Road transport growth has slowed down since 1973, when increased fuel charges caused firms to improve economic use of road haulage fleets, but an expanding road network is crucial to progress.
The motorway is the answer to some of the problems giving fast journeys between towns. A start on the motorway network in Britain was made in 1958, and considerable progress has been achieved already in linking the main areas of the country. By 198 Britain had about 1,800 miles of motorway, compared with Germany’s 4,200 miles, Italy’s 3,500 miles and France’s 2,600 miles.
The dilemma of transport is revived by these modern highways, for while the cost is borne socially the benefits in cheaper running costs and faster journeys are enjoyed by the individual families and firms who use the motorway. Tolls have been suggested as a way of reducing the social costs of these projects, but vehicle taxation is still the favourite method of paying for motorways.
The effect of motorways on the location of industry and the availability of labour is considerable. Country towns which once had an unemployment problem, and where emigration to the cities has been the solution for two centuries, suddenly find that land values are soaring as access to the motorway makes the town a desirable site for industry of every sort. Workers begin to travel in from farther afield to take employment.
Bridges and tunnels are essential if motorways are to take direct routes across river estuaries, and some splendid work has been done since the War in bridging the Firth of Forth and the Bristol Channel. The drawings of the Seven Bridge and its position in the motorway network to South Wales illustrate the grandeur and utility of such engineering feats. The Darford-Purfleet tunnel is a similar link across the Thames estuary.
It has recently been duplicated, so that now two one way tunnels are available. It is being paid for, like the bridges mentioned above, by tolls charged to users. By giving direct access to Kent and Essex from the other side of the river it is promoting the prosperity of both counties.
For a century the railways were supreme in inland carriage, both for goods and passengers. Today there is hardly a country in the world where the railways do not lose money. In Britain the railways were nationalized in 1974, and a complete overhaul of the railways system has replaced steam power with electric or diesel-electric rolling stock. High degrees of efficiency have been achieved on particular trunk routes, yet the overall system is still losing money.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Rail Transport
(i) Railway transport is dominated by the ‘terminal’ problem, for heavy capital costs preclude running a line to every customer’s door. Goods must therefore be loaded and unloaded at terminals to complete their journey by road vehicles.
Even though sophisticated handling equipment is now available to load and unload trains, delay seems inevitable and demarcation disputes between groups of workers are common.
(ii) Rail transport is impersonal, so that pilfering, delay, and negligent behaviour are difficult to locate and remedy.
The consignors and owners of goods are powerless themselves to expedite the handling of goods. One Wiltshire firm sending daily supplies of packages perishable foodstuffs to South Coast towns found it could not get its packing cases back in less than an average of three weeks.
This may not have been any fault of the railway, they may have lain with the retailers, but the impersonal nature of the service operated against the supplier and forced him to invest in much larger numbers of containers than would have been necessary otherwise.
(iii) Traffic density presents a problem to railways, which operate ideally when the train is full. Highly concentrated traffic is the best. Even very dense traffic at very high speeds can be sagely operated with modern equipment. The Inter-City trains run by British Rail commonly reach speeds of 100 miles per hour.
(iv) Rail traffic is fast when actually moving, for it has a private way which is kept clear. It follows that if goods are to go a long way, rail transport is probably best. The economic limit seems to be about 200 miles. Below that limit the disadvantages of rail traffic make road transport more economic.
(v) It is economical in the use of labour, one driver and guard can take 60 carriages or trucks compares with road, transport, where long-distance Lorries carrying with the train.
(vi) Because of the nature of the way, a breakdown, strike, or go-slow movement holds up all traffic behind so that its effects are cumulative, building up an enormous backlog of goods which may include perishables, live-stock, etc.
Freightliners-The Railway Container Service
In March, 1963 the Beeching Report The-Re-shaping of British Railways’ proposed that freight thinner trains be introduced. They were to use road and rail transport for door-to-door delivery of ‘containerized’ goods, the changeover from road to rail being effected by completely mechanical means at special rail terminals.
By 1970 the scheme had developed to the point where a national freight grid had been established between 29 freightliner terminals in main industrial and commercial centres. Four of these are in London, at King’s Cross, York Way, Stratford, and Willesden.
Others are a Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Stocketon, Belfast, Dublin, Felixstown, Harwich, Nottingham, Southampton, Swansea and Tillbury. All these terminals passed into the control of the National Freight corporate under the 1968 Transport Act in an attempt to integrate road and rail transport more effectively.
The experiment was not really successful, and control of the Freightliner system reverted to British Rail in 1978. Despite fierce competition from a thriving road haulage industry the Freightliner system has certainly kept a useful amount of traffic off the highways, and at times of industrial disputes in the road haulage industry it has proved invaluable.
Beeching Report on the Railways
Continuing heavy losses on the railway network led the Government to appoint one of Britain’s leading businessmen, Dr. Beeching, to head a full scale inquiry into the railway organization. His report made drastic suggestions for ending the deficit. They included the following:-
(i) Reducing the rail network itself from 17,000 miles to 8,000 miles, eliminating in the process many rural passenger services, suburban services, stopping passenger trains, and country stations.
(ii) Uneconomic freight trains were to be replaced by liner trains running at regular times with a limited number of stopping points. By having fewer but larger depots increased efficiency could be obtained, but at some loss of convenience to the customer.
(iii) Concentrating on the profitable, long-distance, dense traffic routes, chiefly London-North, London-Midlands, London-West-South Wales, and Glasgow-Manchester-Bristol lines. Nearly all these were carrying 1,000 tons per day in each direction; some were carrying almost 2,000 tons.
In fact, for political reasons, the full Beeching scheme -“as never introduced and Dr. Beeching himself left the railways system at 11,000 miles, and the Transport Act of 1968 has implemented a modified scheme. The effect of the Beeching Report has still been very great.
The transport of goods and passengers by air is the greater transport achievement of the post-war era. The great advantage transport is its speed, and for this reason it is particularly suitable for the transport of passengers. Shipping lines that once were prosperous, with full bookings on the New York, South Africa, and Australia runs, have had to turn to cruises and the emigrant trade to earn a living.
However, air transport is expensive, since aeroplanes are sophisticated technical products. Design, operation, and maintenance are all costly, and the actual pay load is small. Even the giant air-bases now in service carry only a few hundred passengers.
The aircraft as freighters has been slower to develop because the advantages of air freighting have been less obvious. Only when Air Canada began to publish its market research on air-freight costs did the work wake up to the fact that air freighting was a practicable and economically advantageous method of transport for many industrial and commercial enterprises.
Previously it has been thought that it was advantageous only for perishable commodities or small packets of high value, or for freight directly related to passengers. Even so, the cheapest place for cargo is on the passenger aircraft.
The Economic Viability of Air Freighting
The essential point concerning the transport of goods by air is that the actual cost of the air-freight ticket is less importance than the overall cost of moving the goods from their present position to their destination. The overall cost includes may other expenses besides the actual carriage charge, some of these are listed below.
(i) Factory Condition can be preserved. In many trades goods are finished at the factory and sent to the consumer in first-class condition: dresses and suit are pressed; motor bikes are tuned; bicycles are assembled for delivery.
The need to pack and ship goods destroys this sort of activity, which has to be done at the destination, with high costs of establishing depots, employing and training skilled labour, etc. With air freight, special racks installed in the aircraft rises are high, but the duration of the journey is so short that for any given transit the risks are much smaller than by surface vehicle.
(ii) The saving of time may prevent losses by idle factories or overstocked warehouses. One case on which Air Canada reported concerned a leading German making firm which ordered 230 machines from Pennsylvania. The air-freight charge was Rs. 2400 per unit, six times more than the cost of dispatch by sea.
The machines were installed ten days ahead of schedule as a result, and turned out 207,999 pairs of hose in the ten days. This was more than enough to yield a handsome profit on the venture. Another firm flew in its raw materials and components from suppliers daily, so that there was no need to warehouse or stockpiles these goods.
Its saving in warehouse space alone permitted an extension of plant layout to achieve economies of large scale, which more than off-set the high cost of air freight.
(iii) The cost of packing. Packaging can be very expensive for a sea voyage, where inclement weather may damage the goods salt air may taint produce, humidity may rust metals, etc. With air freighting most packaging is quite unnecessary. Modern aircraft fly above the clouds nowhere near the sea, and apart from possible effects of cold, the goods in transit are unlikely to come into contact with ‘weather.’
(iv) Insurance costs are lower by air. Aircraft risks are high, but the duration of the journey is so short that for any given transit the risks are much smaller than by surface vehicle.
(v) Where goods are fashionable, they sell best on the crest of the wave. One manufacturer of wallpaper filled a charter aircraft with rolls showing popular recording groups and followed them around America selling at fancy prices.
These are some of the aspects which, when taken into account, make air freighting an extremely useful solution to man’s transport problems.
Since the massive development of the air transport industry the passenger trade for long-distance sea voyages has almost disappeared, and the types of vessel in sue have changed. The chief ones are:-
(i) Container Ships-These are a ships which carry cargo in containers, rather than in conventional holds. The cellular construction permits containers to be loaded into the holds. The cellular construction permits containers to be loaded into the holds quickly, the actual ‘stuffing’ of the containers to be loaded into the holds quickly, the actual ‘stuffing’ of the containers having been done on shore.
The containers may be stacked up to seven high, and an entire ship can be turned round in twelve hours.
(ii) Bulk Carriers-A ship built for a particular type of ‘cargo, e.g. iron ore, is often called a bulk carrier. The emphasis these days is on larger and larger bulk carriers, because the cost per ton of cargo is reduced.
(iii) Oil Tankers-In the last forty years the tanker had become the commonest ship on the high seas, and a wide variety of them is available. The largest are the V.I.C.C’s which operate from the oil-producing countries of the Middle East, Nigeria, Venezuela, etc., to the refineries of Europe, North America and Japan.
(iv) L.N.G-Carriers are special refrigerated tankers for liquefied natural gas, while L.P.G. carriers carry liquefied petroleum gas. Clean product carriers, often quite tiny, carry refined products from oil refineries, chemical works etc. Bulk transport of liquid products is cheap and convenient. In former times oil, for example, was moved in barrels, which had to be lifted on and off the ship by cranes.
(v) Roll-on roll-off Ferries-There are great advantages in sending goods by road on long-haul journeys. The roll-on roll-off ship enables Lorries and cars to drive onto the ship to cross from one land mass to another. Even the transport of cars from continent to continent is economical by this method.
(vi) Passenger Liners-As explained, the huge passenger liner has largely disappeared from the seas except as a cruises liner for holidays at sea. There are passenger cargo liners which are chiefly concerned with cargo to and from the major ports of the hull are taken up with the holds of the vessel.
(vii) Lash Ships-‘Lash’ stands for lighter aboard ship.’ These huge ships carry barges from fiver mouth to river mouth, collecting loaded barges at the mouth of the Mississippi and releasing them to journey from Rotterdam up the Rhine to Germany, or up the Thames to inland wharves. Bacat stands for ‘Barge-aboard-catamaran,’ a similar type of vessel to a lash ship.
(viii) Tramps are pure cargo ships which travel anywhere in the world to earn a living. Like a tramp they have no steady home. A typical journey might be as follow:-
(a) Form Australia with wheat to China.
(b) Japan to West Africa with manufactured goods and electrical engineering equipment.
(c) Cargo of motor vehicles and engineering parts for South Africa.
(d) Across to India for a cargo of cotton goods for Australia.
(e) From China to Japan with iron ore.
(I) Home to the United Kingdom with cocoa and palm oil.
Terminals for Ships
Passengers and cargo have to have access to ships. The terminal is the port, where ships can be serviced, provided with all their requirements before the voyage, and take on passengers and cargo.