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Tramway Replacement—a Practical Scheme.

11th September 1928
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Page 1, 11th September 1928 — Tramway Replacement—a Practical Scheme.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

T"president of the Commercial Motor Users Association has again, this time at Belfast, been advocating the replacement of tramway systems—or at least of extensive sections of them—by motorbuses. He argued for the inevitability of gradualness, and we agree that such a change has more in its favour now than was the case a few years ago. New and insistent factors are tending to create a volume of disconcerting apprehension amongst tramway authorities, and it is desirable to review some of the outstanding features in the Position.

Tramcars are subject to admitted drawbacks, however marked their superior loading capacity per vehicle (when at rest), despite their ability to draw on the energy of a big central power station and although one can frequently concede their economy for very intense passenger traffic. The recognized disadvantages include inability to pass another tramcar on the same track, difficulties of picking-up and setting-down passengers other than in the roadway, and compulsory adherence to tracks on Sundays awl other holidays when patrons wish to quit workday routes for the country.

Faced by these adverse circumstances, as they are, tramway authorities increasingly desire to find a way out. They want to escape from the toils in which they are enmeshed, but they usually cannot find the means for avoiding a heaVy capital loss. They have the tramwaysaccount debt, for which they are responsible to the ratepayers, and they have the problem of reinstating the highway.

We observe that Mr. Shrapnell-Smith has been repeating his prescription. It is the comparatively simple one of progressive abandonment of the tramways, concurrently with the increasing use of double-deck buses, the bus Undertaking to pay a computed percentage of. gross revenue to a "Tramways Capital Extinction Fund." He this time advocated an average allocation of 7i per cent. of the bus income, and places the term for completion of the plan at a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 15. He contends that this basis, or, alternatively, one-sixteenth of a penny per passenger conveyed, is enough also to make good to the ratepayers the erstwhile contributions of the trains

by way of rates on their tracks and payments for street paving. The gains to the public include greater comfort, flexibility and speed.

It is obvious that each • proposal of the kind under notice • will call for separate estimating and actuarial calculation. Not every tramway system has the same proportion of unredeemed capital, not every track is amenable to the same conversion methods in order to secure a normal, rail-free highway.

New factors are proving to be the determining ones in causing serious thought about the matter. Recent conversions in the Potteries area give point to this. The outstanding success . of giant pneumatic tyres, official sanction for covered double-deckers, the emergence of satisfactory six-wheelers, and most of all the trend of public choice and opinion are exercising their influence. The stumbling-block of finance alone remains between the present attitude' of hesitancy in scores of boroughs and decisive action in favour of the bus.

There will, no doubt, continue to be tramway " diehards " in many towns. They may find justification on certain of the routes in some of our largest cities. Their . erstwhile staunchbackers on the electricity committees are weakening. The tramways load is no longer a sine qua non to numerous power stations. More than a few wish to be quit of it, and still more will soon be in that position. The day load for heating and cooking and for sundry small and large power requirements is mounting up to help. the average day load on the central generating plant; the wider use of electric lighting within the municipal boundary' is causing anxiety to the electrical engineers when rush-hour boosts are at their maxima, whilst outside areas want current at better prices per uuit than the tramways committee want to pay.

The feasibility of replacement on a large scale is already proven. With uneconomic competition removed, a bus contribution varying between id. and lid. a bus-mile can be guaranteed. It is enough to achieve the requisite ends. There then remains, • perhaps, nothing more than to convince the authorities that replacement by buses will not add to codgestion. London provides the best answer, for there, in the busiest inner zones, the bus is by, common consent admitted and the rigid tramcar excluded. In London, too, not at a single point but past many points, and not for a single hour at a time but throughout the day, buses convey in each direction 15,000 passenger-seats hourly. The old belief of the tramcar prota-. gonist concerning tramcar superiority dies hard, and some still have the temerity to decry the conveyance performance of buses.

Rear-view Mirrors on October 1st.

NOT infrequently we are asked to explain the difference between a "Heavy Motor Car " (which is generally known to mean a commercial motor vehi Ie used for the conveyance of passengers or profit or of goods) and a commercial moto vehicle, which is not classified as a "Heavy Motor Car." The matter has acquired added imilortarice in view of the ' Order of the Minister of .Transport relating to the new speed limits for heavy motorcars and • to the need for the use' of driving mirrors.

According to that Order, all heavy motorcars shall, from October 1st next (three weeks hence), be equipped with rear-view mirrors unless a conductor or other person be carried who can inform the driver that the driver of a vehicle in the rear is desirous of passing. It is an excellent idea, because no well-meaning owner or .driver of a commercial motor is desirous that his vehicle shall cause obstruction to other traffic, but it is not practical to rely upon the hearing for receiving signals from the rear. The sounds emanating from a vehicle and often from its load are invariably sufficient to prevent any warning signal from reaching the driver. The rear-view mirror is a much better means for discovering the presence of overtaking vehicles, and owners and drivers should make sure that their vehicles are equipped with them by the prescribed date.

The vehicles affected are heavy motorcars, which are defined in the "Heavy Motor Car Order, 1904," which came into force on March 1st, 1905. Prior to that date no motorcar unladen could weigh more than three tons, or, if drawing a trailer, the unladen weight of motorcar and trailer could not exceed four tons (otherwise the Locomotives Acts of 1861, „ 1865 and 1878 applied to it and them). Under , the Order of 1904 the permissible maximum unladen weights were increased, and a "Heavy . Motor Car "' was defined as a motorcar exceeding two tons in weight unladen. This, however, has never rigidly been held to embrace the luxurious private motorcar, which exceeded that weight. The new Order with regard to rear-view mirrors, therefore, applies to all goods-carrying vehicles exceeding two tons in weight unladen and paying a tax of £40 or more per annum, and to practically all passenger vehicles for more than eight passengers.

It will he necessary, of course, to keep the mirror within the limit of 7 ft. 6 ins., set for the maximum width of the vehicle, which will mean that with the majority of vehicles the .mirror may not project beyond the line of the body.

laying a stretch of new roadway over a little more than a third of the road, leaving on one side a path wide enough for nothing larger than a hand barrow and on the other room for one line of traffic.

WE went on and on, expecting but a short stretch of this obstruction, but it extended for about a mile—or so it seemed I Traffic proceeded by means of a "key," which the constable at the beginning or end of the obstruction received from the last car in the batch and handed to the last car of the batch he released. How they got along when there were no vehicles to take the key back we did not find out. Nearer to Belfast there was another long stretch of quite half a mile of single-way road. It was not as if there were many men at work along these long lengths of roadway. There were very few, and there was no apparent object in opening up so much of the road at once.

WE are very sorry indeed to hear of the sudden death, while on holiday in Torquay, of Mr. Henry Mattinson, the general manager and engineerin-chief of the Manchester Tramways. He was always a keen tramway man, but he kept a closer eye upon motorbus developments than many people imagined, and but for the large amount of capital locked up in'the tramways undertaking would earlier have given encouragement to the motorbus. His -.action in establishing a system of express motor

buses to serve the outlying districts of Manchester was a wise one, and he developed the tramway service to such an extent that over 328,000,000 passengers were carried in the year 1927-1928, with a total car mileage of 24,182,000, the total revenue per car-mile being nearly 1s. did., nearly 4-id. per car in excess of the working expenses. The motorbuses carried nearly 15,000.000 passengers in the year and showed a profit of almost 341. per bus-mile.

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