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Higher Railway Rates in View.

30th November 1916
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Page 1, 30th November 1916 — Higher Railway Rates in View.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

There is probably no occasion for us to seek to inform commercial readers upon the obvious reasons for additions to railway rates in the near future. A beginning has been made in Ireland, as we have already stated : on and after to-morrow, the let December, the Irish railway companies increase their published rates for the carriage of traffic . by merchandise train to the extent of 10 per cent. We repeat our view that this is but the beginning of a series of increases which will affect the whole of the United Kingdom.

The railway companies of the country enjoy what we may perhaps term "mixed popularity" with manufacturers, traders and shippers. We do not seek to deny the fact that, the railway_cornpanies at one time gavewonderful unefficialiservices, at the discretion of the local goods and traffic managers, and did so free of charge, particularly in the direction of warehousing accommodation beyond the prescribed limits, and similarly in respect of the non-enforcement of demurrage upon trucks, •There has, during the past 20 years, been a gradual, yet definite and sensible tightening of the hold of railway companies upon the various interests which are obliged to extrust traffic to them. Facilities beyond the regula, ttions have been lessened progressively, no doubt in order to enable the railway companies to meet increasing labour and other charges, but not altogether, we feel satisfied, without relation to disappearing competition between certain railways.

Traders may very well, at the present time, look ahead to events am) happenings after the war, whenever that may prove to be, and do so with benefit to themselves, especially in regard to certain bread sicleration s. The effect oF increased railway rates and charges is one of these directions, and we now ask attention for that prospect in strict relation toalternatives which motor transport by road, and that alone, can furnish to the harassed trader.

The railway companies, despite the guarantee of their profits for the time being by the Government, and despite possibilities of nationalization which are thereby fore-shadowed, appear to be increasingly aleparting from their one-time practice of making thencharges "what the traffic will bear." We well recall the conviction of the late Mr. Alfred Holt, the late Sir Alfred L. Jones, and other members of a snecial committee of the Liverpool Incorporated Chamber of Commerce, on which it was the writer's privilege to serve some 16 year's ago for the purpose cif investigating railway rates to and from Liverpool, that the railway companies controlled their rates on that very basis. Would it were still true that the railways only imposed "what the traffic will bear." Much trade and traffic cannot live by the railways alone, so greatly have they changed. The exigencies of munitions transport have perforce made the railway companies more and more exacting in respect of such ordinary industrial traffic as remains. The latest ease to come before our notice is that of an attempt to force on a well .known firm of produce merchants the necessity to class tinned salmon as fresh fish. This attempt to place the goods in Class IV, or alternatively, in default of classification, in Class III, instead of Class II to which the traffic legitimately belongs, is to our mind but a sign of the times. The railway companies intend, if we may use colloquial language, "to put on the screw for all it is worth." In this particular case, we are pleased to note the railway company concerned has been uniformly beaten in the law courts up to the present stage of the action, but it will probably carry the case to the House of Lords.

There will e no greater aid to the cause of the commercial motor during, the next few years, than the attitude which we anticipate the railway companies of this country will be forced to continue. The incidence of their labour charges will be the primary cause, and the difficulties of labour control but a secondary one. The roads of this country offer the eolution, especially seeing that there are on the average two miles of length of highway in the United Kingdom to each one square mile of area, which Irequency of rand-length greatly exceeds that of any other civilized country in the world. Whereas in Germany, Austria, Italy, and even France, a 40-mile or 50-mile journey from any particular centre brings one to an isolated point, in the majority of instances, the same length of journey in most parts of the United Kingdom brings one to a manufacturing or producing centre, a railway, a canal, a navigable river, or the sea. In some parts of the United Kingdom, a 10-mile or 20-mile run often achieves the same object.

Consideration of the foregoing topographical circumstances must indicate the future which lies before motor transport at Home. Overseas trade may be considerable, in the near future, in our Colonies, as we believe it will. but those Overseas territories have to be pierced and crossed by highways, which do net at the moment exist, before general orders can flow. We already have the roads in the United Kingdom.

With soaring railway rates ahead of the country, new users of commercial motors will spring up in their thousands. They will find as many, and more thousands of vehicles available, and enough drivers, thanks to the situation which has been created by the Army's call for both vehicles and men. The hugelyincreased outputa of our British commercial-motor works will not, in our judgment, present a difficulty to those who have had the courage to extend their factories to their present capacities.

We still hear gloomy and pessimistic estimates that the United Kingdom will not absorb more than, perhaps, 4000 commercial motors a year when war as over, but we will have none of them. We adhere to our view that the reconstruction of north-eastern France, the whole of Belgium, and certain other countries, will prevent any very considerable return of Army lorries, and we now very strongly take the view that Home demand for commercial motors will be so goodas nearly to balance output tvIien the signal is in due course given from the Ministry of Munitions for output to be diverted into peaceful channels. That signal, we regret to say, is not yet in sight ; we now estimate to write concerning a date in the year 1918.

There remains one fundamental point outstanding for settlement. We refer to the thorny subject of road maintenance in relation to extending motor transport, and th,e means by which the cost of that maintenance shall be met. Here, however, there is good news for users. A special committee of the Government recently called upon Sir George Gibb, chairman of the Road Board, for a report as to the extent to which the undertaking of large works of road reconstruction and strengthening might Mimediately follow the conclusion of the war. We are in a position to state that Sir George Gibb's report to the Cabinet showed an expenditure of £5,000,000 on some 5000 miles of road. What was he told, on presenting that report l—To take it back and add to it ; that 5000 miles was not enough. This is, indeed, of happy augury for the future of motor transport in the United Kingdom. Sir George Gibb now desires to be informed, direct or through the Commercial Motor Users Association, of any reasonable requirements for connecting highways, or other road improvements, the principal condition which he lays down being that there shall be definite commercial or agricultural necessity behind any scheme which is put forward, and that no such scheme shall merely concern the enhancement of the value of particular lots of private property. Adjustment of some kind there will have to be in the method of applying the proceeds of motor taxation to road improvement and "extra maintenance." The whole of that income is now diverted to the National Exchequer, and applied to war purposes, although it was\ originally levied on the assurance that it would be ear-marked for road purposes. Such revenue from motor taxation will immediatelysafter the war be appreciably in excess of 23,500,000 per annum, a figure which compares strikingly with the annual cost of highway maintenance qua traffic for all of the United Kingdom—say, 212,000,000. There will be a great jump forward, within the first two years after the conclusion of hostilites, in the yield from motor taxation, and we look forward to the day when the proceeds of that taxation will be definitely in excess of the total contribution of the railway companies of the United Kingdom to local taxation for all purposes, which total figure is £5,300,000-annually. We foresee interesting debates in this connection, when comparisons which must arise are raised. Space prevents our going into them now, apart from the fact that it might be premature to do so. We hope that motor manufacturers and traders will not fail to turn to the utmost account the threatened and imminent general increase of railway rates. Those increases may be. delayed, but it will be a case of postponement only, and not of abandonment..

Accident Statistics for Greater London.

Mr. Herbert Samuel, M.P., the Home Secretary, has issued a return of accidents for the Metropolitan Police Area, showing the number of deaths and the number of persons injured, for tramcars, motorbuses, and other motor vehicles, respectively, for the years 1914 and 1915, and for the ten months ended the 31st Oetober for the present year. We append the official particulars in tabular form.

It is not our desire, as we stated when reviewing the unfortunate L.C.C. tramcar finance for 1914-1916, to take any advantage under war conditions of the state to which various tramcar undertakings are reduced. That concession by us to exceptional tactors concerns the financial and running sides, the over-crowding, the curtailment of services, and the failure to renew tracks. There is no reason, however, for our withholding a brief comment upon the lessons which may be drawn from the foregoing statistics. We may remind supporters of THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR, and most of all our supporters in the motorbus industry, that tramcar advocates never hesitated, during the years 1906 to 1913 inclusive, to seek to damnify motorbus undertakings on the pretence that they were excessively dangerous to the public. Mr. Kellaway, M.P., and Sir John Benn were amongst the most active in this propaganda, both in the House of Commons and out of it. A great struggle was necessary, by motorbus interests, led by bir Albert H. Stanley, now Director-General of Munitions Mechanical Transport, and the efforts el these protramcar gentlemen, to the end that undeserved restrictions should be placed upon motorbuses, were happily frustrated. Whilst that controversy raged, we repeatedly expressed our belief that, as the public became accustomed to the new form of free-running road traffic, fatalities and other accidents attributable to motorbuses must decrease. The above table shows that they have decreased, even under the unfavourable conditions of working which now obtain in Greater London. We pass over the relatively-unfavourable record of the tramcar during that period, because there may be some explanations for the increases which are disclosed, of which we have not complete information. There remains the important point for us as publicists, to seek to indicate some means of lessening the toll which is still taken by London's monster street traffic. The control of the pedestrian, suggested in the past with bitted breath, tends to establish itself. The pedestrian at large is now more prepared to conform to regulations, in keeping with the spirit of _the times. Is it too much to hope that we shall before long have fixed crossing-points for London's inner zone, at least after dark '1 We are inclined to think that this modification of custom will come, and that it will prove extremely beneficial, both as a, relief to the strain under which drivers follow their occupation, and as regards its effect upon actual mishaps. The fixed crossing-points should be indicated by approved groups of subdued and coloured lights ; the roadway should be illuminated according to a scheme that might well be settled by the Commissioner of Police. An authorized and recognized crossing-point once in each hundred yards might be adopted as a start, for the public will undoubtedly not sacrifice its existing prescriptive right to cross at any and every point, without gradual treatment. Spasms of anxiety for the driver might then occur as often as once M a hundred yards, but that experience would compare with like stresses practically without interruption, as is now the case in the busiest London thoroughfares, and no doubt in not a few of the central thoroughfares of our largest provincial cities.

Science Applied to Industry. .

Of all branches of the engineering industry save one, that of aircraft making, motor-vehicle mannfaeture most needs consistency in the quality of its materials. It is desirable in all cases where standardization is possible, and where quantity production on a large or small scale can be arranged. It is necessary in the motor vehicle if uniformity of performance and, dependability are to be attained. It can never really be achieved unless each delivery of raw material, and of partly or wholly finished goods, is subjected to thorough tests. No concern which does not include in its organization a laboratory and staff, equipped for making such tests, can claim to be immune from the risk of failure to fulfil this condition, When war broke out, many of our manufacturers were, nevertheless, willing to run this risk. They tad no laboratories.Such a department was iudged in unnecessary addition to the list of unproductive Istahlishments, and deemed an extra overhead corniitment from which no adequate return was likely. That it would serve, in reality, as a steady insurance igainst loss of reputation, hard won perhaps after 'ears of work, did not occur to most. The xnanufacure of munitions to meet requirements, much tricter than even those of their own trade has • rought new conditions in its train, and the sense of lirect monetary loss which has been felt when their roducts have been repudiated—owing to just some uch failing as that at which we have hinted—has had , salutary effect and resulted in not a few changing heir views on this subject. It is unlikely that any of hose will return to the short-sighted and clumsy aethods of former days. They are more likely to xtend their activities in respect of scientific checks Ian to diminish them.

There are still many, however, not yet converted: ire direct their attention to the article on pages )1-293. The inexpensive instruments there described, rhich are, however, rather for the purpose of survey. ag and correcting actual manufacture than the checking of the qualities of incoming stores, may serve as the nucleus of a laboratory which, properly conducted on fairly generous terms, will have a farreaching influence on the economy and efficiency of the Works, out of all proportion to its size and the expense of its instalment and upkeep. The whole subject of science as applied to industry, even so far as it directly concerns us, could not be covered in a dozen such articles. We are greatly interested, at the moment, in directing attention to what appears to us to be a ready means, for those who so far have not yet moved in this matter, of commencing in a small way scientifically to verify the results of their handiwork. We are secure in the knowledge that, once an appreciation of the advantages of such treatment is gained, broader applications will follow, and that from small beginnings great things will result. The war, painful as it is, came opportunely, in the sense that as a nation we needed awakening. Our shortcomings are now obvious to the many instead of to the few. Of one thing there is no doubt, unless the awakening is a real and permanent one, and unless we at once arise and put our house in ordar, particularly in regard to this matter of scientific effort, we shall find ourselves in the near future, notwithstanding the war, at the best a bad third to Germany and Anferica.

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