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of the Environment. It is now more than 40 years since the Road Traffic Act of 1930 established the Traffic Commissioners, and put to an end the piracy so evident at the time. Many changes have occurred during those years, and the present crisis is taken as a sign for an urgent revision of the Licensing system as a whole.
The proposal to free private cars from the restriction against picking-up fare paying passengers has been made to alleviate cases of real hardship, particularly in rural areas (though not necessarily confined to such areas). The DoE is understood to believe that there is not much casual picking-up of passengers by private motorists. On the other hand regular lifts. are known to be given by many motorists to friends, relatives or neighbours, who might have an "arrangement". Lifting the restrictions would simply be authorizing a practice at present illegal.
Also to be considered is the plight of the elderly, or indeed any non-motorists in rural areas who might be too "proud" to ask for a much-needed lift, Introducing a clearing house, as suggested in the West Suffolk report, is seen by the Government as a positive solution in many areas. The service would be carried out on a voluntary basis, with people requiring lifts entering the details in a book kept in, say, the local Post Office, and motorists who could conveniently provide such lifts contacting the person or persons concerned.
As an additional incentive, the DoE is believed to favour a token system whereby local authorities could issue tokens to people requiring lifts. These would be handed to the driver providing the "service", to be handed-in in exchange for petrol only. This, the department believes, would remove a lot of embarrassment.
Critics have deplored the suggestion implied in the proposals that local authorities will be freed from the responsibility for public transport in their areas. The DoE stresses that the local authority should play a greater part under the new proposals, and the need for transport co-ordinating officers will be greater—not less—in the future.
"Fly by night" operators would soon be spotted by the public, the Government believes—minibus operators would have to provide a reliable service to stay in business for any length of time. The nervousness of some established psv operators is recognized by the DoE, but the department is apparently confident that the situation will balance out. The undermining of existing stage or express services is not accepted—the Commissioners will still have control through stage and express licensing, which will continue.
The philosophy behind the proposals seems to be that which the present Government has propounded in many similar circumstances. People have become too accustomed to controls; now they must adapt to the new opportunities given to them. The continuance of quality control (CoF), required for all vehicles seating eight or more passengers providing a regular, advertised service, is seen, in itself, as a sufficient deterrent to anyone wishing to cream-off the best custom from established operators.