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The Craving of Municipalities to Enter the Bus Business.

24th February 1925
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Page 1, 24th February 1925 — The Craving of Municipalities to Enter the Bus Business.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

THERE is quite a pretty struggle going on at the moment in many places over the desire. of the municipalities, where the conditions are suitable and the prospects at all attractive, to secure the business of passenger conveyance by public hire vehicles.

One can feel a certain sympathy with the principle of a municipality providing an essential service such as transport of people, because in theory,• that service is as vital to the community as the supply of water or electric power and the provision and operation of a drainage system. Such services must be continued whether they pay or not, and if they cannot, for one reason or another, be made to pay, the local rates may fairly be drawn up to meet any deficiency.

If one were asked why continuity of service should be set above profit earning, it would be not unreasonable to reply that it is not always or merely the person who employs one of the services we have. in mind who necessarily receives the benefit, and so it is not a question of the relation between buyer and seller. If A wants a yard of cloth and buys it from B, A directly reaps the benefit of the service which B has provided, whilst, if a high price has been a bar to a purchase, A is the only person who has lost an advantage. But, if a doctor cannot quickly reach a patient because a bus service, temporarily unprofitable to run, has been discontinued, the patient—or third party in the transaction—is the direct loser. ' • The country, as it happens, has been well served in the past by the large bus concerns, continuity of service having been, maintained on unprofitable routes because it has been recognized that, in this way, goodwill is built up and traffic is encouraged to develop. In very many cases, it would be extremely unwise for a municipality to compete with such services, where they are adequate to public requirements, nor is it fair to adopt a policy of repression, by way of a refusal of licences, where a local desire has arisen to appropriate to the public authority a business which has been built up by private enterprise.

Perhaps it were rather ungracious to suggest that _ a municipal authority, desirous of acquiring a bus undertaking without taking the proper -course of • purchasing the assets and the business of one or more concerns operating in its area, should seek for routes which are not already covered and open up those. Obviously,, there would be little credit or merit in such pioneer work, but if, in this way, new residential districts were more quickly developed, the reward to a municipality, ultimately if not immediately, would be considerably greater than could be represented by the profit on a transport undertaking. In that way a municipal body stands to gain something which can never fall to the lot of sa private concern.

Developing the Use of Heavy Oils in Road Transport Power Units.

OUR PRESENT methods of employing petroleum and the products distilled from it are excessively wasteful. The millions of gallons of the lighter frac tions which are classified under the name of petrol or petroleum spirit are only obtained by the em ployment of vast quantities of crude oil, for in the case of ordinary distillation methods the output of the lighter fractions is comparatively small, when considered with the total volume of oil which has to be put through the stills. • Efforts, some of which have proved fairly successful, have been made to obtain a higher production of spirit suitable for use in internal-combustion engines of the ordinary petrol type, by various methods of cracking, but even with the best of these there is still a large surplus of crude oil. The result is that motor spirit is comparatively dear, and the residual oils are often employed in a most uneconomical manner, thousands of tons being burnt to feed the furnaces of our large liners and men-ofwar.

Such waste is almost bound to have a bad effect in the future. We do not believe in those who prophesy the early extinction of our supplies of crude oil, but no one has yet proved that oil is still in process of formation, and although it is found in many parts of the world, it is possible that, with the great increase which is occurring yearly in the consumption, some measure of output restriction may eventually have to be enforced. It will not do to stand by and await such an event. Every effort must be made not only to develop other fuels for use on road transport vehicles, but to make the best use of our present supplies. We have for long been staunch advocates of those who are experimenting—and some with a considerable measure of success—with the Diesel and semiDiesel types of engine, for these types of power unit can not only employ heavy residual oils, but also can take the utmost advantage of the heat units contained in them, and one great advantage of the Diesel type is that it can be started from cold without the use of any light fuel. It is probable, however, that a considerable time will elapse before the Diesel engine obtains a real footing in the commercial vehicle world, and in the meantime every encouragement should be given to the employment of other means which, by conserving the fuel supply, will tend to relieve the situation in respect of petrol.

The range of motor spirit which can be classified fairly as petrol suitable for use in commercial vehicles, although not so limited as in the case of private cars, is, taking an average figure, confined for general use to petroleum spirit not exceeding a specific gravity of .740. We have learnt. of petrol with a sp. gr. of as high as .760 being used on large fleets, but such fuel is not sold in the ordinary course. We are not considering those mixtures of petrol and aromatics which may have a sp. gr. of .800 or even higher, and yet be quite satisfactory because of the easy starting and good running ensured by the benzole content. This restriction of the range which can successfully be employed in the ordinary petrol engine, and the fact that some 75 per cent, of the total quantity of petrol consumed in this country is used by commercial vehicles, form a big drain on the oil supplies and constitute a very important factor in the ultimate cost of petrol to private and commercia' consumers.

If it be possible successfully to employ Diesel oils and gas oils in petrol engines without necessitating excessive modifications of the power units, so that a large number of the heavier types can be changed to run on these heavier oils, then a very satisfactory step will have been made towards the solution of the present difficulties, and more petrol will be freed for private uses without causing an added strain on the present sources of supply. From investigations which we have .carried out recently, it appears that this problem of slightly modifying a petrol engine to utilize heavy oils is quite within the range of possibility and, in fact, has been achieved, and this with no deleterious results, such as dilution of the lubricating oil in the crankcases, a fault whieh has commonly occurred where efforts have. been made to utilize paraffin alone or mixed with petrol. The one fault—if such it can be called—is that a small quantity of petrol must be used for starting. It is interesting to note that fleets of vehicles have been running for long periods on heavy oils of specific gravities ranging from .880 to .890, and we await with the greatest interest certain important developments which are occurring in connection therewith in this country.

Sunderland's Success with Buses.

WHILST the number of motorbuses has greatly increased during the past year, the number of tramcars licensed (according to the recently published figures of the Ministry of Transport) has diminished to 14,076 from 14,147, not a big reduction but one that demonstrates the tendency. It was said last week by the chairman of the large tramway undertaking serving the Sunderland district, that their business was in the throes of a revolutionary change, forced upon them by the success of the internal-combustion engine. When this engine became established electric tramways were faced with a rival before which they were bound sooner or later to succumb.

The effect in the case of Sunderland of the decision to abandon the tramways and to substitute a fully equipped motorbus service met with instant success, a loss over a certain route previously covered by tramcars being replaced by a profit earned by the buses. There are two points of interest in this decision. The Sunderland district carries a large and dense population, and it is under those conditions that a tramway has some justification because of its ability, if well equipped with rolling-stock, to move the large volume of traffic offering at peak hours. The second point of interest is found in the fact that it has been found possible, despite the altered condi tions of service, to continue the employment of the whole of the tramwaymen, and, moreover, to increase the number employed.

The next five•or ten years will leave a permanent mark upon the tramway undertakings of this country.


Organisations: Ministry of Transport
Locations: Sunderland

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