A Plan to "Unscramble" the Passenger Transport Omelette
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Suggested by Mr. D. M. Sinclair, M. Inst.T., General Manager, Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Co., Ltd.
DREAMT that a giant octopus had gathered together all the road passenger services of this country, scrambled them thoroughly, and then deposited the resulting omelette' on my lap."
This was the dream problem set for himself by Mr. D. M. Sinclair, M.Inst.T., general manager,. Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Co., Ltd., ani for which he sought a solution in a paper entitled "The Development of Road Passenger Transport Services," read to the Institute of Transport, in London, on Monday.
His scheme to "unscramble the omelette" depended on four conditions:— (I) Adequate and efficient public services at reasonable fares, (2) Adequate co-ordination of services throughout the country.
(3) Good conditions of enaploymeat.
(4) Taken as a whole, the services provided must pay their way. To-day there were 174 private companies and 96 munkipalities operating stage-carriage services the strengths ranging from 20 to 1,700 vehicles. There were numerous small coach operators and the London Transport Executive, which it was proposed to leave out of these considerations.
The total of public-service vehicles was not far short of 60,000. This should be increased to 66,000 to ensure efficiency.
Unity is Lethargy
None of the conditions would be satisfied by operating all the services as a unit. Any attempt to do so would result in lethargy, chaos and failure.
The public interest would best be served by creating a considerable number of comparatively small units, varying in size from a minimum of 50 vehicles to a maximum of 2,000. This would involve a merger with its neighbours of exist:10 units of fewer than 50 vehicles, municipal or company.
Subject to their size limitations, in fact, Mr. Sinclair would not make dny drastic change to the arrangements in force before the "scrambling." What need was there, he asked, for any material change? In whose interest was it necessary? Who would benefit?
A few of the advantages of organizing the services on the basis of many comparatively small units were as follow:—
(1) The management could keep its ear closer to the ground and, therefore, was in closer contact with the needs of the public.
(2) It could also keep in closer touch with day-to-day problems of the staff and deal with incipient grievances.
(3) A variety of unit sizes provided an excellent training ground.
(4) As .each unit would be encouraged to express its own
ideas about operating methods, bus design, and other matters there would be a constant endeavour to improve the breed.
Mr. Sinclair suggested that the British Transport Commission would have its own ideas as to the ideal organization to set up, but it was to be hoped that it would not lose sight of these important considerations.
Each of the operating units would be formed into ordinary public companies and municipal undertakings, in each of which the B.T.C. could hold a substanfiat interest. Thus, whilst the overall administration would remain in the capable hands of private and municipal enterprise, the Government would have an adequate voice in the general policy through the financial interests of the B.T.C. There would be an effective partnership between the State and private enterprise.
Each unit would be quite self-contained in organization. To ensure that the competitive element would remain, each unit could express its individuality in matters such as the style and colour of rolling stork, uniforms, publicity, design, of premises, and so on.
Turning to unit organization, Mr. Sinclair said that those taking „control should be given titles which meant something in she eyes of the public. He would stick to the good old-fashioned title of general manager. tinder the general manager, there would he the usual. main departments_
Best Public Relations
With regard to the public relations department, the best form of public relations was to give the public the service it wanted and the creation of a special department always made him wonder whether its real purpose was to bolster up a bad case.
To guard against the danger of overcentralization, Mr. Sinclair would subdivide each unit into a number of divisions, each with a superintendent in charge. Divisional superintendents would act on their own initiative.
Mr. Sinclair said that the policy of giving a wide degree of local autonomy had its disadvantages, and even dangers, but the disadvantages were heavily outweighed by the advantages.
Promotion to any vacancy within the operating unit should be available to all. Vacancies should first be advertised among the staff before applications were invited from outside.
As regards co-ordination, whilst the chief function of each operating unit
would be in provide the best possabit. service within its area of operation, the co-ordination of services With those of neighbouring companies and natmicipalities would he a matter of considerable importance. The aim should be to allow the passenger to complete his or her journey with the minimum of changing and many services would have to run beyond the boundaries of the operating unit. This should be done even if if. meant an interchange of vehicles and crew.
Adequate co-ordination should be achieved by means of regular and frequent meetings between the appropriate officials of neighbouring companies and municipalities.
So far as co-ordination with the railway companies was concerned, a simple organization on the lines of the existing road and rail standing joint committees should be sufficient.
Express Services Pool"
The speaker suggested that private hire and holiday tours should be handled by companies. For express services, however, the rolling stock should be provided by the various operating companies in an agreed proportion of the total requirements, but the general control of those services wduld be vested in a subsidiary organization, having a small staff at the headquarters of each operating company.
The subsidiary undertaking would organize these services for the country as a whole and would co-operate closely with the railways. It would hire its. vehicles from the various companies and pay thenn such fees as were considered appropriate for the use of accommodation, To ensure overall control, Mr. Sinclair would retain the organization of the Licensing Authorities.
The matter of fares was one which would need to be examined„ with a view to adjusting the numerous anomalies existing to-day and to put the whole question on a more 'uniform basis. No increase should be necessary with an efficient organization and careful management. If anomalies were removed, in fact, it might even be possible to make some reductions.
What were now called workers' fares should be abolished completely.
If, as seemed likely, the Town and Country Planning Act compelled large numbers of the working population to live some distance from their places, of work it would appear to be equitable to introduce a zone universal fare, the area of the zone varying, of course, with the size of the community. In large centres .it might be necessary to have an inner and outer zone.
The building of buses to box dimensions of 30 ft. by 8 ft. should be permitted. This concession would make possible a much greater degree of standardization.