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24th January 1918
Page 19
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

The Only Present Palliative is to Keep the "Wheels of Industry" Turning. By "The Inspector."

IHAVE RATHER a rooted objection to referring my readers to anything I have previously written, preferring, if possible, to let each article stand for itself. But at the risk of seeming to suggest "I told you so," I cannot this week refrain from harking back to an article entitled.-" Petrol and Potatoes" which the Editor published a few weeks back, and also to another which appeared in the issue dated the 13th September and entitled "Wanted a 0. (1 of N.T.," the mystic letters' in the latter title standing for "Director General of National Transport." In those two articles I laid stress on what, in my opinion, was the imminent need for consideration of our methods of internal transport.

The position with regard to the food question has, of course, become a great deal more acute since I wrote the first of those two articles. Many of the present shortages are undoubtedly traceable to inefficiency .of transport and delivery methods. It is, of eourse a fact that the railway facilities of the country are gradually and steadily deteriorating. The lack of material and the withdrawal of labour are increasingly precluding proper and prompt repair and maintenance of plant. Substitution of officials, which is part and parcel q the national need for the with-. drawal of more and more men for direct Army purposes automatically results in less effective control. What is true Of the railways: is equally true of roadhaulage organizations, and I suppose it is not without its effect in connection with canal traffic although of that I know little. Generally speaking, however, the internal transport system of the country is not improving, and just at a time when rapid and suitable distri

bution is of the utmost importante. .

I notice that not a few readers of this journal, who are apparently alive to the present position of affairs, are inclined to foster the idea that that portion of the nation's troubles which are concerned with the insufficiency of road transport is directly traceable to the sinister machinations of the railway magnates of this -country and their hirelings. Whilst I concede, of course, that the railways look with no very benevolent eyes on the growing effectiveness of road transport for goods and passenger haulage, I am not prepared to admit that the present difficulties are traceable to any great extent if at all to the railway bogey. The railway interests of this country just now have their hands, I think, far too full with their own enormous difficulties to find time to plot and plan against the present and future development of even such a sturdy rival as the commercial . meter. There is no proof that this is the ease, and I for one refuse to ally myself with those who are conjuring up reasons which do not exist. , and. iniso doing appear to be likely to waste effort of mind and action which might be more discreetly applied.

When I wrote, some while ago, of the desirability of appointing a Director-General of Motor Transport, I wrote of such inauguration merely as a counsel of perfection. I still regard the nationalization, on anything like an effective scale, of our multitudinous civilian motor-vehicle units as a practical impossibility, even with a suggested Napoleon of Transport as the fons a origo of any such scheme. One swallow does not make a summer, nor will one Such Napoleon provide us with a coherent scheme of` national road _ transport. Taw; such an appointment might conceivably effect contebl as between the railways, the road traffic. the canals and the coast-wise carrying. It

might be found desirable to restrict the use to. which such classes of traffic units. were put, but to attempt anything like a national traffic exchange and the coordination of everyone's ton-miles is a task that certainly cannot be undertaken in war time, if ever. No D.G. of N.T. -could do anything with it. We can write about it, we can talk about it, but that, in my opinion, is as far as we shall get with it.

How fa.r the Ministry of Munitions, with its complete knowledge of the productive resources of this country, and the way in which these can best be used in this hour of necessity, is prepared to encourage facilities for the production of isolated replacement parts, I am unaware but I can, readily imagine that there is likely to be little opportunity forthcoming for high priority to be granted for the production of spare parts of a difficult nature, and very often for outof-date models. There would be, I should imagine, little trouble about thesecuring of replacements if the -chassis for which they were wanted were of types for which there are war-tame demands in thin country or abroad in friendly realms. In any case, I believe that if there are any machines of reasonably modern types out of action at the present time, that the-proper department of the Ministry of Munitions will be

• found quite ready to grant facilities for their reasonably quick repair.

I notice that one of the correspondents in a recent issue of this journal, writing on this subject, presupposes that, if Government organization steps in to attempt a solution of this problem, there is every possibility of there being "chaotic bungling." He uses a pretty phrase, but one which to my mind is not necessarily applicable. I am aware of quite efficient work which is already being done by several Government departments in connection with particular branches Of national traffic, and I can only assume that the correspondent in question is one of those who is 'bitten with the fashion of condemning all national effort as ineffective. This is to be deprecated on the score that it is not well informed, nor is it fair to those who have to struggle with' difficulties of which critics are very often impeafectly aware. Government assistance in this matter is necessary, but it need not be on the lines of a Napoleonic attempt to co-operate the traffic of the whole country. Much good work is at present being done in connection with the facilitating of maintenance negotiations for those who can prove real necessity. More could still be done if the Ministry were able to decide that the priority is an-urgent one, and that facilities shall be made available in 'some settled measure to maintain and improve internal transport facilities.

So far as co-ordination of loads and lorries are concerned, this I am convinced can only be done, in the present circumstances, by local organization. Decentralization must be the key-note to any effort in this direction at present. Much is already being effected by local co-operation ; much more could be done if "the authorities" can. be persuaded to encourage such efforts. I am afraid I am even now somewhat sceptical as to the amount of light loading. and so on that is taking place. Owners of vehicles in running order are fairly wideawake to the situation, and in many oases with which I personally am acquainted they have made quite effective arrangements for increasing the ton-miles. It is on such lines, backed by some measure of support for their claims for repair and maintenance facilities, that I think we must look for any real relief of the present situation.


Organisations: Ministry of Munitions
People: Such Napoleon

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