Time to plan for motorway trains
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The prediction that intensive use of American-style road trains on British motorways could give road transport yet another big edge on railway freight makes good reading, especially at a time when some hauliers are finding trading conditions very difficult. The idea itself is not new, but the forecast of such enormous potential, coming from an economist with really deep knowledge of road transport certainly is.
But such a road-train network, with all its ancillary facilities, will not just happen, nor will highest efficiency be achieved by haphazard growth. Vehicles, depots, legislation, staffing, accommodation and land will all need to be seen as essential pieces in the jigsaw, and each piece will require different treatment if this type of road trunking is to reach the peak of its potential. A start on the planning of inter-depot motorway services has been made by BRSL, which has also discussed the driver accommodation requirements, but this whole pattern of operation cannot be left to British Road Services alone, valuable though its pioneering work may be. Surely, here is an opportunity for large freight operators to come together, possibly with the participation of RHA and ETA, to initiate an assessment of the economic possibilities, the legal and other problems of land acquisition, depot siting and design and, not least, the changes in regulations which would be required to permit road trains of an economical size to operate. We would, have thought that the present Government would lend a sympathetic ear to a "package planshowing the practicalities and especially the economic arguments for such a system.
The time is now ripe. By the end of next year at least 1000 miles of the basic motorway network will have been completed; 1700 miles are now an the stocks, either in the planning stage or being built. The £566m which goods vehicles alone are contributing in tax in the current year is an enormous, investment of capital which operators are entitled to exploit in road usage