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26th August 1966, Page 68
26th August 1966
Page 68
Page 68, 26th August 1966 — FREUDIAN SLIP
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

y IKE the psycho-analyst probing into the subconscious or the Li diver fascinated by the creatures he finds on the floor of the ocean, whoever takes a passage almost at random from the Government's White Paper on transport policy will find in it food for speculation and for wonder. As good an example as any is the following sentence from the section dealing with the road


"Since road planning is an essential part of physical and economic planning, the Ministry's plans are being drawn up after consultation with Regional Economic Planning Councils, other Government departments, the National Ports Council and the British Railways Board."


Apparently the people who use the roads are to have no say at all in deciding which roads should be built. Perhaps the words are not to be taken so literally. The significant point is that the users' wishes are not considered worth mentioning, whereas the advice of the railways is to play an important part Even the Transport Holding Company is not specifically to be brought into consultation.

Plans or planning are mentioned four times in the one short sentence. This is characteristic of long stretches of the White Paper. There are few specific indications of what is to be done. Almost any action taken by the Minister of Transport could find its justification in a statement of policy which seems to take pride chiefly in the large number of subjects under discussion.

Close attention to the text suggests that some of the discussions are spurious and that the verdict has already been reached in advance of the evidence. It is impressive at first sight to read that the Ministry is doing research into trunk route transport costs and is carrying out another survey into the factors which influence the choice made between different forms of transport by industrial users. The results are expected towards the end of 1966 and according to the White Paper will help to answer the "hitherto unresolved question" of track costs. The statement concludes: "When this information is available the Government will decide what changes will be required in the conditions in which road goods vehicles are operated."

Nothing is said about changing the conditions in which trains are operated. Surely this can only mean that the Govern

ment has made up its mind in advance on the answer to the "unresolved question". Handicaps of some kind are to be imposed on the road goods vehicle running on trunk routes. Nor is there any reference to the passenger vehicle or the private car. By a Freudian slip the White Paper reveals That the Government is interested not so much in the pointless argument about track costs as in finding a plausible excuse for restricting long-distance road transport.

What the White Paper leaves out may be more important than what it puts in. The absence of any direct reference to the C-licence holder is hardly a good omen. On the other hand the haulier has a paragraph to himself in the following terms: "The Government is also considering ways in which the efficiency and productivity of the road haulage industry may be effectively improved. It wishes, too, to link the road haulage industry more effectively with national and regional economic and transport planning. Representatives of the industry are beginning to play their part in the development of ideas and plans for transport in the regions, but the industry should be brought in more effectively at national level."

coiPLANNING TO THE FORE Plans and planning are also very much to the fore in this short extract. Attention should also be drawn to the curious and repeated use of the word "effectively". The impression is of a reluctance by the Government to admit that any improvements made by the industry on its own initiative can be "effective". The magic of a national plan is needed to make the transformation.

Hauliers have always prided themselves on their efficiency. Their record is good also on productivity if this is measured by the amount of traffic carried by the average vehicle. Hopes of increasing efficiency have more often than not been frustrated by circumstances not entirely within the control of the haulier, such as congestion, delay at terminals, the reluctance of the unions to agree to faster schedules and the refusal of the railway unions to allow road haulage vehicles to collect or deliver liner-train traffic.

The White Paper could scarcely deny that within these limitations good progress has been made. It is still necessary to suggest that the progress is not good enough. There is no breath of criticism of the Transport Holding Company. In spite of this the company is to be swallowed up in the new national freight organization. There is no direct accusation that independent hauliers are inefficient. Nevertheless, the licensing system is to be scrapped and "the Government" is going to take over the job of improving efficiency.

RE-SHAPING OF POLICIES "To achieve all this will require a fundamental and detailed re-shaping of policies, legislation, regulations and machinery now affecting road goods transport. The Government has set this in hand."

At the end of the day, therefore, the Clicence holder is brought in. There must be many points affecting him in such a comprehensive revision of the structure of the goods vehicle industry. In the White Paper at least he can find nothing to clarify the Government's opinion on whether he should still have the unrestricted right to carry his own goods on his own vehicles without discouraging handicaps such as the tax on journeys beyond certain distances which is imposed in some other countries. It is also not stated whether when he chooses to send his goods by haulier or by another form of transport he will continue to have an unrestricted choice.

Not the least extraordinary feature of the White Paper is its scanty indication of priorities. The one subject for which "greater priority" is promised is the problem of traffic conditions in towns. There are few suggestions, however, on how this priority is to be given effect. The general imporession is that all the measures proposed for dealing with the various aspects of transport are to be put in hand together regardless of the enormous cost. Proposals for the more orderly tackling of the problems might have been better received.

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