Royal Commission on London Traffic.
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The First Volume of the Report Appears.
The first volume of the report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into and report upon the means of locomotion and transport in London was published by Wyman and Sons, Ltd., of toe, Fetter Lane, E.C., for his Majesty's Stationery Office, at seven. o'clock on Monday evening. This first portion of the report is a volume of 150 pages, including three excellent plans, or maps, of the metropolitan area and the surrounding country, these alone being well worth the 3s. 3d. which is charged for the whole Blue Book. One each is devoted to streets, tramways, and railways. It will be remembered that the Commission was appointed on February 9th, 1903, and the mere fact that it has been found necessary to sub-divide the report into no less than eight volumes, of which the first has been issued, as stated above, testifies to the magnitude of the task taken in hand by the Commissioners. In Volume I. we have the report proper, accompanied by the index and plans, or maps, to which frequent reference is necessary to follow either the evidence and the findings. Subsequent volumes, beginning a fortnight hence, will be as follow ;—(TT.) Minutes of Evidence, with Index and Digest ; (III.) Appendices to the Evidence, with Index ; (IV.) Appendices to the Report, with Index ; (V.) Maps and diagrams furnished to or prepared by the Commission, with Index ; (VI.) Maps and diagrams furnished to the Commission, with Index; (VII.) Report to the Commission by the Advisory Board of Engineers, with Index ; (VIII.) Appendix to the report of the Advisory Board of Engineers, with Index.
The orders which the Commissioners received from his Majesty directed them to report :--(a) "As to the measures which we deem most effectual for the improvement of the same by the development and inter-connection of railways and tramways on, or below, the surface ; by increasing the facilities for other forms of mechanical locomotion ; by better provision for the organisation and regulation of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, or otherwise." Also (b) "as to the desirability of establishing some authority or tribunal to which all schemes of railway or tramway construction of a local character should be referred, and the powers which it would be advisable to confer upon such a body." For the purposes of carrying out these instructions, 112 meetings were held, and 134 witnesses examined orally. Subsequently, members of the Commission visited the United States of America and various Continental cities to investigate fully various systems of urban locomotion. The report points out that the area to be dealt with is that of the City of London and the Metropolitan Police district, the whole of which is within is miles of Charing Cross, and that it contains 692.84 square miles, including land and inland water, but excluding tidal water and foreshore. This area, the Commissioners say, may conveniently be spoken of as "Greater London." They point out that the population has increased sixfold in a century, and express the opinion that it is impossible to foretell the extent to which the population will increase even in the next 30 years, although they appear to accept the view of the Royal Commission of Aga on the Metropolitan water supply, which estimated that in 1931 "Greater London" would contain, in round numbers, ii millions of people. They proceed to point out that the necessity for additional means of locomotion increases in a higher ratio than that of the growth of population, this being largely due to the gradual abandonment, for various reasons, of the crowded centres as places of residence, which necessarily involves an increase of the daily movement of the population. For example, the night population of the City of London has fallen from 112,063 in r861 to little more than 25,000 at the present time ; whereas no less than 1,2e0,000 persons and roo,00o vehicles enter and leave the City of London daily_ This tendency is not confined to the limits of the City of London., for the central area in which the night population is decreasing is continually growing in extent. The Commissioners point out that the statistics of traffic are incomplete and do not include the whole of the omnibus traffic ; but they accept the estimate that, approximately, x,x64,000,000, giving an average of 170 journeys per head per annum of the population, is the total number of passengers carried by local railways, omnibuses, and tramways in "Greater London" for the year ending June 3oth, 1904. An interesting table is given on page 8 of the report, showing the aggregate of stoppages per day of 12 hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., at various congested centres, such as points of cross-traffic in Piccadilly, the Strand, at Ludgate Circus, and the Bank. These vary from 3hr. 32min. at Wellington Street, to 6hr. smin. at Princes Street—circumstances which, the Commissioners point out, will arise at many other points of inter-section unless some remedy is applied. The delays so engendered are stated by the Commissioners to press most heavily on the professional and working classes, and especially on those who have to proceed a considerable distance to their work or business every day, and they accept the estimate of Sir Alexander Bruce, Assistant Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, that 6o per cent, of the vehicular traffic of London is made up of omnibuses and hackney carriages. Proceeding from this question of street congestion to the housing problem, interesting statistics are given of the capital cost of three-roomed cottages at Bourne and Tooting, a rental of 7s. to 75. 6d. per week making the latter scheme self-supporting. They state that the fundamental difficulty in the way of improving the means of locomotion in T.ondon is the insufficiency of street accommodation, because the streets are not laid out on a regular plan, and are not of sufficient width ; and they ascribe the difficulties in this connection to the fact that no municipal body was in the past possessed of sufficient authority or given jurisdiction over the whole area. Proceeding to review, briefly, the various measures adopted in the past for facilitating locomotion in London, beginning with the rejection of the plans of Sir Christopher Wren and Sir John Evelyn, after the Great Fire, the Commissioners shortly summarise the various efforts of the Corporation of the City of London. the Metropolitan Board of Works, and, more recently, the London County Council, to that end. Railway construction and tramway construction are next dealt with at length, and the conclusion of the Commissioners is that an increase of street accommodation is absolutely necessary, and that this fact renders the question one of cost. They point out that a sum of £16,246,521, or, approximately, £325,000 per annum, has been spent during the last so years, but that during the last is years the average expenditure was very considerably higher than during the previous 35 years. The county rate of the Administrative County of London for the year 1902-3 was £659,521, which is equivalent to a rate of 3.94d. in the on the asessable value in April, 1902, this debt charge including the sinking fund, and the London County Council is of opinion that this charge is as high as the ratepayers can bear. Main avenues, 240ft. wide, first-class arterial streets, looft. wide, and others down tc. a fourth-class, 40 or soft. wide, are recommended, all inclusive of footways, together with proper safeguards for the laying-out of building estates, but the Commissioners leave the question of cost, now put at another ‘24,roo,000. They do not appear to like the suggestion of the T..C.C. that a tax of 4d. in the Z: should be levied on land values, although they are more inclined to flirt with a big speculation in " back " lands as a means of recoupment. The Commissioners' views as to improvements in traffic regulation include the prescribing of routes, but it is admitted that the police authorities do not evince any anxiety to accept this duty, and it looks as though the power should be vested in the London County Council. The Commissioners think that body might more willingly make alternative thoroughfares, had it the right to order the fresh routes to be fi.11owed by certain classes of vehicles. It is pointed out that there should be greater uniformity of action on the part of the various interests which are entitled to break up the streets, and that further legislation is necessary, whilst the rights of cosiermongers and other itinerant vendors are stated to require the enactment of some measure to make more direct procedure possible for the police. Whitechapel Hay Market, which is held in the middle of the High Street, is put down for removal, likewise all fixed objects or impediments to free and rapid movement in the streets. The law on the subject of keeping slow-moving vehicles to the kerb is found to require strengthening, and a periodical review of the location of cab stands is urged.
The Commissioners recommend "a large extension of tramways in London and the suburbs ; that immediate attention be given to providing through communication between the different tramway systems within the Administrative County of London ; across the Thames by the Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges ; and that provision be made for through running inside and outside the Administrative County of London." Twenty-three surface tramway routes, aggregating several hundred miles, are put down in die report. In reference to motor omnibuses they say "Experience alone can finally determine the limits of their use
fulness They will practically supersede horse omnibuses, -and thus remove from the streets, greatly to the public advantage, a form of vehicle which, although it has been of great public utility, is now one of the principal causes of congestion in many streets. But we think that, on routes suitable for tramways, where there is a large traffic, tramways will continue to be the most efficient and the cheapest means of street conveyance, and we cannot recommend the postponement of tramway extension in London on the ground of any visible prospect of the supersession of tramways." [The italics are ours, for it remains to be seen what are suitable routes for electric tramcars now that motor omnibuses are available.—En.]