THE LADY AND THE COMPUTER
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j1-11TE Papers are seldom produced without some anguish V of mind on the part of the authors. Generally 'king they succeed in concealing their doubts and distresses. ir art lies in erasing the smudges left by the midnight oil in giving the impression all the way through that they are illing the essence of pure, unruffled thought.
rs. Barbara Castle has been less nate or less adept. For one thing has had to take over where her !cessor, Mr. Tom Fraser, left off. ems strange that neatly two years been consumed in producing ;tatement of policy which most le supposed existed in draft form in sport House even before the Labour !rnment took office.
A HARASSED MINISTER ; the inevitable date of publication has n nearer, stories have appeared more more frequently of a harassed Minister ransport tearing up what has already written, altering passages previously .%1 for press, exhorting colleagues to see ;s her way, and arguing not only with )endent operators but also with bodies as trade unions and nationalized rtakings with which she might have cted to be in complete agreement. er sincere attempt to adopt what the e Minister would call a pragmatic oach was bound to bring her into lict with the unyielding ideologies. ther obstacle is that no ideal solution s for the problems she is tackling. familiar device of the White Paper may ct have to be superseded at least in the of transport. There are signs that it is Kly on the way out.
'hen one thinks of the surveys and ies which have been made into transport ilems the roll call of names is reassuring if the results have not always been iinating. We have had reports persond under the names of Hall, Geddes, ianan, Smeed, Rochdale, Devlin, Jacks many more. There is a sound British about them.
A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE nly in the past week or so has there a change which may be significant. second phase of the London Traffic ey acknowledges its begetters imDnally as the Ministry of Transport the Greater London Council. The agement study on Britain's ports comes I the Port of London Authority. The only name which emerges from these recent developments is that of Martech.
It is easy to imagine that the very name has been devised by a computer. It has an interplanetary, technological ring about it. Taken separately the two syllables are British and build up an impression of stolid common sense. In combination they have a subtly exotic flavour which does no more than suggest that the expertize of the devilish foreigners has not been overlooked. It is a -name to conjure with and might well have been produced after feeding these various qualities into a machine.
What may be the permanent effect of the two new documents is that all future surveys on transport will have to be conducted on the same scale and will have to use similar up-to-date techniques. The various problems which arise are all interrelated. They cannot be solved in isolation and no individual or committee would be able to resolve them without the help of a computer.
FORMIDABLE INCREASES The scale of the problem emerges most clearly from the GLC report. It aims to forecast the situation in 1981, about 20 years after the first phase of the survey began. For goods vehicles, as for every other type of road transport with the possible exception of buses, the projected increases are formidable. External and through goods vehicle journeys in the London area, says the report, will have increased by 80 per cent and internal goods journeys by 73 per cent.
The report estimates that the number of passengers carried by public road transport will fall from 3.9m. to 2.7m. journeys per day by 1981. This will be in spite of an estimated 26 per cent increase in the number of people, not resident in the area, using public transport. They will apparently prefer commuting by rail to central London.
Plans by the GLC include three great ring roads, roughly concentric. The cost at present-day values might be anything between £1,000m. and £2,000m.—in other words, up to five or six times the total amount spent on all roads throughout Britain each year. Obviously it is important that the GLC should get the sums right.
The plans call for special lorry routes especially on journeys to docks. At this point the report links up with the almost equally ambitious survey by the PLA. This is concerned more exclusively with the present situation, although the information obtained will be the raw material for future planning.
Whether or not the PLA originally hoped to restrict the investigation to London, it must soon have become clear that only a complete analysis of all overseas trade would be of any use. Naturally. London is revealed as the greatest single artery of Britain's trade. It handles more exports and imports to and from all parts of the world than any other port, except that Liverpool has a marginal lead in traffic to and from North America.
According to the PLA many of the facts now revealed are new and may "make it necessary to re-think present plans". Certainly the balance shown between different forms of transport can have come as no surprise. Of the tonnage of British imports, 56 per cent leave their port of entry by road and 11 per cent by rail. The remaining 33 per cent is either used in the port, as with cereals sent to dockside mills, or travels by barge or coaster to the point where bulk is broken. Undoubtedly a good deal of this last traffic goes by road for part of its journey.
Road transport is even more important in the export trade. It accounts for 75 per cent of tonnage moved to ports. A further 16 per cent goes by rail and direct loading or waterborne transport is responsible for the remaining nine per cent.
In London itself the predominance of road transport is still more striking. Half of all the import traffic leaves the port by road and only three per cent by rail. Of the export traffic 70 per cent reaches London by road and only nine per cent by rail. The actual figures point up the situation further. The 13+m. tons of import traffic handled by London in a year are over one quarter of the national figure of 49m. tons; and London's export traffic of 4fm. tons forms part of a national total of 19m. tons. These statistics are bound to be absorbed at some time or another in the computerized forward thinking of the GLC.