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The Third Annual London Traffic Report.

16th February 1911
Page 14
Page 15
Page 14, 16th February 1911 — The Third Annual London Traffic Report.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Further Tramway Development now Declared to Necessitate 100 Miles of New Roads and Many Other Improvements which might Cost over £35,000,000.

" The development of the tramway system has proceeded so far that the end is in sight, and further advantages will be contingent upon improvements to the roads."

" It, is to the improvement of the roads that we must chiefly look for the increase of traffic facilities to meet the needs of the future, partly for the accommodation of the growing volume of road traffic, partly to admit of multiplication oi tramways."

" The space occupied by tram lines in busy thorough ought nc,t to he available for ordinary traffic.

The above three verbatim extracts will serve to indicate the note to which is tuned The Third Annual Report of the London Traffic Branch of the Board of Trade, which, completed at the cud of last year by Sir Herbert Jekyll and his staff, has just been issued to the public. after presentation to the re-assembled Houses of Parliament. The preceding Report, published at the beginning of 1910, was chiefly lemarkahle for its definite approval of the motorbus as a beneficial factor in London's scheme of transport facilities. So remarkable is the change in the dominating idea, which has quite evidently obsessed the compilers of the new Report, that it is well to reconsider a few extracts from the conclusions which were published in jannary, 1910. Comparison of the quotations below, with those at the head of this column, affords subject for interesting reflections with regard to the present tramway mania of the Traffic Branch of the Board of Trade. We cull a few of the paragraphs, which bear on this subject, from the 1909 report.

" As rivals to tramways, motor omnibuses are likely to become more formidable than they have been hitherto, since they will be cheaper to work, and will travel longer distances than heretofore. Tramways have long since reached a stage at which there would appear to be little room for further improvement either in efficiency or in cheapness. . . . . As an instrument of locomotion the omnibus is in its infancy, whereas the tramway has come to maturity." " Tramlines iii a street are always objectionable and over head equipment is unsightly as well T Tamen rs obstruct traffic Great inconvenience is apt to arise during the periods of construction, reconstruction and repair—an inconvenience which is especially marked in the case of municipal tramways." " It is desirable to call attention to the serious extent to which work with regard to improvements for the general traffic is being affected by the tramway policy of the Council.

. . In fnture the extension and reconstruction of the tram

way system will to a great extent lie along streets in which a heavy expenditure on wideninga will be necessary We are called upon to accelerate certain improvements and to undertake others in the interests of the tramways, and cense quently to retard and to postpone other improvements which we may regard as more urgent from the point of view of the general traffic requirements of London."

Congestion Due to Tramways.

Tho congestion of very many of London's main thoroughfares has now, almost entirely on account of the tramways, reached such a deplorable stage that heroic measures have had to be suggested as a way out of the difficulty. Further tramway extension, as well as the acceleration and multiplication of existing services, is under present circumstances well-nigh impossible, and therefore we are asked to believe that the best way out of the difficulty is to construct 100 miles of new roads, to reconstruct 25 miles of old ones and to carry out endless other alterations, principally in order to facilitate tramway traffic. Most of these improvements are to be considered in conjunction with tramway extension. Nowhere in this latest Report is the tramway directly blamed for London's present state of congestion; rather has it mei' become the sole aim of its compilers, for some reason or other, no matter at what cost, to facilitate " the multiplication of tramways." We have no common cause with those who, with well-considered caution, hesitate to condemn the tramway as unsuitable for any but the widest of public thoroughfares. In very-many instances, all that the tramcar does, the present-day motorbus can do better. All other road-users condemn the tramline; even the ratepayer, did Ile know, would object to his payment of other people's fares. Tramway construction has practically come to an end in all other parts of the country, and it is high time it came to an end in and around London. The same reasons which admit the motorbus service, but which bar the tramway, along Fleet Street, Oxford Street, or Piccadilly, should have operated in the cases of the majority of London's other great streets. If we are to have a vast scheme of street reconstruction in the Metropolis, let it be primarily to facilitate general traffic, and let the scheme not be modelled with the principal object of affording further facilities for street railways, whose functions can now in almost all cases he discharged better by the independent motorbus.

Condemnation of. the Tramway.

As, therefore, the keynote of last year's Report was the official recognition of the motorbus, so this year it is unwittingly a further condemnation of London's tramway system. We have shown that this was far from Sir Herbert Jeykyll's intention when he set his signature to the matter which has just appeared in Blue-Beok form. This I .i)lossal new-road enheme of his, which by-the-way is not in the slightest danger of coming to fruition, is in reality the most-serious condemnation of that muiiieipal policy, all over the kingdom, by virtue of whirl i may millions of capital have irretrievably been sunk in tramway enterprises. Corporations and companies are too (haply involved now to withdraw, but at least further blunders of the kind need not be oommitted. The trackless-trolley schemes now 'before Parliament are but one evidence of a realization by electrinal engineers and munieipal authorities, that all is not well with their railhound undertaking. If the greater part of Sir Herbert's proposed enormous and impossible expenditure is the only conceivable alternative to further tramway congestion, all other road-users in London are indeed in a parlous mate.

Principally, therefore, " to admit of the multiplication of tramways," has a vast scheme of road traesformation and e)nstruction been endorsed by the staff of the Traffic Branch. A thorough investigation and the preparation of an exhaustive plan. of Greater London has been in the agenda of the department for the last two years. It will ho remembered that in 1905 the Royal Commission on London Traffic scheduled a an her of new roads, the construetion of which was to solve all London's traffic problems. In no one case is one of those previously-recommended roads included in Sir Herbert Jekyll's new proposals. The suggestions of 1905 had little relation. to tramway development, and tramway congestion was not then so pressing a question as it is now.

Co-efficients of Obstruction.

A very-large proportion of the new Report Is occupied o ith an analytical discussion of the whys and wherefores of the 99.9 miles of proposed new roads and of the 25.45 miles of old roads which it is suggested shall be improved. There is no necessity, even did space permit, to attempt to discuss these new proposals in detail ; there is plenty of time ahead in which that may be done.. 'We are, however, interested to draw attention to the ingenious method by which the chief classes of road traffic have been classified in respect of their "obstructiveness." The following extract is self-explanatory:- " In order to measure the capacity of a road in relation to the traffic which it has to carry, and to compare the capacities of different roads, something more is required than a mere enumeration of vehicles. Numbers alone will not serve as a measure, looking to the difference in the degree of obstruction caused by vehicles of different classes. To arrive at some uniform basis of comparison, it therefore became necessary to find a traffic unit in terms of which every vehicle may be assigned a co-efficient—having relation to its size, speed, and flexibility—the factors on which depend its occupation of a given length of road in point of time and the degree of obstruction which it presents to others, The number of vehicles of the same class travelling in a single line at normal speed that can pass a given point in one minute at coach intervals as will entail no check, constitutes perhaps the most. important factor, and in gauging the degree of obstructicn attributable to it—due consideration being given to size and flexibility as well, and assuming that a vehicle, moving at more than six mikes an hour, can only maintain its normal speed so lone as it has a clear interval of at least its own length in front of it.."

In the table entitled " Relative Obstruction of Different Classes Of Traffic," winch is included on this page, we nave arranged the " traffic units " which are listed in the Report, and we have added, in the last three columns, deductions which have been drawn with considerable ingenuity by a writer in last Sunday's " Observer." The significance of the " degree of obstruction " of a road vehicle of any kind must obviously he modified in ac

cordance with its load or passenger-carrying capacity. The relative positions in these tables of the tramcar and of the motorbus should be carefully noted ; the first four columns refer to the obstruction per vehicle and have no

reference to the passengers or load. Yet, with these accusing figures, of his own deduction, before him, Sir Herbert Jekyll pleads for a further " multiplication of tramways," no matter at what. cost!

"Our Road is Our Own."

The special treatment which, it is now claimed, should be meted out to tramways is indicated in the following paragraph which we extract :—

" In 1809 the Standing Committee of the House of Commons on the highways of the Kingdom, in propounding a scale of widths for main roads, varying according to the distances from London, proposes 80 ft. as the standard within the area known. as Greater London."

" Tramways were, of course, not contemplated when the steadards deemed necessary in 1809, were proposed; they are now indispensable for movement in thoroughly populated. areas, and in considering standards of width, provision must he made for them as well as for other kinds of traffic. Where a tramway service is comparatively light, the place occupied by the lines is to some extent available for ordinary road vehicles; but where, as in densely-populated districts, a frequent service is maintained, it is neither practicable nor desirable that the latter should encroach upon tramway. lines. In such conditions sufficient width should be reserved for the exclusive use of tramcars whose utility is much impaired if their normal speed is liable to frequent check from the presence of vehicles on the tracks. Moreover, tramways obstruct other traffic, both while undergoing construction and while under repair, which must, be recognized as incidental to their maintenance. The repairs are so frequent that it is seldom possible to travel over four or five miles of a tramway route without finding a portion of the roadway temporarily blocked. . . • For these reasons the spare occupied by tramlines in busy thoroughfares ought not to be regarded as available for ordinary traffic, and in such situations should sot be treate4 as part of the roadway ; and this as much in the interest of tramway passengers as in that of other users of roads."

If urban tramways are not capable of efficient operation in juxtaposition to other important classes of road traffic, the obvious thing to do with them is either to put them underground in shallow tunnels or overhead on elevated tracks, always providing, of course, that they cannot be dispensed with altogether. Why one of these alternatives should not serve for the projected new roads, it is difficult to conceive; such a method would, at least, enable the new roads to he two track-widths less in breadth, and that might save a million or two in compensation and ceropinsary purchase. The following specifieation might be modified for instance:—

" The roadway of a main thoroughfare, with shops on both sides, ought to accommodate a double line of tramways end six lines of ordinary traffic—three on each side. In extreme cases it may even be necessary to allow for four lines of traffic on each side—one standing, and three moving."

Two tramlines and four lines of traffic require a road 125-ft. wide overall; Kingswa.y is 100 ft. wide, and the troms there are omit of the way, underground.

(To be concluded.)

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