PASSENGER TRAVEL NEWS.
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The Latest Doings and Developments in the Bus and Coach World.
COACHING CONDITIONS CHANGED.
What the Past Has Revealed and What the Future Holds, with Particular Reference to the Activities of a Prominent Lancashire Concern.
ITI.HE TIME is rapidly approaching _L when coach owners, as a body, will once again be getting their vehicles ready for the road, full of hope that the 1924 season will satisfy the deferred exp ectatione of the past two or three years— years of promise and of disappointment. It is generally admitted by owners, especially those operating in industrial districts that there is great, leeway to be made up, and that the only way to balance the shortcomings of the past is not merely to get more business but -to iseels to a rate that affords a better chance of an economic return.
The experiences of the Lancashire United Tramways, Ltd., of Atherton, Manchester and Liverpool afford a good reflection of conditions in South-west Lancashire. Their plans, for the coming season, so far as they have been preparedeare for services quite as ambitious asthose of last year and, as usual, the company expect to secure a good share of the available business in private hire work.
To meet the depressed conditions of last year the Lancashire United Tramways, Ltd., finding scope for the employment of enclosed vehicles, converted seine of their coaches to saloons, and these vehicles have been turned to good account for general-srrVice work, especially for football engagements during the past few months.
The company's fleet at the beginning of the year consisted of 22 Dennis 28seater coaches, one 23-seater. Daimler, one 14-seater Unic, seven 14-seater Fiate and two Austin lanclaulets. The smaller vehicles are reserved for passengers desiring and prepared to pay for better Claes travelling facilities, such as are required on long-distance tours. The organisers of private parties who charter 14-seater coaches can, if they be not unwilling to pay a reasonable hiring fee, also hire the Austin landanlets at the same rates as are charged for the soaehes. The saloon coach with a roll-top roof and drop windows commends itself to the directors of the Lancashire United Tramways, Ltd., as an ideal intermediate unit between the accepted types of coach and bile body respectively. This style of vehicle has been found particularly useful on the Blackpool-Atherton, Wigan service, which last year centniented in May, and was operated daily .until the end of the seaeon. In connection with this journey one saloon coach starts from Manchester at 9,30 F4.111. and another from Eccles station at about the Same time, the vehicles meeting at Wigan, whence, if the load be sufficient for one vehicle, passengers are transferred from the other coach and the journey is continued by the one vehicle only. The return fare is 7s., with a single journey rate of 58. from all points. The Blackpool-South-west Lancashire runs
will be resumed at the appropriate part of the eseason.
During the 1923 season the motor • coach fleet of the company traversed 162,000 miles—a fine total, bearing in mind that there was not nearly the same amount of traffic as in any previous year, at least since 1920. As a matter of fact., to take the number of trips as a criterion, they were only slightly more than half -those of 1921,, whilst the rates declined by 25 per cent. to 40 per cent.
The position may be lucidly set forth in tabular form :— 1923 id.-1.41. 1,750 It should be explained that the highest rate Iast year of ILd. per passenger per mile was charged for small private parties using 14-seater coechee. The individual mat bookings to Blackle0d1. worked out at .91d. per milei whilst on the Manchester-Llane;ollem run the figure was .8d. per mile.
Private hire work last season was calculated on the following basis s-28seaters—first. 40 miles id. per passenger eer mile, the remainder at id. per passenger per mile; 14-seaters—first 80 miles IA. per passenger per mile, the remainder id. per passenger per mile.
It is a.lways interesting to consider traffic figures in relation to the useful employment of the available number of coaches, and in this connection there has been an improvement on the 1922 figures, chiefly, as stated, to the conversion of some of the coaches to saloon vehicles, althreigh the records of 1920 have yet to be equalled.
In 1920 each coach averaged four days' employment inseven. .rn 1921 each coach averaged three days ' employment, in seven.
In 1922 each coach averaged two days' employment in seven.
In 1923 each coach averaged three days' employment in seven. Daring the course of the football sea eon the vehicles of the Lancashire United Tramways, Ltd., transport many thousands of passengers—followers of
the local teams—and it is evident front efferts which continue to be put forward by the railway companies, that they do not view with equanimity the transport of these great crowds by road vehicle. The coach fares to football matches are generally in the vicinity of Is. per passenger. On one occasion one of the railway companies advertised and ran " at a very low fare" a special train to a town in which a match was being played, in spite of which, however; the coach returns for the day were well up. to standard.
There has been keen competition for football traffic, but probably, by reason of the fact that the L.U.T. is able to put a sufficient number, of vehicles on the road to meet any emit demand, the corn. patsy have commanded the sympathy of the public, and the use of their coaches and buses, has; become a habit on football days.
The enterprise 'of the company has asserted itself in another direction, namely, in connection with the allocation of special saloon Coaches for the conveyance of theatre parties from Man chester to. the Le:gh district. Previous to the institution of these facilities people resident in Leigh who attended a theatre in Manchester had either to leave before the entertainment was finished or face the trouble of a poor train service home. What the L.U.T. have done on occasions is to organize parties, book their seats at the theatre, convey them. from Leigh to Manchester, and after the show bring them back home again—all at an inclusive charge. Although no records were broken last year in the transport of large parties, the Summer Convention of the Institu tion of Electrical Engineers found ernployment for 15 coaches; the outing or ganized by the Manchester Electricity Department 18 coaches, and that for which D. Higgin, Ltd., were responsible, 19 vehicles. There was also Messrs.
Walker and Cain's picnic which called for the requisitioning ef transport for 630 passengers. Two eight-day tours to Devon were undertaken last year for Messrs. Cook's, and on each oecaSion the journey—about 1,000 miles were covered .—was made by a 28-seater Dennis coach. During Blackpool carnival week, there
was a big volume of coach traffic, and on one day 18 L.U.T. coaches were put into service. In addition to the time-table buses, other vehicles made continuous journeys up to 6 p.m.
Some of the specially advertised sightseeing tours that did extremely well last season, and which are to be repeated this
year, were those to Belmont, Whalley, Whitewall and the Trough of Boland,
etc., visiting Lancaster and Morecambe, and allowing a three-hours' stay at Blackpool. On this rim 14-seaters were employed, and there was no difficulty in getting 12s. 6d. per head for the journey. The company intend, during the next few months, to stimulate with as much vigour as possible, the demand for the comforts such as • the smaller coach provides. • Cheap Sunday evening circular tours, covering from 30 to 50 miles for 2s. 9d. per passenger were patronized fairly well last season, and are listed for continuation in the coming season's pro g ramme Week-end tours in Wales, works parties, extended tours, and the undertaking of catering arrangements for coach passengers are only a few of the 1924 projects of the Lancashire United Tramways, Ltd. So far as tyre equipment is concerned, N.A.P. cushion and pneumatic tyres are 1140 still used on the 14-seater coaches, and an experimental use is now being made of coral tyres. One of the 28-seaters is equipped with super-cushion tyres; those on the front wheels have a mileage of 27,090, and those on the rear 23,000 miles to their credit.
The company hold out no hope of a reduction in rates this year. Had there been a reduction, instead of an increase, in the price of petrol, there might have been a possibility of lower fares, but
that factor has now vanished. The opinion of the management of the LILT, is that during the past two years -rates have been cot below the working limit, in some instances too low to permit of a really sound and efficient service being given to the public.
The intention of the directors of the Lancashire United Tramways, Ltd., this year is not to wait for coach traffic, hut to go out and gets-it. They believe that by advertising and exerting constant pressure on the public they will develop a greater demand not only for singleseat but also for party bookings, and thereby achieve better average running figures. If rates become more settled they will make conditions more promising and enable details to be worked out for the promotion of greater efficiency.