INTRODUCING MR. BOYD
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WHETHER you think the Americans have been fortunate or deprived in doing without a Minister of Transport for so long may depend upon a number of factors, including your political convictions and your opinion of Ministers of Transport in general and the present Minister in particular. Purely formal confirmation by Congress early in 1967 of President Johnson's nomination will make Mr. Alan S. Boyd the first US Secretary of Transportation.
He moves directly from his present post as Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation and has had a wide experience in transport administration since his appointment to the Civil Aeronautics Board by President Eisenhower in 1959.
The fact that the leaders of rival political parties have thus played a leading part in shaping his career illustrates one difference between the British and the American system of political appointments.
In Britain the choice of Minister lies solely within the patronage of the Prime Minister. Actual experience in transport may even be a disqualification. The post has often been regarded as a staging point on the way either to political apotheosis or to obscurity.
Steeped in transport
The career of Mr. Boyd has been steeped in transport. In the years before President Eisenhower elevated him to Federal status he was active in the State of Florida as chairman of the civilian committee for the development of aviation, general counsel of the State turnpike authority and chairman of the Florida railroad and utilities commission.
"Mr Boyd has broader experience in the field of transportation", said President Johnson, -than any other individual that I have been able to observe within or without the Federal Government. He is intimately familiar with all modes of transportation at all levels of government".
Such a tribute would be appropriate in Britain not so much to a Minister of Transport as to a senior official in the Ministry. Mr. Boyd's position is in some ways more akin to that of a Civil Servant than of a member of the Cabinet—which in fact he will be.
By British standards his powers will be immense. His new department will control the spending of £2,000m. a year and will employ about 100,000 people. The main expenditure will be by the Bureau of Public Roads, which administers more than £1,500m. in programme for building federal roads. Even taking into account the difference in size of the two countries this total dwarfs the total of British expenditure on roads which is expected to rise to no more than £238m. even in the year 1969-1970. The US interstate highway system will not be finished until 1973 or later and a survey of road needs in the mid-1970s is now being carried out.
American road operators have had comforting reassurances from Mr. Boyd. The new department, he has said, "in no way foreshadows more extensive Government interference in the affairs of private business nor is it an indication that we are headed towards nationalization. Quite the contrary".
He regards his office as "a major bulwark in strengthening the private enterprise transport system of which we are still justly proud". It will make possible a dialogue between private enterprise and various governmental agencies.
Mr. Boyd has stated his goal as placing maximum reliance on unsubsidized privatelyowned transport facilities, operating under the incentives of private profit and subject to give and take of free markets everywhere. He proposes to substitute broad guidelines for detailed rules and regulations, giving management more freedom and flexibility to meet demands.
He would like users of transport services to bear the full cost of those services to the fullest extent possible. The transport system must be maintained adequate to national security demands in normal times and in times of emergency.
It is perhaps within this context that one should consider the statement of the general aim summarized in President Johnson's transport message: "A co-ordinated transport system that permits travellers and goods to move conveniently and efficiently from one means of transport to another, using the best characteristics of each". Mrs. Barbara Castle might not be disposed to quarrel with this but her approach to the goal would certainly be from a very different point.
The difference in meaning or emphasis between co-ordination and integration may
be significant. Even the latest Roads in England publication covering the year up to the end of March 1966 reveals the distinction. For the most part the document is a factual account of progress with the roadbuilding programme and plans for the future.
In a few introductory paragraphs it is pointed out that "even the present road programme" cannot keep pace with the increase in traffic and the consequent spread and intensification of congestion. "To meet the country's present and future needs," the publication continues, "transport must be planned centrally as a whole and transport services integrated".
Is this supposed to mean that integration of transport will save spending more money on the roads? And how will integration cure congestion? Apparently because it will enable the right balance to be struck between road and rail particularly where freight is being carried. The results of research into relative costs and the factors affecting industrial users' choice of transport will enable the Government to decide "what adjustments are needed to the conditions of road transport operations".
The publication has the grace to add that "no matter how much more the railways are used, an efficient road network is vital to the country's economy and the need for a continuing programme of road investment will remain". Although it flies in the face of most informed opinion and experience the inference is plain that somehow or other an integrated policy weighted in favour of the railways is going to have a significant effect on the volume of road traffic.
In commenting on Mr. Boyd's appointment the American publication Business Week describes his task as one of "imposing order on a chaotic, competitive industry". Roads in England confuses the issue in the same way. Nobody would disagree with Mrs. Castle that there must be a plan for transport and that there must be some co-ordination. In this way traffic flows can be smoothed out, congestion reduced and the best use made of the available facilities. Integration as described in Roads in England is irrelevant. It must be judged by other Criteria.