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Rates Situation at Llandudno. Does the Coach Trade Lack Status ? Licensing Difficulty.
SOMETHING like two years ago The Commercial Motor published an interview with Mr. P. A. Wilkes, the managing director of the Llandudno Motor and Garage Co., who operate the Royal Red fleet of Thornycroft 28-seater coaches from Llandudno, in which be discussed the relative merits of the 18seater compared with the 28-seater coach. He declared himself quite unequivocally in favour of the larger vehicle, for reasons which were then clearly detailed.
At the present time motor coach fares at Llandudno are at sixes and sevens, so to speak; coach owners are quoting one against the other, and, despite the fact that there is a local motor coach owners' association, there is very little evidence of a sensible working agreement. A few days ago we had another interview with Mr. Wilk,es,zho, by the way, is the president of the Llandudno Coach . Owners' Association, and he claimed that the confidence he placed—and still places—in the 28-seater vehicle has been completely justified by events.
"Let me give you a simple illustration to prove my arguments," he said. "At one time, the Llandudno coach owners agreed to do a certain tour for 10s, This rate has been cut to ribbons. It is now down to 4s. I can book a load of 28 persons to bring me in a revenue of £5 12s. ; but ether owners running 18-seaters, shod with pneumatic tyres— admittedly fine machines—only get the same price (4s. per passenger), so that their total revenue, assuming they get a full load, is only £3 12s. The net result, therefore, is £2 more for the journey in favour of the 28-seater.
" At Llandudno in the season there enough work for us all at a fair rate, but the incident I have described aptly shows, the advantagenof the 28-seater over the smaller coach under the conditions that now prevail.
"Now, as to rates differences. The trouble dates back two or three rears, when a firm who had recently joined the association asked that the association should support them in obtaining a . kiosk (private property) near the pier.
This was outside the objects of the association, and it was pointed out that the collective influence of the associated members could not be used far the purpose in view. They withdrew from the association, and have since maintained the attitude that it was for them to decide their own rates.
"Another company in the association then turned round and said that they must have a free hand to deal with this competition. It was not possible for the association to dissent from that view, the effect of which was that the obtainlug of agreed prices went by the board, not only in fact but in theory. "The result has been that so far this season there has been a severe epidemic of price-cutting, and rates have been cut to ribbons.
"I took the opportunity of endeavour jug to speak to other coach owners to See if we could not come into line over prices. One company pointed out that, as they had not been very long in the business, they suffered in being the last to get loaded up for a journey, but were) willing to agreeto run at a price; slightly less than the general level of rates. There was something to be said for their point of view. Other peaplee however, took it on themselves to say' that they would do as they liked; and, that is tie position we are in to-day
Oaf attitude is to sit tight. With regard to the'local situation generally, , it. Is not the coach owner' who is workjug in agreement at slightly less • than the regular charges who is the source of trouble. His argument is quite reason able, viz.,he is the last to' get aviaY', and, ..therefore, should be allowed to go cheaper than anyone else. The impor-.. tont thing is that ha subscribes to the price list. But, at the moment; no price list is,being observed, and he therefore
suffers in consequence." "Would not the adoption of a penalty clause in the rules of the association be a means of enforcing decisions? " we queried.
"I do not think so," replied Mr. Wilkes. "If you have agreements which have a penalty clause as the sole basis of mutual working they will fizzle out. The first essential of a satisfactory
agreement is confidence. The only means of settling difficulties is to thrash them out round a table. The penalty clause is not the correct way of securing unanimity; but tif the Llandudno coach owners thought that a penalty clause would have a. corrective influence, would certainly fall in with their desires and try to make it work successfully."
Mr. Wilkes mentioned that his cornpuny had resigned their membership a the Commercial Meter Users Association because of its attitude on the question of taxation, which, he thought, was quite opposed to the interests of char-a-banes owners. He mentioned that towards the knd of May his company received bookings for a party. To fulfil their obligations they had to license eight machines. Obviously the return was not in proportion to the outlay involved.
"I am entirely opposed to the present method of toe taxation of motor coaches. We do not grumble about being taxed:but at the method of levying the tax. E we were assessed on the basis of the runs we make, I would not dissent. Neither would I object to a petrel tax. But relief we most have. The authorities allow us to take out a licence for one month provided it is the last month of the quarter, or for two months, if they are the last two months of the quarter; but if we wanted is licence for the first month only in a quarter we would have to pay for. the three menths. That is obviously unfair. There should be some modification in the incidence of the tax, whether by the issue of monthly, fortnightly, weekly or daily licences, or petrol tax, I de not care, but relief we must have.
"The present system of taxation compels us to take risks in the licensing of our machines that are onerous and burdensome. This year, owing to the early Easter, trade since then has been very on and off.
"The amount of business in the early part of the year Or later on hardly justifies one indulging in the purchase of licences, when the results over an uncertain period do not promise to be economic
"The unfortunate thing is that people who book conches do not know how we are weighted down by the tax, but this I will say, that clients to whom we have explained the licensing situation as it affects epoch owners have displayed a ready sympathy. Only a short time ago we booked a big party, and we put to the organizers the taxation difficulty, and suggested that, owing tothis, the party divide itself into two sections, the first to travel in the morning and the
second by the same coaches in the afternoon. They at once adopted our suggestion, and expressed enrprise at the way we were hampered by the tax. Absurd statements appear in the lay Press from time to time regarding the tax, and they should be vigorously corrected. "I look upon our trade as passing through a very vital period, not because
of economic considerations.but because of its undefined status. A lot of our problems arise from the lack of a clear legal idea of Where we stand. It was the biggest mistake the motor coach 'owner ever made to endeavour to compete with the railway's, because (1) they cannot and (2) they merely provoke competition." ,