Seaside Lodging Turns
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DNE of the happier ideas that arose out of the nationalization of transport was the inauguration of the British Transport Review, containing articles y members and staff of the Commission, with occaonal contributions from outside experts. The Review ppears three times a year, and each issue has presented 1 invaluable picture of what the key men in the CornLission were thinking at that time. In so far as the bmmission may be said to have a soul, the Review iotted its progress.
Even the supporters of the first Transport Act would nv admit that it was over-burdened with dogma, and ) the reader, if not to the writer, many of the articles 1 the early issues were coloured by the wish to avoid eresy. The views expressed were the contributor's and )t necessarily the Commission's, but it was obvious tat he would have to be reasonably orthodox or else ald his peace on such matters as integration, charges Id accountability. The second Transport Act has :moved a good deal of the dogma. There is more scope )1variety and even differences of opinion.
The latest issue contains the first of a series of articles icier the general heading of "Towards Fuller Employent." They should make interesting reading if the -St sets the standard. Mr. G. F. Fiennes, an assistant visional operating superintendent in the Eastern Region British Railways, has chosen passenger rolling stock his subject. He puts forward propositions that may >t be new but at least appear to have been thought out 'resh. In designing a timetable, he suggests, too much tention has been paid to the supposed public demand. shift of emphasis to the more efficient use of rolling ock might in the end give the public greater tisfaction.
They Took it and Liked • it
Mr. Fiennes gives four examples of experiments in is direction. He claims that "in spite of the subordinam of the public interest a far better public service ierged " and that each experiment was a marked lancial success. One of the lessons learned was that uch can be gained from the "simple device of starting train and a crew at each terminal at a given time each .y and running it backwards and forwards as Nuently as it will go, and adding to the service only ch extra trains as one is forced to add."
The enemy of efficient and cheap transport, as Mr. ennes appears to see it, is the peak. An extra train at costs £275 a year in an off-peak period costs £5,700, over 20 times as much, in a peak period. "And yet, the limit of track capacity and reckless of cost in Ring stock and train crews, we fall over ourselves to Lt on peak services. We march, horse, foot and guns, to traffic commissioners' courts and oppose our )uld-be benefactors who are trying to take our peak tffic from us, when what we should be doing is to mplain that the proposed road service is at 15-minute :ervals and should be at five."
This is strange but not unreasonable doctrine. Mr. ennes suggests that it can be applied generally." The :a. that public demand governs transport, he says, is le only in a limited sense. Transport undertakings ve the power to channel public demand. When they ange their plans radically for the better "they should .their eyes above the needs of the few whom any change will not suit, to the benefits which the many present users will enjoy, and beyond them to the new markets which speed and frequency will reach."
Without intending it, Mr. Fiennes leaves one with the uneasy feeling that the dictatorship of the expert is just around the corner. The next step in his argument might be that the gentleman in the Ivory Tower knows best. To illustrate his point he sets out the profit and loss of taking people to the seaside. The demand for corridor carriages in one area rises from 440 on a winter weekday to 800 on a peak summer Saturday. One-third of the stock is in use for a few days only in the year, and much of it does one trip to the seaside each Saturday. On the most favourable basis, a train running a journey of 150 miles to the coast for six Saturdays in the height of the summer would cost £12,750, made up almost entirely of the cost of the coaches. The probable revenue would be £5,500.
Going and Coming
If only, sighs Mr. Fiennes, people could be persuaded to go away for their holidays on Friday evening and return on Saturday evening, some of the rolling stock could do four trips instead of one, and the same revenue could be earned at a cost of only £3,750. Mr. Fiennes admits that people like to get to their hotel or boarding house by lunch-time on Saturday, and that the proprietors like to speed the parting guests before midday. He probably sees the connection between the two preferences but cannot understand why the consequences should fall upon the provider of transport.
In a lighthearted passage (it is hard to believe he is completely serious here) Mr. Fiennes indicates that the inducement to the public to travel to and from its holiday resorts at the times that suit him would probably have to be by regulation, or by reduced off-peak fares, "or indeed by increased fares during the peak." Such observations, whimsical though they may be, go a long way to justify the existence of the Transport Tribunal.
Meeting Public Demands It would be a pity to discourage individuals such as Mr. Fiennes from thinking boldly and freshly ahout the problems of transport. The public must be presumed, however, to know what it wants. Providers of transport, by road and rail, have stimulated new demands, and should concentrate on this rather than on stifling demands that are already being met. The seaside landlady has built her livelihood around the Saturday morning interchange of customers, and her indignation at an attack upon this arrangement would attract considerable support.
Road transport operators on both the passenger and the goods side admit that transport is the servant of the public, and the Commission had better not forget it. It is ironical that Mr. Fiennes' article should be published in the middle of the dispute by railway workers about lodging turns. While the Commission have some difficulty in persuading their employees what is best for them, one would expect some hesitation before an attempt to educate the public into changing their transport habits. Railway users may not have a trade union, but they have at least the right to turn to another form of transport if they are badly treated.