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Forging Fetters for Road Transport

3rd December 1943
Page 35
Page 35, 3rd December 1943 — Forging Fetters for Road Transport
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Railways May be Protected and Even Subsidized by the Government, Whilst Road Haulage May Sink to a Railway Auxiliary IT is apparent that, in the march of the future, the Governmentintends that the railways will continue to occupy the leading place in the national transport

system. Indeed, this is strikingly evident from' the .speech made in Parliament recently by Lord Leathers, Minister of War Transport, and regarding which so little in the way of criticism has been forthcoming from the representative bodies. This significant omissidn is one which has not passed unnoticed.

In this particular connection, all hauliers should have . • .read a letter from a road operator, A. L. Hayward, of Birmingham, which appeared in the issue of the "Daily Telegraph" dated November 22. The fact of this letter being published may be regarded as evidence that the subject dealt with was considered by the Editor of that paper to be one of interest to a certain section of the reading public. The correspondent wrote. to the effect that be was "surprised t6 find that such an eminent figure of the road transport industry as Mr. Crawfurd had allowed himself to be swayed by one extract from the speech made by the Minister of War Transport during the recent debate in, the House of Lords. I would suggest," he dPritinues, "to Mr.. Crawfurd that he had taken from the speech one of the least important passages, which lends itself to all manner of construction and meanings, nothing more or less, in fact, than noncommittal political jatgon." He' goes on, at some length, to complain that Mr. Crawfurd refrained from stressing the point that the whole trend of the debate, with one exception, was illustrative of absolute enmity to all forms of road transport.

Later in the correspondence a suggestion is made to Mr. Crawfurd that, from a road operator's point of view, a far more important section of the speech is the following, which he quotes: "Whatever the merits of competition-in stimulating enterprise and efficiency, it naue be evident that if it was carried so far as to undermine the stability of services essential to the community and commercial interests its effect would prove damaging to the national interests."

Artificial Stimulus for the Railways To achieve this result the Minister proposes "to place the credit of the Government behind the railways" or " create " the conditions under which the railways could operate on a reasonable profit. Mr. Hayward concludes the correspondence with these words: "Knowing the achievements and possibilities of road transport, as demonstrated right up to the inception of the 'Ministry scheme, how does Mr. Crawfurd imagine this could he done except by handing road interests a very raw deal, resulting in their absolute subservience to railway interests? " • All fair-minded people who are willing to take a dispassionate view of the position will agree that Mr. Hayward has put the matter in a nutshell and in a manner which is creditable, clear and concise.

It is fully agreed that the railways are doing splendid , work and that, in peace as in war, they are an essential part of the industrial and economic life of the community. This fact, however, does not justify the plac• ing. of an additional burden on the taxpayer possibly at the very time when the country hopes for some easetrient

in taxation and, particularly, in the post-war reel:instruction period. Furthermore, it would mean that those members of the industry who have been put out of business as a result of Government policy and those who, yet, may similarly suffer, would find themselves in the invidious position of financing the-railways by means of taxation.. Such a position, of course, is ludicrous as well as unjust and inequitable. It is entirely against all BritiSh traditions of justice and fairplay for one industry to benefit materially from another similarly engaged and which, also, is essential to national needs,

From the propaganda and Press publicity appearing from time to time it alight appear to the uninitiated that the railways are carrying the whole burden of war-tinie transport, which, obviously, is not correct. It is, in fact, very far from the truth.

Show What Road Transport Has Done

It is suggested that reproductions of photographs of . convoys travelling through the Libyan Desert to Tunisia, as also over the mountainous regions of Sicily and Italy, could not fail to impress the community concerning the vital part being played by road traiisport. Beneath stieh photographs might appear some such caption as, " A Service the Railways Could Not Give." '

On the home front, in connection with war production, . day and night, week in and week out, road vehicles carrying vital war supplies form an integral part of the war machine. Yet in spite of these truths road transport, would appear to he destined to become subjugated to the railways in the national ti ansport sykern of the future. It means, in fact, that national income in the form of the taxpayers' money may be used for the purpose of securing the prosperity of one form of transport' at the expense of another. So the importance of road transport is to be measured by the yard-stick of the railway companies' income and not by the serving of national needs. No more powerful evidence of the case concerning road transport could,possibly be submitted.

Why, then, has the position been permitted to reach its present stage? Why has there been promulgated no alternative constructive scheme supported by a determined and efficiently organized body? What is the reason for the attitude of Mr. Crawfurd concerning the speech of the Minister, and why have the leader's of the industry •maintained continuous and profound silence?

There can be but one deduction., Either the leaders and representative bodies have approved the Government policy, or, if protests have been made, obviously they must have been of so weak a character as to be rendered ineffective and useless. Any such attitude is not of the slightest assistance to the numerous hauliers ' who already have felt the effects of Government policy_ They want action which is based on justice tempered

with reason and understanding. .

The whole story is being unfolded, and all can recognize the stages through which the industry has passed before being reduced to its present level. The outline of the future is eritially clear. If the declared proposals of the Minister eventually-be made effective, the result will be that inevitably road transport will become nothing more than an. auxiliary service to the railways. By so doing it will surrender its freedom for all time.


Organisations: House of Lords
People: Crawfurd, Hayward
Locations: Birmingham

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