The Colonial-Office Blue Book.
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One cannot study the contents of the 111-page collection of papers relating to mechanical transport in the Colonies, to which we have already had occasion to refer in our two immediately-preceding issues, without realising that special forms of mechanical transport, such as the Diplock or the ReitShaw walking-machines, may be required if success i8 to be achieved in areas which are least suitable physically for other than animal transport. These official papers, none the less, go far to strengthen the " call " which has been somewhat indifferently received by British manufacturers up to the present time. True, it may be that the makers of to-day cannot hope, in the course of their own careers, to witness the adoption of commercial motors in all countries of the world which at the moment are without any surface transport worthy the name ; they will not entirely replace human transport in the numerous parts of the great African Continent where that form of porterage is common; they will fail, sometimes, to beat the performance of the camel, the ox, the mule, or the horse where conditions peculiarly favour one or the other ; they will not, in many cases, supply a paying alternative to river or sea conveyance : yet, they may at least add to their markets by close attention to imminent developments in scores of areas which are now reckoned to be unpromising.
The report under notice is far from perfect, and no attempt appears to have been made to edit it : values are stated in a variety of currencies, conversions have not been made in a number of cases, and standards are unknown; where an indifferent. official has casually replied " I have no information (page 15)," or, " No information is available here Mr. could answer this question (page 102)," no attempt appears to have been made by anybody to secure a proper answer for the information of Parliament and interested taxpayers. It does not strike anybody as worthy of comment that Borneo petroleum spirit (page 66) can be purchased in the East Africa Protectorate " at 12s. per ton " (sic), or that (page 8), bad corners and bends in Malta are " average 90 degrees, maximum 60 degrees." Again, we are left to divine how much petroleum goes to " the case " (as on page 38), whilst it is not contradicted (page 56) that a gradient of 1 in 8, or a rightangled corner, justifies the later statement on the same page that mechanical transport cannot be employed because, forsooth, " the steep gradients and sharp bends would make the cost of mechanical haulage too high ! "
Unasked opinions are numerous, and we can only hope that some of those who volunteered them have had it forcibly pointed out by letter from the Colonial Office that they are expected to deal with the subject in hand, This criticism more particularly applies to views about existing roads, and far too many of the Governors presume that present conditions are unalterable. We trust, in quoting a few of their superfluous effusions, they will fully digest those portions of the report (pages 22, 42 and 88) which refer to the cheap and satisfactory construction of motor roads in Southern Nigeria, the Gold Coast, and Uganda. From page 64 (East Africa).— " I only left India in April last, and up to the time of my departure no mechanical tractor had been invented which could compete with animal draught transport on metalled or
immetalled country roads, and the same conditions appear to be in force here." This is followed by a strong recommendation of a Mono-rail system. From page 67 (East Africa).— " A good electric car with Edison's latest accumulators and a truck attached to carry baggage up to two or three tons would. be most useful." From page 72 (Nyasaland).—" I might point out that the cost of constructing roads in England varied
from £490 per mile to £1,000 per mile." This is useful information to come home from an official in Nyasaland! From page 92 (Northern Nigeria).—" I am of opinion that no motor at present in the market can fulfd the requirements of West Africa. One manufacturer estimated the position quite accurately when he said that the inventor of a motor such as we wanted would not have to go as far afield as West Africa to make money ; another put it more facetiously, though no less accurately, when he said we had better make good roads or try flying machines." Here, again, we pertinently ask, what about the Gold Coast, Southern Nigeria and Uganda? In happy contrast is the hope-inspiring view (page 86) of the Governor of the Gold Coast (Northern Territories), that " everv road intended for wheel-traffic should be constructed: in such a manner as to be available for motor transport."
Interesting references are made to particular difficulties in various of the Colonies. For example, in Somaliland. we are told that a certain graded path is so narrow that " camels not infrequently fall over the edge." Other references are made to the difficulties of animal transport. In respect ofNorth-Western Rhodesia (page 38) we read: " The existence of the tsetse fly restricts mule-cart transport to non-infestedareas." Later (page 92), in respect of Northern Nigeria, we read: " No transport animals can be used if any regard is had for economy." One other opinion, from the Governor of Nyasaland, who drives a motorcar out there, we quote : " Petrol is just as usable in the tropics as in a temperate climate. It is a mistake to send paraffin cars to the Colonies, as they always give trouble. Petrol keeps quite well in the tropics if stored in a suitable place."
We would suggest that any fresh schedule of questions should be enlarged to include : (a) the width of roads or tracks, both upon the metalled surface and at a height of two feet from the ground ; (b) where streams or rivers have to be forded, the nature of the approaches, banks and beds at. different seasons of the year ; (c) not only whether goods are required to be conveyed in bulk at the 7)1()Iltfli.t, hut whether • they are likely to be so required if motor facilities are provided ; (d) if motor vehicles cannot at the moment be employed, why should not the making of light motor roads beunaertaken with that object, as in the Gold Coast, Southern Nigeria and Uganda ; (e) if wood be a local fuel, state the price per cord of 120 cubic feet ; (f) work out values in English standards of currency, weight, or measure ; (g) if private workahotm exist, will they undertake outside repairs ; (h) names ot the parties who might take up commercial motors ; (j) value of goods traffic passing at present by existing means of transport, whether land, river or sea (k) how do you account for the fact that the Gold Coast, Southern Nigeria and Uganda, in spite of highly-unfavourable original conditions, are now using motor transport successfully; (1) do the natives make inroads upon any of the consumable stores—such as grease ; (m) where roads have been made, the cost per mile, and the time occupied in construction per mile ; (n) where local towns or villages are named, the distances between them ; (o) the weight-carrying capacity of bridges to be stated in tons per axle ; and (p) is motor spirit, if obtainable, as easily• stored, handled, and used as paraffin!