4.3.93 The Times (Not published)
Referring to the reader who asked for suggestions for a new level crossing sign, in view of the frequency with which motorists ignore level crossing lights, I would advocate the "Skull & Crossbones". At my local station, the record which I have observed when on the station is a maximum of four cars on any one occasion. This reflects their conduct at road junctions & road-works.
3.8.93 Daily Telegraph (not published)
Your article on ‘the hulk from the pits’ stated that “the rail lobby campaigned for the oppressive red flag law which restricted the speed of motor vehicles to 4mph, and required them to be preceded by a man on foot carrying a red flag and held back road transport until it was repealed in 1878". Nothing in my extensive transport research supports a belief that a ‘rail lobby’ was responsible for the red flag. The Act was aimed at protecting horses, as the man with the red flag was required to stop the road ‘locomotive’ when horses approached and assist in conducting them past the locomotive. If a lobby was responsible for the red flag, it was the huge ‘horse lobby’. No one could have foreseen, at the birth of the puny motor vehicle, that it would be a threat to railways. It was seen as a threat to the enormous horse-powered transport industry including canals. The 1865 Locomotives on Highways Act was aimed at the only form of mechanical road transport - steam powered, which often experienced boiler explosions, and was passed 20 years before the car was invented - 55 years before lorries were capable of competing with rail. Had the internal combustion engine not been invented, steam powered road vehicles would have made no inroads into rail traffic. The first motor car appeared here in 1894. Railways had no cause to fear ponderously slow traction engines, nor the puny motor car when it appeared. The belief in the power of a ‘rail lobby’ was not new. In 1938, there were 24 railway directors in the Lords and 11 in the Commons. That was 2.5% of the total membership (Commons: 615, Lords: 775). Their influence was illusory. The reality was that most other members, being motorists, were either in the powerful road lobby or allied to it. The ‘rail lobby’ was so weak, it could not persuade Government to concede equality with road haulage, nor to publish strategically insensitive correspondence on the railway ‘Rental’ terms during the war which enabled government to skim off £1bn from railway profits – at 1940’s prices.
17.1.96 BBC (not broadcast)
On Radio 4 the PM programme, it was stated that "Winston Churchill diverted money from the Road Fund to protect the railways". I asked for the source of this claim, and was told that it was made by a spokesman for the AA. After prolonged correspondence, I established that the claim was based on a British Road Federation booklet which stated that in his 1926 budget speech, Churchill "wanted to protect railways". I told the AA that he did not use the word "protect", (see Hansard vol. 194, col. 1710), nor allocate a penny to railways, as published and independently audited railway accounts clearly confirm. I informed the AA and the BBC of the facts and stated that the BRF document was clearly erroneous and without foundation. Taxation of railways had always been for the use of the Exchequer, it had never been re-deployed for the use of railways, their passengers or freight customers. In that sense, road taxation came closer to that applying to railways. (The BBC did not broadcast a correction).
15.11.00 Independent (not published)
Hauliers complain that they are unable to compete because others are treated more favourably. As I pointed out in my book Square Deal Denied, when privately owned railways made the same complaint, hauliers were foremost in opposing any change which would enable railways to compete on equal terms with hauliers. Railways were bound by over 200 Acts of Parliament & the prices which they could charge were fixed by a Court of Law set up by Govt in the 1921 Act. Hauliers were totally free to charge at will & discriminate as to the traffic would carry. Railways had no such freedom. When the Tory Govt privatised road haulage in 1953, Govt almost gave BR equal freedom to decide its own prices, but drew back when they recalled they had recently illegally over-ruled a Court of Law which had authorised a rise in fares which would still trail the RPI by 25 points, so that fares then trailed the RPI by 27 points. Govt justified their decision to retain a Court of Law to fix railway charges by saying it would prevent BR from reducing prices to drive hauliers out of business. They did not address the alternative scenario that pricing freedom for hauliers alone would enable them to undercut BR's profitable traffic & so resume the Unsquare Deal of which the railways had complained pre-war. The current complaint by hauliers is surely a case of "the biter bit". This motorist has no illusions that hauliers are pursuing their campaign for our benefit. They would be happy to see motorists kept off their motorways, whose heavy construction costs are dictated by the axle weight of juggernauts!
1.3.07 Railwatch (Published March 2007)
I refer to "Face the Facts" on your letters' page (January 2007). National statistics of road traffic should be treated with caution. When researching for my book (reviewed in your January edition), I contacted the DfT to ascertain the precise methodology used to establish the volume of freight and passengers conveyed by road transport. The method used exaggerates the volume. Hence any comparison with rail is untenable, even before excluding passenger journeys and "freight traffic" (such as domestic and local deliveries) which do not compete with rail. 73% of car journeys are less than 5 miles, 47% are less than 2 miles. The facts are set out in my book, showing the effect of the DfT methodology. In their defence, I can see that obtaining 100% accurate statistics would be costly for the DfT and operators, who would be unlikely to finance compilation. Until that happens, comparisons are dangerous.
11.2.08 e-mail to The Times (Not published)
The long standing problem of “bridge-bashing” is caused by drivers of high lorries and double deck buses who do not know the height of their vehicle. Network Rail’s plan to have the location of low bridges built into Sat-Nav will not solve the problem, because unless the driver is fully aware of the height of the vehicle, the Sat-Nav data will be valueless. Transport Dept Inquiries into such collisions reveal that the driver did not know the height of the vehicle – even when it was displayed within the vehicle as applies on some – but not all vehicles. There will be a problem when a road indicated by Sat-Nav is blocked by accident or road works, as diversion signs do not usually mention low bridges. The plan will not solve the problem of motorists turning onto tracks at level crossings. Moreover, there are low bridges not owned by railways. Maps were published showing recommended routes for high vehicles many years ago, but with little effect. Lorries and double deck vehicles should be fitted with radar beams that will emit an ear splitting noise when a vehicle approaches a bridge which is too low for their vehicle. Network Rail will incur costs to overcome the incompetence of hauliers, as railways were required to incur costs to increase bridge strength, because hauliers ignored the weight restrictions of bridges built for the horse and cart.
2.12.09 Daily Telegraph (not published)
That Denby Transport attempted to take an 82 ft vehicle on the roads (article, 2 December) is astounding. The Minister rejected their application to conduct trials with this vehicle on public roads in June 2008; two months after my article exposing the dangers and disadvantages of such vehicles appeared in Focus, journal of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport. The article may be seen on my web site: www.transportmyths.co.uk I attach two of the photos I took of the Denby road train, one showing the 'out-throw' of the undercarriage when turning. If you are interested, I can send additional photos.