Road Transport Topics
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By Our Special Parliamentary Correspondent
RAILWAY FACILITIES ALREADY OVERTAX ED
LAST week, in the House of Commons, Mr. Arthur Greenwood asked the Minister of Transport what steps he was taking to increase the tonnage of coal carried on the railways.
Captain Wallace replied that the protracted bad weather in the first place, had increased the demand for coal and, in the second, had seriously interfered with transport. Various measures had been taken. The capacity of the railways was not unlimited.
He had asked the Railway Executive Committee to make arrangements for an increase of some 70,000 tons of coal per week. That would mean 143 additional coal trains of which 100 would work from collieries in Northumberland or Durham. Essential freight traffic could not be sacrificed for this purpose and it would be possible to secure this larger increase of coal supplies by rail only at the expense of passenger services.
TRANSPORT SHORTAGE—PRIME MINISTER'S CONCERN
HE hoped the travelling public, who would undoubtedly suffer some inconvenience, would accept the paramount need for giving this priority to coal traffic. The long period of exceptionally severe weather had inevitably resulted in an accumulation of loaded wagons in colliery sidings and marshalling yards, but he assured the House that energetic steps had been taken and would be continued on the railways to meet the needs of the coal situation in the fullest measure possible. The Prime Minister had authorized him to add that he was taking a personal interest in this vital matter and that everything possible would be done to resolve the present admitted hardships.
Mr. Chamberlain afterwards addressed the Houseexpressing the hope that the situation would be materially eased in a short time.
Mr. B. Smith asked the Prime Minister to consider utilizing the many thousands of road vehicles that were laid idle hy the Government's policy in the issuing of petrol,• because thus he would relieve the railways of certain of their goods and minimize to a great extent the pressure upon passenger transport.
Mr. Chamberlain replied that this matter would have attention.
RAILWAYS' EARNING ABILITY QUESTIONED
THE Minister of Transport was asked by Mr. Poole how he hoped the railways would be able to carry sufficient traffic to earn the revenue set out in the recent agreement, if they were so completely unable to cope with this
additional traffic that they had to make incursion into the ordinary passenger traffic.
He also inquired whether, when the Department took over the railways, a priority department was established to decide the priority of traffics to be conveyed on the railways, as such was badly needed.
Captain Wallace remarked that there certainly was an organization to secure priority on the railways as in other places, to which Mr. Poole replied that it certainly did not function.
DISCLOSURE OF TRAFFIC RETURNS. REFUSED I N response to a request for the publi cation of the weekly returns of traffics of the four main line railways and London Transport, Captain Wallace declared that the disclosure of figures of railway traffics would not be in the national interest. The earnings of individual companies were no longer ascertained, as the need ceased with the formation of a pool of revenue.
NO P.S.V. OVERHANG INCREASE FOR GAS PLANT
VROM Mr. Ellis Smith came a sug gestion that the Minister of Transport should allow an increase, in the overall length of passenger vehicles, of 2 ft. 6 ins., in order that the maximum number could be converted to producer gas without the use of a trailer,, which was cumbersome and out of date. He also asked for an increase of 3 ins, in the maximum width, so that heavier tyres could be fitted.
To enable a producer-gas apparatus to be fitted on a rear extension of a public service vehicle, Captain Wallace replied, an increase in the permissible overhang as well as the overall length would be required, as existing publicservice vehicles usually had the maximum overhang allowed. He was satisfied that any general extension of the permissible overhang would be inadvisable, although he had exempted certain specified vehicles so that tests could be carried out.
Gas-producer plant could often be fitted into public-service vehicles without the need for a rear extension, and he could not agree that the use of a trailer was a. cumbersome and out-ofdate practice. In connection with the draft regulations relating to gas-propelled vehicles which he had recently circulated, he had had no request from the transport industry for an increase in width so that heavier tyres could be fitted. However, if tyre makers could show that they were unable to produce tyres to carry the loads now permitted, without increasing the overall width of the vehicle, he would certainly give the matter further consideration.
PETROL FOR LOCAL COAL HAULIERS ATTENTION was called by Lieut.Commander Tufnell to the fact that with the almost universal shortage of coal the view was widely held that there was ample coal, but that delivery was not efficient. He asked, therefore, whether the fullest possible use was being made of road transport as the railway companies, because of their other commitments, had not been able to fulfil national requirements without assistance.
Captain Wallace said the conveyance of coal by road over long distances was not a practicable way of remedying the position, but as regards local distribution he made arrangements some four weeks ago wifh the Secretary for Mines that special issues of liquid fuel rations should be made for goods vehicles delivering coal locally if the applications were recommended by his divisional coal officers.
Mr. Amman suggested that one of the reasons for the coal shortage was the high demurrage charges which merchants could not pay.
Captain Wallace replied that, so far as he knew, no merchant had yet paid increased demurrage charges. He had given a most specific promise, when he introduced the Regulations, that, where there was adequate evidence that merchants had done their best and could not clear their wagons, the charges would not be enforced.
There were sufficient wagons in the country to deal with the coal and more were being built. Because he was not satisfied that, with the present rate of usage, there were enough wagons to meet present and prospective demands, and after careful consultation with all the interests concerned, he had brought in the demurrage regulations in order that more use might be made of the wagons which were at present available.
COAL NOW ON THE MOVE BY RAIL
ON Monday last Mr. Shinwell asked the Minister of Transport what progress he had made with the railway companies on the transport of coal, and what was the present position.
Mr. Bernays replied that, over the week-end, 52,405 wagons of coal, or over half a million tons, were removed by the L.M.S. and the L.N.E.R. from colliery sidings and practically the whole of the accumulations due to-the bad weather conditions had now been dealt with.
The programme of special trains to which the Minister had referred commenced that day from the Midland collieries. The special trains from Northumberland and Durham necessitated the working of empty trains to the coalfields and these were expected to begin to work south from the collieries on Thursday.