Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Integrated Transport - Rectifying Blunders

Sheffield Victoria Railway Station, September 1969: 4 Months Before It Was Closed. Click onto it for a larger view.

This submission to our Integrated Transport Debate is from Ken Turton. Earlier he made another major contribution, see here.

An integrated transport policy would begin with clear announcements. First through the Party's Manifesto, then through public pronouncements spelling out the policy. Whilst I agree that it would be difficult to wean dedicated car owners away from their cars, an integrated transport system would in time do exactly that and there would be no need to pursue a dogmatic approach in favour of what was taking place. This is because an integrated transport system can only be properly achieved through cheap fares. Such a policy would build its own support. If cheap fares are coupled with a reliable and plentiful service, then in time the problem will answer itself.

The only seemingly dogmatic approach would need to be about limits on the use of lorries and huge pantechnicons. Their operations would need to be restricted, especially where alternative rail services are available. This could be achieved through the licencing of the giants of the road and this would be very attractive to the general public.It appears to me that they would be fully in favour of the operation of such restrictions. Half of this problem will almost be solved as soon as such restrictions are introduced, the rest is easy meat when the Government is seen to be removing huge blockages from our roads.

An integrated transport policy would be introduced only after much explanatory work had been carried out, pointing for instance to the savings in road space which would occur with the moving to rail usage. More freight could be moved by rail as opposed to road with a massive 25% saving in land usage taking place. To which must be added a significant reduction in pollution.

If we look back to the time of the introduction of a national postal service at an old penny per letter, it was the railways which provided this. Posting a letter was guaranteed next day delivery. Since Beeching these services were lost and were transferred to road services. The time taken to deliver a letter was extended and can now take up to a week, even for some first class post.

What of compensation? No one compensated rail transport when matters were transferred to the roads. An example goes back to the 1955 ASLEF Strike when Lorry Drivers using C licences (which were unrestricted under the 1947 Transport Act) blackmailed their customers by taking their products only if they signed a long term contract. As a result conveying these products has been lost to rail transport ever since then. This was achieved via an extra-legal act, which was certainly immoral. So I am against compensation in any form, but would have to abide by any decision made. I have no sympathy, however, for the idea of giving compensation to railway owners. For me it would be "Goodbye - thank you for your lack of service to the industry".

The extended use of the car started in the early 1950s as a result of developments in World War 2 when huge vehicle plants were built at no small cost to make the army extremely mobile. Indeed this was VITAL to winning the war. For instance, Britain and Russia would not have been the challengers they were with only the land forces they had in 1940. For the transformation we have to thank the USA who provided us and Russia with all types of vehicles. Russian gold played a vital part in that scene.

The vehicle factories concerned were upgraded after the war to provide for the new demand from a populace who were becoming richer, thanks to full employment and long hours of work instigated during the war itself. The demand for cars led to the impositions we see today and a growth of anti-communal feelings. Neo-liberalism brought itself to prominence through car expansion, golf and the development of other middle-class practices.

The nationalisation programme was exploited by the car manufacturers who obtained cheap steel transported by cheap rail haulage. This provided cars at cheaper rates, with the manufacturers pocketing the profits.

The late 1950s were the times when the motorways came into use. They sort to meet, yet expanded car usage. The Tories had their own transport Guru in the shape of Ernest Marples - the Minister who employed Beeching. Holdings in road building firms and motorways sprouted, further feeding the car urge.

At the same time the railways were undermined when the railway timetables were altered and all over the country timings were altered and trains that were interconnected suddenly found themselves detached with passengers stood at draughty railway stations waiting for trains to carry on their journeys. Previously travelling through Sheffield Victoria on the line to Manchester from the south or east connecting trains would wait for arriving trains for periods of time. With the 1951 changes, trains to Manchester were timed to depart before what should have been connecting trains arrived. Passengers had to wait for the next hourly service to continue their journey. This practice occurred throughout the rail network.

The industry suffered and railwaymen have suffered for over 50 years of Toryism, initiated by Tory Governments and compound by Labour Governments. However, by good clean open Government the situation can be altered. By dismissing the huge road lobby and stressing the environmental issues, we would reap unheard of benefits. Massive savings would result and the general public would have its faith restored in Labour Governments. By turning to Labour's traditional values expressed in its former Clause 4, we can build a much better society. Otherwise we exacerbate the current situation.


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