Road and Rail Transport Problem, The by Brig-General Sir H Osborne Mance HC 1941

Road and Rail Transport Problem, The by Brig-General Sir H Osborne Mance HC 1941

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Road and Rail Transport Problem, The by Brig-General Sir H Osborne Mance HC 1941
 
The Road and Rail Transport Problem by Brig-General Sir H Osborne Mance Hard Cover 1941  166 Pages
I FEEL at once honoured and embarrassed by the invitation to contribute an Introduction to Sir Osborne Mance's book on the Road and Rail Transport Problem. His experience and qualifications in regard to all questions of land transport are so incomparably superior to my own. In South Africa, in East Africa, in Germany, in Austria, as well as in this country, he has borne direct and personal responsibility. As adviser to the British Peace Delegation, the Supreme Economic Council, the Court of International Justice and the League of Nations, and member of numerous international Conferences, he has studied the international aspects of transport, and as technical adviser to the Ottoman Bank he has studied their financial aspects. The mantle of Sir William Acworth has fallen on him.
Only a small part of my own administrative experience has been concerned with transport, and the greater part of that has been with sea, not land, transport. I have, however, seen enough of the latter to realize the difficulties of the subject of which Sir Osborne Mance treats in this book, and have been in enough Conferences with him to appreciate his unique qualifications. I remember coming back from Paris with him shortly after the last war. We travelled with great comfort by sea, and extreme discomfort by land, and I remarked chaffingly " I think my ships have scored over your railways." To which he at once replied, in one of the best retorts I've ever heard, "Yes, but God made your permanent way." I was to learn later, when I was Chairman of the Road-Rail Conference in 1932, how basic a factor this is in the whole controversy. Railways provide their own tracks, which are used by no other form of traffic.
Motor transport uses roads provided for general public use by public authorities. It is, however, subject to special taxation. What rates of taxation, on the vehicle and on petrol, would be appropriate in these circumstances?
Similarly, railways work under statutory restrictions as to their tariffs and have uniform conditions as to wages and hours. What corresponding arrangements should be made for road transport? These were the immediate questions presented to my Conference, which was able to reach unanimous recommendations upon both. But underlying them was the real problem of the right division of function. What kind of goods between what destinations would be most economically carried by rail and by road respectively? It should be possible to obtain a scientific answer with the aid of appropriate research. But knowledge itself will not secure the desired result if different interests are involved, for both railways and road will try to get classes of traffic which, on any scientific allocation, would go to the other. On the other hand, if a monopoly were established, the consumer would encounter all the dangers against which he finds that competition is his best safeguard, and a principal stimulus to increasing efficiency would be removed.
What is the answer to this enigma? I have long cherished the idea that it would best be found in a financial amalgamation of the railways and the main road services, combined with freedom for businesses requiring transport to run their own vehicles. It would then be to the interest of the combined road-rail monopoly to allot traffic between rail and road on the most scientific basis and, with the economies so secured, to prove to the great businesses requiring transport that it would pay them to resort to the public service rather than use their own lorries. Thus, in principle, the advantages of monopoly and competition would both be secured. Sir Osborne Mance, after an exhaustive analysis of the whole problem, has shown the difficulties which would result from complete freedom for such " ancillary " transport, and undoubtedly some limitations would be necessary. I am still inclined, however, to think that the solution may be found along this line. In the meantime, Sir Osborne Mance has made an invaluable contribution, alike in his exhaustive analysis of the factors of the problem, his record of the experience of other countries and in his own proposals, to one of the most important of the novel problems of our day.
It is a novel problem, for the advent of the internal combustion engine as an economic, social and military factor of the first importance is a phenomenon of this century and of the present generation. The art of war, the basis of our economy, our social habits, the distribution of population and the location of industry have all been transformed by one of the three or four most important inventions in the history of civilized man. If we calculate the horse-power of the motor traffic now on our roads we shall see that, within the space of a few years, the internal combustion engine has placed a mechanized horse at the service of each man and woman in the country for the conveyance of themselves and their goods.
We are at present concerned more urgently with a problem which this same invention has presented to us in another sphere. The aeroplane, which it has made possible, is the principal menace to the insulated security in which we have hitherto been able to work out our economic and social evolution. But when the military struggle is over, and we can once more view our problems in a peace perspective, the one which Sir Osborne Mance has here discussed with such skill and knowledge will again resume its importance and its interest.

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