though each was presented by a speaker from a different country there was remarkable unanimity of views on such important topics as subsidies, free travel, bus priorities and future bus design.

Speakers agreed that subsidization of public transport was now essential. There was general acceptance that there was little relative advantage in operating subsidies as opposed to capital grants. But there was absolute rejection of the free fares concept which apparently is prevalent among politicians throughout Europe and not only those in the London Labour Party.

Many of the papers relied heavily on surveys conducted by their authors on the views of various international transport undertakings on their particular subject. It seemed unfortunate that, because of the time needed to prepare the papers, most of the conclusions reached were drawn from facts, figures and opinions generated as long ago as 1971. For instance, many undertakings indicated that they were in favour of bus priority measures, like bus lanes, though in many cases these are now operating successfully in their cities.

A report of the discussion surrounding the more important papers will appear in CM next week.

No change in sight for the bus

Clear evidence that the diesel-engined bus as we know it will continue virtually unchanged for a number of years is provided in one of the most important papers presented to the UITP. M. Y. Savary, chief engineer of the Paris municipal transport authority, concluded that: "An attractive, convenient, comfortable, silent and pollution-free bus enjoying priority in urban traffic is a remedy of the future for the growing congestion of town centres and the deterioration of the environment".

M. Savary devoted much of his paper to the ways in which buses could pollute the air less and make less noise. He said that air pollution in Paris was produced 52 per cent from domestic sources, 23 per cent from industrial sources and 25 per cent from road traffic. Buses with diesel engines — contributed only 3 per cent of total vehicle pollution and only 1 per cent of all air pollution. Emissions from diesel engines were far less harmful than those from petrol engines. Diesel emissions contained 100 times less carbon monoxide, 10 times less hydrocarbons and about the same level of oxides of nitrogen as petrol engines. However, M. Savary pointed out, public transport undertakings should set an example in the field of air pollution and try to make diesels even "cleaner". Looking at future legislation he said that there should be little difficulty with existing engines in meeting tighter controls of opacity of exhaust smoke and the emissions of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxides. Further limitations on the emission of oxides of nitrogen — as proposed in America for 1975 could be more difficult to achieve, though.

"No one can deny the necessity for regulations but these must not go beyond the genuine demands of pollution control", said M. Savary.

He went on to say that future demands for lower air pollution could be met by developing existing engines and by designing new types of "clean" engines. At present it seemed that the former method appeared to be simpler and less expensive but there was an upper limit beyond which the diesel engine could not be developed. It was then that new types of engines and power sources would be needed.

He went on to give his thoughts on the new power sources currently under development:—

steam engines unlikely to become operational for bus propulsion in the near future.

Stirling engine: development subject to technological improvements, and operational future seems some years ahead — unlikely to supplant diesels before 1980 at least.

Gas turbines: problems in adapting these to road transport, particularly to low-speed, lower-power buses seem likely to inhibit manufacturers from further development work at present.

Electric buses: most desirable means of propulsion for the urban bus of the future but until lighter, more powerful forms of batteries can be developed progress with conventional lead acid designs will be slow.

Fuel cell: initial optimism seems to be tempered now but further research on a methanol-air cell for road transport use seems justified.

The cleaner diesel — using improved fuel and an exhaust gas purifier — would be the best power system for the bus for the next few years, but the eventual goal to aim for was electric propulsion.

M. Savary said that far more action was needed on the vehicle noise problem than on pollution. Average external noise levels of present day buses was about 89 dBA. and the short-term aim should be reduce this by 3-4 dBA. This should be possible by means of relatively simple and low-cost methods. The longer term arTet, involving expensive structural modification, should be a further reduction of 6-7 dBA. Thus new buses would be about 10 dBA quieter than existing ones.

M. Savary went on to consider bus design because, he said, the bus was the "pack in which the product of our undertakings is sold". While present-day buses were designed to be attractive it should be remembered that the bus was not a luxury vehicle and its design must avoid features involving excessive extra cost and liable to increase maintenance and body repair costs.

Buses of the future should have higher engine powers, higher maximum speeds, items to help the driver (like automatic transmission and fare collection equipment), improved passenger boarding and alighting facilities. But all these methods would be insufficient unless combined with action to give priority for bus movement. "The

extension of public transport often appears to be the only solution capable in the future of limiting congestion in town centres and improving the environment,he said.

M. Savary concluded his paper with some brief estimates of the financial aspect involved in improving bus travel. Making diesel engine emissions cleaner would increase vehicle costs by five to 10 per cent. It was impossible to estimate the cost of new engines because of insufficient information at present. So far as noise was concerned, a reduction of 10 dBA would cost an extra 5000 to 7000 F.

These costs could, however, be offset by better bus movement following the implementation of priority measures which could reduce operating costs by up to 30 per cent in some cases.

How to make subsidies work

A four-point scheme for the efficient and fair operation of subsidized public transport was laid down in their paper by Mr E. R. Ellen and Mr 1. Phillips, both of the London Transport Executive. The authors agreed that help from public funds for urban public transport was essential and a survey of 75 undertakings contained in the report showed that only five did not receive any subsidy at all.

The authors' four-point scheme first rejected "deficit financing". They defined that as an open-ended subsidy where an undertaking is allowed to run into debt without any set limit and with a periodical right-off against public funds. "Any such arrangement is wasteful, bad for morale and an encouragement to any inefficient management", they said. The second point they made was that financial support should be regarded as the purchase of a public transport service by the community as the customer, from the operator as the supplier. It was important in this context to identify closely what services public money was being used to purchase. These should be shown explicitly in the accounts.

The LT men's third point was that finance from public sources should be provided on capital or revenue account as appropriate. They saw no rooted objection to methods such as the provision of assets as an alternative to capital grants or tax exemptions as an alternative to straightforward revenue subsidies — but the authors insisted that arrangements for financing should he "clearly and publicly stated".

Their final point was the necessity for every undertaking to set itself a target, or aim, for management. It was accepted now that profit maximization should not be the objective of a public transport organization supported by public finance in the interests of social need. The aim of maximizing passenger usage of the system within the constraint of any financial target set by the political authority, may be the most useful criterion to guide management decisions towards providing the best possible transport service.

Using electronics to give the best service

"A public transport service with a high degree of quality, speed, regularity and comfort is the best deterrent against the exaggerated use of private motor vehicles." This was said by M. C. Cabeza, development director of the Barcelona Municipal Fleet. He went on to explain how electronic control systems could achieve this end.

During his paper he described the various systems currently being tried throughout the world. Though these use different methods, the aim is by and large the same: to provide information on the whereabouts of buses and the passenger demands from any given area. In his paper M Cabeza quoted the costs of various experiments including that in London where a Marconi system is being tried. Total cost of this system (for 40 vehicles on route 11) was $405,000. This was made up of a cost for central hardware of $ 293,000, a cost per bus of $ 2100 and miscellaneous costs, including advanced studies, of $ 20,000.

Most of the figures for other systems mentioned, in Paris, Zurich and Barcelona seemed similar to the London figures. The London system, given annual maintenance costs of 3120,000, is likely to pay for itself in seven years. • M Cabeza pointed out, however, that the ability to know the position, load and delay of a vehicle was of little avail if it was caught up in a traffic jam and unable to carry out orders from its central control point. He went on to urge public transport undertakings to press for priority measures which would . enable buses to take full advantage of the freedom allowed by electronic control methods, which Were not a solution in themselves.

Free fares get body blow

Protagonists of the concept of free fares for urban public transport were dealt a major body blow by Dr R. Gutknecht of the Aachen Municipal Transport undertaking. He said that free travel tended to reduce the quality of public transport and public funds would be spent on its misuse at the expense of an improvement in quality.

Furthermore, Dr Gutknecht pointed out that experiments with free travel, notably in Rome, had shown conclusively that private car users were not attracted to public transport. "The motorist is more likely to return to public transport if its quality is improved instead of the necessary capital being used on providing free travel."

In his review of fare structures, Dr Gutknecht found that there had been a substantial trend towards flat and zonal fares in the past 10 years. Flat fares had become more popular for reasons of simplification and also because of political pressure. Zonal fares were preferred on account of the greater clarity of available transport services, the choice of different forms of transport and easier operation.

Automatic fare collection

The idea that fully automatic fare collection methods can bring major operating economies was largely discounted in the paper by Mr H. Werz, director of the Geneva Tramways Company. He said that where possible undertakings should try to encourage one-man-bus operators to retain some responsibility for collecting fares.

He recommended undertakings to adopt semi-automatic fare collection systems, which were particularly advantageous from the point of view of the capital investment they required.

He pointed out that the Swiss system of mounting ticket issuing and cancelling machines on bus stops gave a very great freedom of choice in the tariff system.

They also speeded up boarding times. However, Mr Werz said several times in his paper that this type of pre-purchase ticket system seemed impossible to implement in Britain because of the attitude of the public.

The cost of automatic fare collection methods represented on average between two and 10 per cent of operating costs and they varied between $3000 and $20,000 per million passengers carried. All the problems of automatic fare collection had been solved, he said, and cannot now present any obstacle to its widespread instruction.

'Give road transport full backing'

A plea for regional road passenger transport to be put on the same footing as Common Market national railways was made by Dr H. J. van Zuylen, director of the Rotterdam Municipal Fleet. He urged the Community to give effect to the provisions of Regulation 1191/69 which provided guaranteed subsidies for lossmaking services operated by all forms of public transport and not only those operated by rail. This part of the Regulation should have come into effect last year but no decision had yet been reached.

On fares, Dr Zuylen said research had shown that fare increases for regional public transport should never exceed the level necessary to offset inflation otherwise they would tend to drive traffic away which would be "inconsistent with the social function of public transport." Dr van Zuylen pointed out that the timing of any fare increase needed to be psychologically correct. His research had shown that the period immediately before Christmas was the most appropriate time because of the readiness of the public to spend money at this time of year.

Like many other speakers, Dr yam Zuylen called for 1comprehensive priority measures for road passenger transport. These should include priority for leaving bus stops, giving public transport vehicles priority at traffic signals and the provision of bus lanes where traffic intensity made them desirable.

He, too, took a swipe at free travel, saying it was a fashionable idea among politicians at present but that it was not realized that absolutely free transport would be a burden on the whole population.

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