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Road-transport Topics

27th January 1940
Page 32
Page 32, 27th January 1940 — Road-transport Topics
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

In Parliament

By Our Special Parliamentary Correspondent


-THE House of Commons last week

gave a second reading to the Gas and Steam Vehicles (Excise Duties) Bill. Mr. Bernays, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, explained briefly the objects of the Bill, which had been already stated on the submission of the Ways and Means Resolution last month.

Mr. George Hall (Merthyr Tydfil) intimated that the Labour oppdsition would not oppose the motion. Such a measure, he said, was long overdue. The ease with which oil fuels had been obtainable and the efficiency of their distribution had lulled this nation into

a sense of false security. Anything that would assist in the provision of alternative fuel for road or sea transport was welcomed by those Members who came from mining districts.

Whilst admitting that a helpful concession was given for gas-propelled vehicles, he said its value must not be exaggerated. For years the Government had been pressed to make such a concession but would not give way. However, this had not prevented many enterprising people and companies from following up the question of the pro

ducer-gas vehicle. This nation had always been behind Continental countries in dealing with alternative fuels. He took it that the design referred to some six weeks ago by the Secretary for Mines was now available to manufacturers, He wished some estimate had been given of the possible saving in fuel afforded by producer gas, and, in this connection, recalled that in 1920 the cost of petrol increased to no less than 45. 3d. a gallon. He quoted a case in which a petrol vehicle had been driven from South Wales to the Midlands, at a fuel cost of about 22s., whereas the same vehicle, converted to run on producer gas, had returned on 3s. worth of fuel.

It must be remembered that suitable fuels were practically limited to anthracite and low-temtlerature coke; he would, therefore, ask that the Fuel Research Board should continue its investigations in order to widen the range.


PRODUCER GAS, Mr. Hall continned, did not by any means exhaust the field of alternative fuels, and he would like the Government to press for a greater use of steamers.

He mentioned that some hundreds of miners in his division had been thrown out of employment through the steam A30 lorry having been driven from the road. Many objections made against it ten years ago had since then disappeared.

He welcomed the Bill and hoped that, ere long, the Secretary for Mines would expound a much larger scheme of fuel alternatives and possibly inform the House that it was intended to deal not only with producer gas but with oil extraction from coal as well.


IS important Bill did not go far 1 enough, said Mr. Ellis Smith. In France, in 1938, there were 10,000 vehicles running on producer gas. In Germany and Italy, in 1937, there were, respectively, 1,200 and 1,500, whilst in Russia, in 1938, the number was 15,000, but in Britain, in 1939, there were only 30 such vehicles. This indicated the leeway we had to make up.

If this Bill %-ere on the right lines our imports could be considerably reduced and it would lead to a great expansion of our coal trade. By an approximate capital expenditure on a commercial vehicle of £95, plus £5 for fitting, it would be possible to convert it to gas and to reduce running costs by roughly two-thirds.

Greater concessions, however, ought to be made. For instance, could not the Minister introduce an amendment to make each vehicle converted tax free for 12 months or two years? If he did not move on the lines indicated, he would shortly find himself in trouble.

He hoped, therefore, that the Ways and Means Resolution would be withdrawn so that the House might consider his proposals. He also suggested the insertion of a clause which would give confidence to operators. A concern involved in an expenditure of some thousands of pounds was entitled to some consideration . and naturally desired to be sure of the future. Therefore, there should be a clause to the effect that. the Bill should continue in operation for at least two years after the termination of the war. A further proposal was that during the hours of daylight, vehicles carrying their gas equipment on trailers should be released from trailer speed limits.

Since 1935 the taxation of producergas vehicles in Germany had been halved, and from 1936 to 1939 a State subsidy of 500 marks was given in that country to every converted vehicle. In France there had been substantial concess:ons. In June, 1938, there was a decree that 10 per cent. of the vehicles in fleets of more than 10 must he operated on home-produced fuel. In Italy all passenger vehicles had to be operated on home-produced fuel, whilst the State bore two-thirds of the cost.

He was convinced, concluded Mr. Ellis Smith, that the Ministry of Transport was out of touch with the conditions in industrial centres or it would not view the position with such com placency. About 2,500,000 tons of imported oil per year could be replaced if the Minister of Transport and the Secretary for Mines were more determined and energetic in the proposals behind the Bill.


I NTRODUCING the subject of electric vehicles, which enjoyed a concession, Mr. Higgs said they were not really so useful as gas-propelled vehicles would be. He had not much hope of steam, which had been tried many times in many countries, and he did not think its future was great.

He understood that the petrol ration was going to be reduced for any operator who used gas-propelled vehicles. That would be very detrimental. The ration should remain unchanged, the gas vehicles being allowed additionally. He did not claim that this type would oust the petrol vehicle, but it would represent supplementary haulage if the Government encouraged it by still giving the ration to which hauliers were already entitled.

In the case of vehicles using compressed gas at a pressure of about 3,000 lb. per sq. in. one of the difficulties was to obtain cylinders for carrying it. With producer gas that problem did not arise.


I T was hoped by Sir Stanley Reed that the Minister would accept the suggestion of Mr. Hall and not turn a cold shoulder to the steam engine. More steam vehicles on the roads to-day would solve some of the problems, losses and disabilities, which arose from lack of adequate road transport as a result of petrol rationing. He agreed with Mr. Smith that the Bill should do more than remove a disability and should give a guaranteed incentive to those who turned to producer gas

Other amendments proposed, with which were associated Mr. Ellis Smith, Mr. D. Adams and, Mr. Dunn, dealt with increasing the weight concessions on gas and steam vehicles, reducing the rates for vehicles not exceeding l tons unladen, continuing the new rates for three years, making such reduced rates conditional upon at least 25 per cent. of fleets exceeding five vehicles being converted to gas, and continuing the Act for three years after the war.

The Bill was read a second time and the Committee stage put down for' an early date.

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