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29th July 1919, Page 19
29th July 1919
Page 19
Page 19, 29th July 1919 — LETTERS TO OVERSEAS READERS.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

No. 8.—The Value of a Good Road.

IT IS QUITE usual for people whose business interests are best served by depreciating the merits of British products to argue that a :British-built motor vehicle is unfitted for uSe in most other countries because it is constructed primarily to run on the highly-developed road system of Great Britain. War-time experience on all the fronts has provided the necessary answer to this argument since it has proved that British vehicles will work wherever it is at all reasonable to expect any load-carrying motor vehicle to travel at all.

When people demand vehicles for use on abominably bad aoads they are really taking hold of the wrong end of the stick. For the time being, a limited supply of such vehicles may be necessary, but the right -course of action is not to take the had road for granted and construct vehicles for use upon it, but rather to construct a good road upon which it is possible to use vehicles of types that will operate with the maximum economy. In Great Britain the motor movement has been handicapped all along by the fact that, while motor transport is a modern development, the road system is an ancient institution.

In no way is it possible to get full economy of transport unless we have at our disposal both good reads and good vehicles. Directly we -are compelled to build vehicles for bad roads we are obliged to pay too much attention to brute strength capable of resisting continuousshocks. We may achieve our object but ' we can only do it at great cost. This cost is observable in the price of the vehicle, but is still more serious in connection with the operating expenses. Even if we turn out'.a. vehicle that will give wonderfully good service on extremely bad roads, it is absolutely certain that the same vehicle would give even better and cheaper service on good roads. It is quite a mistake to imagine that all -the roads of Great Britain are good. Many of them are, of course, extremely hilly. Many, again, have poor surfaces and inadequate-foundations. Even so, they may admittedly be good when compared with the average roads of other countries. We find, however, that in Great Britain," where,: as already stated, what we call a bad road is no worse than what other people might call a geod One; there is a very decided variation in the operating costs of motor vehicles, directly due to the varYing qUalities

of the roads in different localities. .

Thus, for instance, a 3-ton vehicle which, if kept fully employed, can be operated in one district at an inclusive cost of about 10d. a mile cannot possibly he operated in another district at anything below about is. 4d. a mile. Assuming the vehicle tsa carry on an average about half of the full load for which it is built, we have then a variation of about ed. a mile in the cost of hauling one and a half tons. The inferior road is thus responsible for an unnecessary expeneli,tore of no less than 4d. a ton-mile on transport. This. expenditure has to be borne by the community. which consumes the goods transported.

If we carry a million tons over an average distance of 10 miles, we are involved in an unnecessary expen.diture of 40 million pence, or approximately 2170,000. This sum of money would go a very long way towards the complete construction of a considerable length of really good roadway built up on proper foundations and having a surface such that modern traffic can obtain its best results upon it. We ought not, however, to consider how far it will go when employed as capital, but rather how far the saving in transport costs will go if employed to pay proper interest on capital expenditure involved in improving the road system: We know -from experience that, when once we have got a really good road constructed for modern traffic, the cost of maintenance of that road is far lower than the cost of maintenance of an inferior road called upon to carry a much -smaller bulk of traffic of the old kind.

In the rough estimate given, we have merely taken into account the kind of variation in cost due to the difference in the quality of roads in various parts of Great Britain. Pt we were to compare the cost of transport. -on a first-class British road with the cost on an unmade road lacking both foundations and "surface, we should find that the financial burden due to the perpetuation -oba bad road system is incalculably great. .

We at home-admit that we suffer from certain de'sadvantages through living in an old country and that we have much to learn from the Overseas Dominions and from many foreign lands. I maintain that on the other hand our heritage includes assets, among which the road system figures high. We do not blame other and younger countries for being behind us in the matter of roads. The _position is inevitable. They have hegearea,s-to be.ope" up and limited populations to bear the first cost of the process. They would, however; be much to blame if they remained satisfied with a bad and incomplete system of roads and contented themselves by demanding the productien of vehicles calculated to encourage the perpetuation of an inherently bad state of affairs.

It is impossible to emphasize too much the fact that transport is not a matter of vehicles alone, but of roads and vehicles taken together. We do not expoet a railway locomotive to do its work except upon its proper track. We.-recognize that the track and the locomotive are two parts of the same system. Those who imagine that our British roads are wennigh perfect may perhaps be surprised to learn that we have in existence a very active body known as The Roads Improvement Association. If such a body is necessary in England, it is far more necessary in almost every other _country. It is fairly certain that the Pioneering work in the direction of road improvement will he left everywhere mainly to those who use, or want to use, motor vehicles. The average member of the public does not properly appreciate the fact that bad roads mean high prices of all carted commodities-. He is apt to resent the suggestion that public money should -be spent on roads on any really adequate male. What is wanted in the first instance

strong educative propaganda. The Overseas readers-of this paper are presumably "

all interested. in motor transport. I suggest that every one of these Overseas readers should make himself, so to speak, a centre of discontent as regards the quality of his local roads. Those who realize the position should get together and work up local propaganda. The local groups should then in turn get together and organize. national -propaganda, constantly bringing the road question to the front, particularly. at-the time ofelections ; the object should be to create in each national Parliament a strong party pledged to big, hilt properly directed, exPenditore on road iniprovement. A young country ,should avoid the mistakes made by the old. The national road system should be coordinated from the start, so as to provide for developments that will inevitably occur. We all know that, while a Government is supposed to lead, rather than follow, the reverse is generally the case. The average Government only moves when pressure is brought to bear upon it audit is our duty, "one and all, to bring that pressure to bear, so that in a few years tithe the Cost of transport by road will -be immensely reduced, quite irrespective of the steady improvement -in the design and coaietruction of road vehicles.


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