PASSENGER TRANSPORT DURING A STRIKE.
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The Preparations of the Government for Providing Means of Communication Should an Industrial Strike Occur in May Next. ' •
ACERTAIN amount of misapprehension seems to have arisen in connection with the official preparation of a census of passenger vehicles on behalf of the Ministry of Health, to be in readiness in case a state of emergency should arise next May, or at any other time, as one of the effects of the coal dispute.
In May, 1922, arrangements were made with local authorities for the maintenance of local services should any need arise. It is, therefore, following precedent that the Minister of Health has made similar arrangements in the light of the possibilities of May next, because, should an industrial dispute be so extended as to interfere seriously with communications, the conveyance of food and of other necessaries, the supply of light and power and the health and means of livelihood of the population at large, some such organization of an emergency character will become absolutely essential.
Whilst Government Departments will keep aloof from any industrial dispute, so far as it affects the employers and employed in the industry concerned, they will provide a decentralized organization designed to secure the maintenance of the essential services.
It is to local authorities that the people will turn for help in any difficulties which they may have to meet, and the organization which the Government proposes is designed to Supplement and to assist the normal methods of comiminieation, supply, distribution, etc. It is, therefore, not intended that the Government 'should substitute new machinery for that ordinarily existing. The country--that is to say, England• and Wales—has been divided into ten divisions, with headquarters at London, Reading, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Nev,..castleOn-Tyne, Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham and Cainbridge. In each a Minister will act as Civil Commissioner, and he will be aSsisted by a staff consisting mainly of representatives of Government Departments, and will deal with the following subjects :—Transport, food, postal services and coal.
026 To deal only with one of these subjects—road transport—the Commissioner and his staff will make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the facilities that exist, and, in the event of shortage or delay in obtain-' Mg the necessary facilities, they will be in possession of information as to alternative methods and the means to make them available. There will be a Road Commissioner upon the Civil Commissioner's staff, who will be assisted by road officers and haulage committees in each area comprised in a division, and they will endeavour by voluntary arrangement to secure the economical use of existing vehicl.es and, where necessary, the diversion of vehicles from less to more economical services. The Road Commissioner and road officers will be furnished with powers to this end should the exercise of such powers prove necessary.
The inquiries that are now being made amongst owners of motor coaches are obviously part and parcel of the whole scheme. Information.that proprietors of motor coaches are being asked to give deals with the number of vehicles, giving certain facts about each one, such as its h.p., seating capacity, location, etc., and proprietors are being asked to state their terms for the hire of the vehicles to the Government on the basis of a daily rate. This information is being gathered through the Stores Department of the Post Office, and we are given to understand that the intention with regard to the vehicles, should they be employed under the control of the Commissioner, would be the transport of passengers to and-frmn their business. The transport of mails is not being considered in the matter at all. It is understood that the vehicles will be staffed either with military "drivers or civilian volunteers.
We 'believe that we are right in saying that every bank, insurance office and other business organization employing a large staff is making similar inquiries with a view to the provision of transport facilities for their staffs should the emergency arise. There is, thus. nothing sensational in the present inquiries.