VITAL PROBLEMS IN LONDON'S TRANSPORT
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• Public Demands Increase Hundredfold
THE author of the first paper, read before the Institute
of Transport last Monday, was Lt.-Cc>I. A. W.C. Richardson, D.S.O., M.Inst.T. He commences by pointing out that the problems connected with the development of town and country services in the special area with which the London Passenger Transport Board is concerned, are peculiar as they are affected by special legislation not common to other parts of the country, but in view of the probable trend of legislation in this direction, the experiences gained may hot he without value to other operators.
Road transport, he says, has always been prone, especially recently, to suffer from restrictive legislation, largely through the failure of our predecessors to recognize the probable development of rail and road transport. We must be careful that we do not fall into the same error.
The era of rail transport marked a decisive stage in the set-back of the development of road transport. It is true. to say that the stage 'coach was the forerunner of the railway, and it is equally true that the modern coach now offers severe competition to the passenger traffic on mainline railways. Road passenger transport, in its later phase, may be said to date from 1829, when Shillibeer introduced the first organized bus service in.Lonclon. The Locomotives Acts of 1861 and 1865 restricting mechanically propelled vehicles to 2 m.p.h. in towns and 4 m.p.h. in the country damped development and gave an immediate fillip to the railways, The tardy progress in the construction of adequate roads is doing much the same thing now. The growth of passenger journeys in the London area is illustrated by the following figures; 1913, road transport, 1,517,000,000; rail transport, 755,000,000; total, 2,272,000,000; 1934, road transport, 0,014,000,000; rail
transport, 1,080,000,000, total 4,094,000,000. This year, the bus fleet operated by the Board has increased to 4,800 and the staff of over 10,000 operates a daily 'mileage Of 675,000 over 1,565 miles of route.
In recent years the migration south has been marked, and one wonders if London will continue to act as the centre of attraction.
Huge Growth of Independent Operation.
The first legislative effort to control the situation in the Metropolis took the form of the London Traffic Act, 1924. This gave the Metropolitan Police power to prescribe approved routes for buses, and regulate or prohibit bus traffic on restricted streets, through the medium of Orders made by the Minister of Transport.
In 1922 there were only four independent operators, but by the end of 1925 the number was 197. This experience furnished data for legislation in the form of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, and the London Passenger Transport Act, but these did not completely prevent the expansion of independent operators. The London Passenger Transport Act, 1933, was the first attempt to create an organized body charged with the responsibility of providing adequate travelling facilities in the Metropolitan area. The assimilation of the multiplicity of bus, tram and coach services has necessarily been a protracted task, and the author does not venture to express an opinion as to the success achieved.
The Board is, however, able to view any proposal for facilities from the standpoint of the interest of the travelling public, so that the benefits accruing are returned in facilities and hard cash. Deft/ands for additional facilities'
have, since the inauguration of the Board, increased a hundredfold, and each must be carefully examined. The demand is often justifiable, but the service cannot always be provided except upon an unrernunerative basis. In such a case the requirements of the public must, within limits, be the governing factor. It may be that the facility will never pay. At present $4 per cent. of the services operated by the Board ,earn lees than the cost of operation; a further 23 per cent. earn sufficient to contribute a quota of overheads withotit any profit; only the remaining 43 per cent. earn revenue in excess of operating costs and overhead chergr:s. Since Lilly, 1933, 19 new services have been introduced and 58 services augmented, whilst the route
mileage has increased by 31.45. • Communities Marooned in Outlying Districts.
Town-planning schemes have not proved a bar to the Objectionable features of ribbon development. In Greater London whole communities have been transplanted en bloc, dumped on the outskirts and left to find their owri way. This has thrown an enormous strain on the organization of bus facilities. No rehousing scheme should be considered unless the responsible transport operators have been consulted and their views as to the facilities that can be offered and the population that can be accommodated taken into account, To a lesser degree, this policy has been adopted in factory development. Since the war, 1,800 factories have been erected in Greater London. Prior to 1932, taking the north-west sector, nearly 40 per cent. were originally see up in the London area. Since 1932, approximately 15 per cent, of the new factories'in the outer belt represent moves from the inner area. This transfer is likely to be continuous. Every move creates a disturbance in the daily life and, consequently. travelling life of the employees. Every other contingency except transport appears to have been thought out by the companies concerned, and it is often, in a state of panic, that appeals are addressed to the traffic operator urging the immediate establishment of facilities. It often happens that the only traffic offering itself on the route is the peak traffic at the beginning and cessation of work.
Then we have migration from the central area. Whereas prior to 1921, the bulk of this movement was beyond the borders of Greater London, since then, over two-thirds have settled within the boundary.
In considering future requirements, factors affecting this movement become material. It would seem that (1) shorter working hours encourage the worker to live further away; (2) the improved standard of living and "higher wages enable him to devote more time and money to health and leisure; (3) speedy, cheaper and more comfortable transport facilities enable the worker to live in rural areas; (4) decentralisation of industry has been an inducement to migration.
The agreement governing the L.P.T.B. staff service conditions determines stringently the spreadover sad limits of working hours ; it further limits the early, middle and late shifts that can be scheduled, and by a system of percentages brings a hard and fast ratio into the 'volume of early and late bus running.
Town and country services constitute a dual problem. The area covered is approximately 2,000 sq. miles. There is an aspect which, if not peculiar to London, has a greater bearing on the services to he provided than in many Provincial cities. This is the intermediate belt between the central area, where heavy traffics are constant, and the outer area carrying typical traffics which can be catered for by accepted methods. In this middle belt the traffic factors are not constant. There is a combination of peak and slack traffics reacting on services provided for central and rural areas. Facilities in this overlap belt constitute the most difficult problem.
The difficulty in the central area is to find suitable streets. Congestion destroys journey time, creates irregular running, results in inconvenience to passengers. increases costs and reduces revenue. finless . traffic corigestion be materially reduced there can t,e no sUbstantial improvement in the central area. An interesting factor Which must have a repercussion on the transport services is the movement to provide a " green belt" around London at a radius of approximately 13 miles. Weatter vagaries have a large effect on travelling. Wet weather means a heavy load on railways and intensifies congestion by taxis.
The author then goes deeply into the problems on various routes and refers to the congestion by private motorcars.
In conclusion he points out that the relief of congestion and the removal of its causes are vital. Such expedients as one-way working, road widening and roundabout workings are, to some extent, merely palliatives. We ought at once to make bold plans for the immediate reconstruction of our roads, pedestrian pathways, parking places, junctions, bottle-necks and narrow streets. Traffic must not be slowed down, but speeded up, not in parts, which causes congestion elsewhere, but as a whole.
To do this, pedestrians must be removed from the motor roads and accommodated safely and comfortably above the traffic, on a level with the first floor of buildings, such path. ways to be connected by bridges. Shop windows will be on the first floor, and buildings and shops must be set back, or arcaded, where this is feasible.