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21st March 1922, Page 26
21st March 1922
Page 26
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

"The Inspector "interviews a leading haulier, a railway traffic superintendent, a lorry manufacturer and a prominent Government official, and sets down some fresh views on the road railway controversy.

NG PROBLEM fraught with greater significance has faced the commercial vehicle industry since its birthday than that now presented by the claim, of the railways to the use of the roads. We cannot ventilate the subject too thoroughly, and much of the increased discussion that has takea place in this connectionduring the past few weeks has been of great value in awakening public interest to the essential proposals that have to be analysed. During the past week or two I have seized opportunities which have presented themselves personally to inter. view representative men who might be presumed, to have opposing views on the questions that have to • be answered. I have, in this way, had the advantage of diacussing this new great " roads-for-the-railways" proposal with one of the principal traffic officials of the railway group whose Bill is now before Parliament, a leading and very enterprising North-Country haulier, a director of one of the most important lorrymanufacturing concerns in England, and, lastly, an active and well-informed Government official. Perhaps at will be of interest to set down something in the nature of a synopsis of the widely differing views of which I was the interested recipient.

Many' of us were surprised to learn that the oppositima of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders had been "bought off" by those interested in promoting the new Railways Bill of the L. and N.W. and Midland group. And, when we learned of the proposed terms, we were more than surprised. My_ manufacturing friend characterized the settlement as quite a poor one from the works end of the industry. The undertaking not to manufacture for the first five years gives nothing away, as those of us who know the difficulties encountered by any manufacturing concern Will appreciate only too well. The railways could not with any confidence commence building under five years, but it may be quite safely assumed that they will apply for powers to do so shortly afterwards, should the Bill become law. My railway acquaintance was quite unable to deny the possibility—and, when pressed, even the probability.

In addition to this promise not to do something they cannot conveniently do, in the absence of experience and factory equipment, the railway group suggest the purchase of a moderate number of new chassis in five years—a number that is not at all clearly specified. Nor does it appear to be established as to whether this first Bill and its concessions are to be token to apply to all railways, British and Scottish, or only to the first L. and N.W.R. and Midland group. The trade is not to be treated too lavishly in the five years. Will the bulk of the orders go to the big factory already in a railway group ? Will the railways continue to buy cheap war-time wrecks at present prices and recondition them themselves? Reconditioning is not building within the meaning of the Act presumably! By no means a sound bargain, S.M.M. and T.—by no means definite enough ! We shall sect Well, the manufacturer and the concessionnaire have been " bought off "—for five years—while the railways learn the ropes and study the problem of manufacture from their own statistics of many types. In five years time, when the railways apply for new powers, including those to authorize them to build their own chassis, as they built their own locomotives, u26 the manufacturers may well look in vain for support to those other interests, and particularly to the hauliers, whose goose will by then have 'been nicely cooked. So says my prospering and enterprising haulier friend. And my railman acquaintance, anxious to allay others of my fears., frankly—very—franklyacknowledged that the demise of the independent , haulier was devoutly to be desired. ,

The builder of lorries, whose friendship I value far more than' his capacity to make the wheels go round, took the generous view that the railways should be permitted—and, indeed, . encouraged—to develop traffic of which one end connected with the railway. He felt, however, that it was' against public policy to permit huge and well-established corporations to assume entirely new and.detached opportunities upon which their own economic operation did not directly depend. As well let the electricity companies control the gas-lighting facilities, lie, suggested. Fully informed as to the dependence of modern transport upon the use of the roads, my factory friend thought it eminently undesirable to restrict the use by rail-ways of motor haulage as auxiliary to and a component of their existing rail-bound organization, but he could find no argument for the railways to become the Carter, Paterson or the Pickford of the whole country. He asked me a puzzling question :— " What facilities would Piekfords, for example, be given by Parliament to construct a new light railway as part of their organization ? What would be the betting on Carter, Paterson getting powers to build •a tramline as an auxiliary to their haulage ,

business? " •

To my suggestion that the further encouragement of tra-n sportmonopolies was certain to be inimical to public trading interests, the reply came, from my railway informant, that if the railways did not do this thing, it would always be open for someone not requiring Parliamentary powers to step into the breach, So that the threat to freight rates was no new one. I was reminded that Lord Incheape bad insisted on the importance to the trading community of _the freight-rate control to which the railways' road services would he subjected, adding, that the Bill was to provide for the keeping of separate road motor accounts. But it was no less a railway authority_ than Sir Eric Geddes whoconfessed that, in his opinion, no one but a railway accountant could effectively interpret railway accounts in any case.

There should yet be a few lines to get down art

criticisms of the Ron. Charles Napier Lawrence's apologia for the new proposals—the latter being, of course, chairman of the great L. and N.W.R., one of the promoting interests. After a careful recital of the anti-rail interests which had already been placated, the L. and N.W. chairman confessed some uneasiness at the public's distrust of the new proposals, which he professed not to understand. He protested that the railways were not asking to go beyond their own areas ; but, in the absence of definitions of a railway's "own area," this pretestation carries HUI& assurance, especially as he imme diately launched into the possibilities of programme of expansion into remote country parts, a highly ccssflyand unprofitable railway undertaking:, but possible to motor vehicles, with very little capital outlay.

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