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U.S. Railways Hit By .

14th March 1952, Page 49
14th March 1952
Page 49
Page 49, 14th March 1952 — U.S. Railways Hit By .
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Road Competition

MANY interesting facts about transport. in the United States are contained in an economic survey of that country prepared by the British Embassy in Washington and published for the Boaid of Trade by the Stationery Office at 8s. 6d. The book states that the American railways have experienced a serious decline in passenger traffic during the post-war years and the aggregate deficit on passenger-train working in 1949 was estimated to be $649m., although over 60 per cent. of this sum was attributable to passenger-train goods traffic.

The report observes; "The competiam for traffic by bus and air companies and private automobile is a problem that few railroads have yet met with any success."

Road and road transport matters are controlled by individual State governments. The Federal Government is responsible for road research and gives financial help to local authorities according to a formula in which area, population and existing road mileages are functions. Each State has to match the Federal grant with an equal sum from its own resources.

40,000 Miles of New Roads An Act passed in 1944 provided for the construction of .a national highways system involving 40,000 miles of road to connect the chief town and industrial areas for purposes of defence. Completion of the project will take sonic years,but will be of immense benefit to road users. In 1950, $450m. in Federal aid was authorized for this system, a similar figure was sanctioned for 1951 and the allotments for 1952 and 1953 are $500m. each.

Advantages gained by progress in road building have been partly offset by the increase in the number of motor vehicles, particularly private cars. Every large American city faces grave congestion problems on the principal traffic arteries and urban travel is often subject to serious delays because many inadequate sections of road are still in use.

In 1949 there were 208.898 buses and over 8m. goods vehicles registered in the U.S.A. and in 1950 an estimated 218,000 and 8.6m. respectively. A 4m. increase in the number of private cars during 1949-50 brought the estimated total of motor vehicles registered in 1950 to nearly 50m.-twice as many as in 1926. Besides the rising standard of living, the dispersal of industry is a major factor underlying this increase.

• More oil-engined goods and passenger vehicles ere going into service, but petrol consumption in 1949 reached 36,835m. gallons. It is estimated that the total mileage covered by motor vehicles in 1950 amounted to 450,000m. Consumption of petroleum products in the U.S.A. in 1950 was at. the rate of 6,.5m. barrels a day, 114 per cent. higher than in the previous year. A 6-percent. increase on the. 1950 figure was expected for 1951. Domestic production has not kept pace with consumption.

Road passenger transport in America falls into two categories-inter-city and urban. Where inter-city, services cross State boundaries, control is exercised by the Interstate Commerce Commission, otherwise services are subject to the local authorities' rules.

Buses Double in Number The number of busts has doubled in the past 15 years. About a third is owned by public bodies for specific pttrposes such as the transport of schoolchildren. Roughly the same proportion is engaged on urban services, whilst 30,000 provide inter-city facilities.

Inter-city transport is supplied by about 3,000 enterprises, 1,200 of which are regulated by the I.C.C. In 1950, they carried roughly 450m. passengers and their route mileage totalled 350.000. The passenger-mileage was estimated at 19,600m.-a drop of 7L per cent. compared with 1949. The inter-city operators employ 65,000 people and their aggregate annual wage bill is $200m.

In 1950, these compahies earned $500m. and paid $60m. in Federal taxes. Expenses, however, rose to 90 per cent. of revenue and many concerns are apprehensive about the future. Some smaller operators running essential services are losing money.

Operating costs have doubled sinc,.. 1941 (labour expenses have more than doubled), but fares have fisen by, only a third because in some cases they are regulated by the I.C.C. and competition with private cars has to be considered. Fares are at a critical level and further advances would cause many people to use their own cars. As more private cars have come into use in recent years, bus traffic has steadily declined.

The 1,475 bus and tram organizations carried 11,823m. people in 1949-11 per cent, fewer than in 1948, hut 46 per cent, higher than the 1936-40 average. There are estimated to be 6,338 trams and 57,035 buses in operation. Electric vehicles have a track mileage of 1,744, and buses a route mileage of 42,141.

Over 2,168m. vehicle-miles were run in 1949 and revenue amounted to

$758m. for the buses and $112m. font the trams. These sums were roughly the same as in 1948. Fares had bee& raised, but fewer people were carried. The total wage bill in 1949 was $496m. and it is claimed that labour costs in this section of the transport industry arc among the highest of those of public utilities in the U.S.A.

Local authorities' regulations governing public transport vary and are alleged to be onerous in the matter of local taxation, whilst operators are restricted in raising fares to cover increasing operating costs. The unitfare system is usual, but many organizations are actively examining the possibility of fares structures with charges varying according to distance. However, as one-man 'operation is usual, a multiple-fare system would double labour costs, because conductors would have to be employed, and its introduction would appear to be iinpossible in busy areas.

Haulage Major Industry Road haulage is now one of the U.S.A.'s major industries and goods vehicles covered 52,590m. miles in 1950, compared with 47,435m. miles in 1949. The 1949 total of goods vehicles was broken down as follows: Ancillary vehicles, except farm vehicles, 4.5m.; farm vehicles, 2.3m.; hiring lorries subject to regulation by 'the I.C.C., 950,000; hiring lorries not so subject, 600,000. The number of operators cannot be

estimated,,, • ,

,"Like inter-citY passenger, operators. inter-state hauliers are regulated by the LC.C. There are 21,000 companies governed in this way, and of these, 1,806 are graded as class 1, having gross revenues of $200,000 or more. In 1950 their gross earnings came to $2,388m., compared with $1,877m. in 1944. The ratio of expenses to revenue fell from 94.8 per cent. to 93.2 per cent., despite mounting costs.

Increase in Traffic

Class 1 hauliers carried 162m. tons of goods in 1949 and 200m. in 1950. No figures are given in the survey for other operators, but it is stated that this increase reflects the overall trend.

Despite railway opposition, there has been an extension of long-distance work. The interchange of trailers has been developed and many carriers are amalgamating. The lack of uniformity among States in their construction and use regulations is a matter of concern to inter-state hauliers and standardization is being urged. The Senate Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee is studying the problem.

The average load carried on the main roads in 1950 was 5.56 short tons, compared with 5.11 short tons in 1949. The commonest axle-weight limit is 6 tons.

In the years 1947-1950, American commercial-vehicle production ran at the rate of .1.1m.-1.4m. per annum, but exports steadily dropped both in numbers of machines and value. Figures given in the survey regarding the amount of exports and the wholesale value of the units sold outside the U.S.A. are as follows: 1947, 273,188 units, $442m.; 1948, 208,686, $354m.; 1949, 134,059, 8228m.; 1950. 131.377, $217m.

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