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Integrated Transport - a-will-o'-the-wisp? By John Wylde, FCILT - Scottish Region meeting of 21 September 2010 in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Region's September meeting was held in the Barcelo Carlton Hotel, North Bridge and was addressed by John Wylde, FCILT, Transport Consultant and author on Integrated Transport - a-will-o'-the-wisp?

The evening started off with a hot buffet meal and members had the choice of lasagne or rice and chilli with pitta bread. After the usual welcome and announcements of forthcoming events, Mr. Wylde addressed the members with an illustrated presentation.

Starting off with the development transport generally, Mr. Wylde used the example of Strathaven to show how transport has developed. In 1853 the railway arrived at Strathaven and using photographs of Common Green to illustrate the changes, Mr. Wylde showed that in a 1900 photograph there were only 4 horse drawn vehicles and a horse drawn omnibus to be seen. Fifty years later, a photograph showed only 6 cars and one motorbus in the same place. A recent photograph shows the same place full of cars and the bus is struggling to get to the bus stop. This shows that the car is king and is a good summary of 20th century transport development.

Mr. Wylde posed the question of why is integrated transport so elusive? Often us stations are nowhere near railway stations and to understand why we have today's disjointed transport, it is necessary to look at how transport developed. The 20th century started with the railway and this led to the stagecoaches that operated between major towns ceasing, although stagecoaches still served places railways did not. The last stagecoach ran between Fort William and Fort Augustus until the the First World War.

Before railways, canals were common, but these need to be level and locks were used for hills. Compared to a horse and cart, canals could move enormous amounts reducing transport costs significantly. However, by the start of the 20th century, the rail network covered most of the country and both passenger and freight services were provided. In time locomotives became bigger and faster, and "airsmoothed" or "streamlined" locomotives were introduced. Southern Railways opted for electrification at an early date and converted a lot of their steam hauled rolling stock to electric power. Southern Railways were especially good at marketing their services.

Meanwhile on the roads, the horse drawn omnibus was replaced in some areas by steam powered vehicles, and then by waggonettes, but it was the advent of the motorbus that changed the picture. The first standard motorbus, the London "B" type, transformed public transport and many were requisitioned as troop carriers during the First World War. These buses were open topped, the driver was exposed to the elements and solid tyres were fitted.

By the 1930's, buses had developed remarkably and had roofs on the top deck, the driver had an enclosed cab and pneumatic tyres were standard. In London, open staircases were still common. London Transport was set up in 1933 to take over all transport in the London County Council area and it ran everything, including bus and tram services, the Underground and trolleybuses. It was the first example of integration of transport.

When London Transport was formed, it inherited may different types of vehicles, so it designed it's own standard types of vehicles, such at the RT and the Routemaster. The Country Bus Department was marketed as a superior service, but used the same rolling stock painted green instead of red. In 1931 it was proposed to scrap the trams and replace them with buses. When London Transport took over, the trams were replaced initially with trolleybuses, then buses after the Second World War. Some trams were sold to other operators, but most were scrapped. In Blackpool, trams are still running, including many dating from the 1930's. There is nothing wrong with them, but they have to be replaced as they do not meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, so a new fleet of trams is being built.

Transport was originally a commercial business, with no subsidies, but that changed over time. The Railways Act of 1921 created the "big four" and in 1928 the railways received permission to operate buses, so they took 50% shareholdings in established companies. In 1929 the railways obtained authority to operate air services. After the Second World War, transport was nationalised with British Rail and British Road Services being created. The Tilling Group sold out to the British Transport Commission and the bus companies had directors appointed to them by British Railways.

The British Transport Commission was abolished in 1962 and was replaced by a number of Boards responsible for different sectors of transport. The BET group bus companies remained independent until 1967 when they too sold out to the Transport Holding Company. The 1968 Transport Act set up the National Bus Company. This created the situation where the bus companies outside urban areas were state owned and the railways were state owned, but they never spoke to each other. In rural areas not served by either buses or railways, the Postbus met demand for transport, but this was in response to the Post Office being given minibuses by the government and told to make use of them.

British Railways set about building new steam locomotives after the Second World War, but these were scrapped in favour of diesels after a short life as part of the Modernization Plan of 1955. Dr. Beeching and his report "Reshaping the Railways" had a major impact on the future of the railway network, with many branch lines closed, although the Freightliner service was introduced. In 1982, a further report was produced, but the Serpell Report's main recommendations were not adopted.

In 1986 deregulation of bus services commenced under the Transport Act of 1985 which also led to the break up of the National Bus Company, providing opportunities for new companies to grow and today we have the large groups such as First, Stagecoach and Arriva operating many of the bus companies.

Trams have made a comeback, with Croydon leading the field and since then other cities have reintroduced trams, such as Sheffield and Manchester, with modern fully accessible vehicles. Edinburgh also intends to reintroduce trams but the project appears to be not only controversial but mired in wrangling with the contractor. The number of people travelling by bus remained static, so the government introduced free travel for those eligible for concessionary travel, mainly pensioners, although the costs of this are now causing some concern.

Mr. Wylde rounded off his presentation with a brief look at more recent developments including the electrification of the East Coast Main line, the current haulage industry and the drive to encourage more sustainable travel. He also looked at a number of more specialised modes of travel, such as tourist services. There was a lively question and answer session and a number of topics were debated, before the past Chairman, John Fender brought the proceedings to a close with the presentation of an engraved Scottish Region quaich to Mr. Wylde.

Further information and copies of the book that accompanies this presentation can be found at www.john-wylde.co.uk

Report by John Fender

 

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