Notes from a new councillor: Why we need decent bus services

I attended my first Cabinet Meeting recently as Oxfordshire County Councillor. OCC is led by a coalition of Conservatives and Independents. The question I put was:

Many villages in Wheatley Division are suffering because of the cut in bus subsidies. Elderly and vulnerable people are isolated; younger people cannot get to college and apprenticeships; those who relied on buses for work are now using cars and increasing the traffic on our already congested roads. Does the member agree with me that saving up to £4 million pounds from cutting bus subsidy was a false economy, and will she work with me to find room in our forthcoming budget to reinstate bus subsidies?

Well the member did not agree with me, and proceeded to inform me about all the community transport initiatives underway throughout the county. I am already well versed in these grass-root efforts, having been along to a fair number of community transport meetings over the last two months.

My problem is that offering locals buses twice a week for shopping; or relying on volunteers to get people to hospital appointments; or telling village residents to cross a busy highway (A40) for the nearest bus; is not good enough.

Connecting Oxfordshire, Local Transport Plan 2015 – 2031 includes the vision behind providing local buses. Here are three of the key outcomes (p. 16):

1. To support the transition to a low-carbon future.

2. To support social inclusion and equality of opportunity.

3. To protect, and where possible enhance, Oxfordshire’s environment and improve quality of life.

And again, quoting from the document, “Sustainable, energy-efficient bus transport will reduce sole-occupancy car usage and help manage car emission levels.” Of course it will! I am infuriated that this strategy is in black and white, yet bus subsidies have been cut. Commercial operators will not go into many local villages because there is not profit to be made. So yes, car usage is increasing. This is not helping our transition to a low-carbon future.

“Accessible bus connections will enable disabled people, elderly people and those unable to drive will travel more.” But what we have now is disabled people and elderly people isolated, dependent on friends or limited local transport initiatives. One adult with autism is not accessing his day groups. It took years of training to enable him to take the bus independently. Now there is no bus for him to take. And his mum is highly stressed because of this. This is just one story of many I have been hearing in my first months as County Councillor. And I am determined to do something about it.

“More public transport journeys mean fewer car journeys: fewer roads need to be built and harmful vehicle air pollution is lower.” Oxford is one of the most polluted cities in the U.K. according to the World Health Organisation. The A34 in Oxford is highly congested, and part of the solution proposed is to build a major road, the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, over the greenbelt. I would argue that moving freight off roads to rail, and increasing access to Oxford through good local bus services, will sort the problems of the A34. Funding reliable public transport is a no-brainer. It works in many other cities around the world, why can’t we do it in Oxford?

I realise I have ranted about my local area, but I imagine many of these issues are true up and down the U.K. Many rural bus services have been cut – how is that promoting community and integrating society? How is that reducing vehicle emissions and improving air quality? What are we going to do about it?

* Kirsten Johnson is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Oxford East and a member of the Federal International Relations Committee.

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30 Comments

  • To get people to use buses you would need a very frequent service running from about 5.30 am to midnight which would require a very high subsidy. People who have cars need to use them and they like the convenience of door to door transport even when this involves traffic jams and consequent delays. Even in London many people use cars to get around despite good public transport.
    Moving freight from road to rail is simply not practical as most of it is short distance and would require double handling and therefore long delays and expense. There are a lot more roads than railways.
    The problem with rural bus services is that the numbers using them make it uneconomic to run them frequently and that means long waits for those who have appointments etc. It is all a bit sad really. Buses were a wonderful advance on trains when they started but things have moved on and some people are victims of that change.

  • @ nvelop2003 “The problem with rural bus services is that the numbers using them make it uneconomic to run them frequently”. Your solution ? Do nothing, just wring your hands, and leave it to the market ?

    Money is found for HS2 ( £ 56 billion and rising – was £36 billion) and Crossrail 1 ( £ 15 billion and rising ) Crossrail 2 (£ 28 billion and rising). At the same time, between 2010-15 local government faced cuts from central government of £ 18 bn and a Council Tax freeze. Result ? A skewed transport policy which doesn’t give a flying F. for the isolation of the young, the unemployed and the elderly living in rural areas. Result ? Further migration to the cities by the young.

    SOME FACTS :

    Our privatised railway companies aren’t – they’re nationalised – owned by the French, German and Dutch nationalised railways. Last year exported over £ 122 million in profits to their parent owners. It could help fund a few rural bus routes n’est ce pas ?

    The UK Government’s Bus Services Bill, which is currently in the Commons, will introduce franchising for some councils but will explicitly bar councils from setting up their own companies. The news comes as subsidised bus services in England and Wales have been cut again.

    The Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) has published new research showing that two thirds of councils in England and Wales have reduced their spending on supported bus services, with another four authorities cutting subsidies altogether. CfBT’s ‘Buses in Crisis’ shows that nearly £30m was cut from local authority supported bus funding in the last financial year, an 11% reduction in England and 7 % in Wales, compared to 2015/16. Local authority bus funding has fallen by 33% since 2010, with cuts of over £100m and 2,900 bus services suffering cutbacks. (Another Coalition triumph ?)

    A drastic change of priorities and policies is needed – so time for the Lib Dem policy makers to wake up !!!!!! I believe Baroness Jenny Randerson is the Lib Dem Shadow Transport Spokesperson. How about a statement of intent, Jenny ??????? And how about knocking on her door, Kirsten ?

  • Kirsten johnson 23rd Aug '17 - 3:52pm

    Thank you both for the feedback. I lived in Vienna for a year and loved the local trams, buses, U-Bahn and pedestrianised areas. I am a strong believer in subsidising good public transport as I believe the benefits outweigh the costs. As David points out, the profit from some journeys supports the subsidy for others. A co-operative/mutual structure of finance would allow profits to be ploughed back in to services. I am not an expert, but I believe if the political will is there, there is a way. Yes, Lib Dem policy could certainly lead in this area. Keep feeding in the ideas!

  • nvelope2003 23rd Aug '17 - 4:39pm

    David Raw: It is wonderful that the French, German and Dutch nationalised railways are willing to run our train services but they do not own them. The profits from running trains are so marginal that hardly any British firms can be bothered with them so it is nice to have the benefit of foreign subsidised firms doing it instead. The most profitable route in the UK, the South Western Railway, had only one bidder apart from the previous operator who lost it. I was actually talking about freight not passenger services.

    My local bus service was recently closed which was a blow but as I was often the only passenger it is hard to complain even though I am a member of the local transport forum and had considerable experience of operating rural bus services before I retired some years ago so please do not blame me as I tried to keep them open.

    We need some innovative solutions to the problem not uninformed statements. Running a 40 or 50 seater bus around the country lanes with one or two passengers is not a solution. It also causes complaints from those who see them running empty and do not like paying for them in their council tax, although much of that goes on paying the salaries, expenses and pensions of council officials who do not seem to understand the needs of local people.

    Being rather old I have run out of ideas like the rest of you but we do not seem to get any from the expensively educated younger people who keep complaining that us oldies have stolen their future. I just wonder what they would do if they had to live like we did when I was young.

  • nvelope 2003
    I really think we do have to go in for considerable public subsidies for poblic transport. I do agree with you that services have to be improved, and fares for those who have to pay need to be lowered. We suffer in this country from too much “accountant-think”, whereby services are parcelled into “cost centres” / “profit centres”. When will people realise there should be more holistic thinking? There are negative health outcomes, negative environmental outcomes, negative land use outcomes with too much private road transport, both passenger and freight. As the “practical green party”, we Lib Dems should be pushing this hard!

    Congratulations, Kirsten, on taking this line immediately after your election. Here in Devon, we have been fortunate in retaining much of our public transport / bus subsidies in the last couple of days, and we Lib Dems have campaigned on maintaining and strengthening bus services in the East Devon area certainly, and I think our efforts have paid off. I am told that our flagship bus service Exeter – Exmouth (not subsidised) has gained passenger numbers since the introduction of high quality new buses, and I don’t think the very popular parallel rail line with a half hourly service during daytime has lost out because of it.

  • Apologies – Should have said “kept our subsidies over the last couple of years” (not days!!)

  • David Evershed 24th Aug '17 - 10:19am

    In time, a combination of driverless cars and Uber will make buses redundant in rural areas.

    Isn’t technology wonderful?

  • Neil Sandison 24th Aug '17 - 10:48am

    Most of the public dont care who owns a transport system .What they care about is are the fares reasonable for the service i am getting and is the service frequent enough that i can rely upon it as a regular means of transport .I hope Liberal Democrats concentrate on better access and affordability of the service as a policy objective rather than Labours very expensive re-nationalisation proposals .In terms of community transport running local services through a not for profit social enterprise could help challenge the near monopoly of one or two large providers possible funded through local business rates.residents and businesses both benefit from good transport links.

  • The problem is that nobody can make running empty busses work, not even a not-for-profit social enterprise.
    Words like “lifeline”and “vital” and “isolated” are often used but “unaffordable” is another. I can’t think of any activity my own council indulges in which I would call frivolous or extravagant and which can easily be ditched. We are now cutting the more painful stuff but the alternative is to declare that we all have to pay more rates to run empty busses for pensioners many of whom can afford to winter in Magaluf.
    These are the consequences of a nation running out of wealth creating engines and which is now resorting to taxing each other to redistribute an ever dwindling pile of wealth

  • nvelope2003 25th Aug '17 - 3:46pm

    Palehorse: I am glad that someone gets it. Another problem is that it is hard to find enough bus drivers in rural areas or anywhere else. We have the absurd situation where the county councils are subsidising almost empty brand new buses because it pays to run them while the commercial routes carrying passengers are often covered by older vehicles and can sometimes be cancelled through lack of a driver because the companies dare not risk cancelling the subsised empty buses in case they lose the contract which has guaranteed revenue – at least until the subsidy ends.

  • nvelope2003 25th Aug '17 - 9:19pm

    Are the high fares putting off potential bus passengers ? Older people have free bus travel but after the initial surge in numbers few of them seem to use the buses as most of them prefer to use their cars despite the considerable cost of doing so. They like to go from their house to the car parking place nearest to their destination, if possible right next to it. You have to like buses to want to use them and not many people do.

  • nvelope
    You don’t have to “like” buses themselves to want to use them. It is equally possible that you believe in the idea of a public transport service provided by buses, and under the notion “use it or lose it”, you also wish to do just that. This may be for a number of reasons – wish to keep the service for social reasons, wish to cut down congestion for health or convenience reasons, wish to lower emissions for environmental reasons, or as you yourself acknowledge, especially if you have a bus pass or discount, a wish to reduce personal cost.

    Indeed I would contest your “prefer to use their cars” in a lot of cases. In several cases I know, it is more about not knowing or understanding or even trusting the bus / public transport services, and not being hugely bothered to find out anything.

    Also, as I mentioned in my previous post, in my area we do have brand new buses on a commercial route, as well as some somewhat older ones on subsidised routes. Most of our buses are now lower platform ones suitable for mobility impaired people and wheelchair and pushchair users.

    I am disappointed that this thread has become rather “anti-bus”, and that the concept of cross subsidy, so important in running public transport networks has not been mentioned or encouraged.

  • Tim13 – Cross subsidy sounds nice but it means those who use the more popular routes have to pay higher fares which may or may not deter potential users but does mean they have to find the extra cash. It would be fairer if the subsidy came from the general taxpayer not those, possibly less affluent people, who actually use buses. I am not anti bus but I am a bit cautious about placing too much faith in buses as a solution to transport problems or traffic congestion although they do have a significant role to play in the right circumstances.

  • nvelope 2003
    I agree both with the need to back any cross subsidy with a broader (likely) subvention from general taxes, and also with your cautious comment “in the right circumstances”. That should not rule out extensive campaigns to “use it or lose it”.

    Going rather of thread, but also thinking of public transport development and use maximisation, I think we should be thinking for rural and semi-rural areas, where trams etc are not really appropriate, about battery power to replace large diesel engines such as in buses. In the announcement of phasing out diesel and petrol cars by 2040, the proposal had, as far as I understand, nothing to say on buses, lorries etc, a highly significant source of emissions. Even more disappointingly, within a few days we had the retrograde announcement that we were to be cancelling various mainline electrifications, and relying on diesels!

  • nvelope2003 27th Aug '17 - 8:52pm

    David Row: There might be better uses for £122 million than subsidising little used services. The vast amounts to be spent on the schemes you mention do at least relate to large potential use and are intended to deal with congestion.

    When the railways were run by BR they and their supporters claimed that there were no routes which could be operated commercially but at least five of the franchises now cover all their costs, including allocated costs and make a profit after paying the Government a premium. It is unlikely that there would be any profits or premiums if they were renationalised, based on previous experience, so there would be no £122 millions to spend on anything. The only people who really want nationalisation are the unions, particularly the RMT,who would milk it for every thing and return to their old striking ways until they got what they wanted. The railways would then be closed down.

  • @ nvelop2003 “The only people who really want nationalisation are the unions, particularly the RMT,who would milk it for every thing and return to their old striking ways until they got what they wanted. The railways would then be closed down.”

    I’m afraid you’reout of touch with public opinion, nvelop2003, and your right wing anti-union views have a flavour of the Daily Mail. Indeed you clash with those of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s Liberal Government which legislated to recognise the rail unions in the Taff Vale case of 1906.

    More recently, in the latest opinion poll on the nationalisation of the railways, (Yougov, May 17, 2017), 60% favoured of rail nationalisation, 25% opposed it and 15% didn’t know.

    Ps. Please make more of an effort to get people’s names right.

  • David War: I am not anti union and I do not read the Daily Mail. I was an active member of a public sector union. The Taff Vale case of 1906 has nothing whatsoever to do with the current situation where railways account for only a small proportion of (mostly London commuter) travel instead of the dominant position they held in 1906. Indeed it is generally considered that the railway strikes of the early part of the 20th Century led to the huge growth in road freight and passenger transport since then and the virtual collapse of the railways if it were not for tax payer funded subsidies. You simply cannot rely on them as I discovered when I had to use them when I was working in London.
    Yes I know all about the public opinion poll favouring renationalisation. The problem with that is only about 10% of travel is by rail, 70% of which is London commuter traffic so what evidence do the other 90% of the respondents have for wanting renationalisation ? Just exaggerated stories in the more sensational newspapers I should think. BR was also very unpopular and that is why it was abolished.

    I notice you do not often mention the opinion polls that show people want the restoration of hanging and grammar schools – maybe just as well but public opinion can be very fickle.

    I will get your name right when you stop spelling mine incorrectly.

  • @ envelope2003 It’s difficult to spell your name when you’re too shy to disclose it.

    “it is generally considered that the railway strikes of the early part of the 20th Century led to the huge growth in road freight and passenger transport since then and the virtual collapse of the railways if it were not for tax payer funded subsidies.”

    On what authority do you base that statement ?

  • At the risk of interfering in a private argument IMO the closure of freight/passenger services was akin to that of the removal of electric trolley buses, trams, etc. i.e. short sighted…
    Rural bus services (remember them?) were deemed to be the answer to county travel and road trucks and cars the answer to rail freight/passengers…It is small wonder that Rail commuting is profitable in the SE considering that most investment has gone into that area…under-investment outside London ( and services to from the capitale.g. HS2) mean that few passengers use such services (when it takes 40 minutes for the 14 mile journey from Chester/Liverpool who would bother?)….

    Using the 1960s to support the idea that ‘Public=bad’, ‘Private=good’ is as outdated as the technology from that era….

  • nvelope2003 28th Aug '17 - 4:48pm

    David Raw: Many members of my extended family worked on the railways and I have a great love of them but they have failed to adapt to the modern world. It was their view, even though my grandfather came out in the General Strike. Both of my grandfathers worked on the railways and they were pessimistic about their prospects even then.
    The railway strikes came just as people started to buy lorries instead of horse drawn waggons. If you needed to send some of your products to a customer during a rail strike and the chap down the road with a lorry offered to take them for you what would you have done ? And when he said he would do it for less than the railways after the strike was over would you go back to the railways ? The lorry was not only cheaper but took the goods all the way without the need for double handling onto a railway wagon, shunting for a few hours and sometimes being left in a siding, then having to be taken off the railway wagon and put on a road vehicle for its final destination.

  • nvelope2003 28th Aug '17 - 5:08pm

    Expats: Certainly the commuter services around London are well loaded at peak times but anyone who has used the trains during the off peak times can often have a carriage to themselves while roads are still busy all day. They are also quite slow when you allow for the endless stops and the need to get to and from a station by bus or taxi or a long walk.

    There was a massive modernisation programme on the railways starting in the 1950s but it failed to stop the loss of traffic to the roads and was eventually stopped for that reason. Roads were considered modern and exciting then and trains were thought to belong to the past. Nevertheless many, myself included, thought the destruction of the network was a mistake.
    Yes the closure of tram lines and trolley buses was a mistake but they are inflexible like railways. If you have to keep some spare buses in case the tram lines or electric wires are disrupted then you might just as well use the buses all the time. It is like the plans to keep some gas or coal power stations open in case there is not enough wind or sunshine or the nuclear power station is out of action.

    If it were not for private bus companies having some spare vehicles at certain times the railways would not be able to carry out any track maintenance unless they simply abandoned their passengers.

    Whenever schemes for railway modernisation are proposed they are vigorously rejected by a coalition of vested interests from the past who do not want their cosy lifestyle disrupted and the subsequent bribes to get their agreement often make the schemes unviable.

  • In time, a combination of driverless cars and Uber will make buses redundant in rural areas.

    Well assuming driverless cars actually happen, we can be sure that they won’t be widespread adoption before circa 2040. Additionally, given the research into Uber’s finances and business model, I don’t expect them to still be in business in 2020.

    I think it would be advisable to focus on what can be achieved with today’s transport providers and technology…

  • @ nvelope2003 ” (the railways) failed to adapt to the modern world. It was their view, even though my grandfather came out in the General Strike. Both of my grandfathers worked on the railways and they were pessimistic about their prospects even then. The railway strikes came just as people started to buy lorries instead of horse drawn wagons.”

    Sorry I missed your comment earlier, but I’m afraid I can’t agree. The decline of the railways wasn’t down to strikes in the first half of the last century – after 1912 there were hardly any. In 1921, despite the ‘Triple Alliance’ the rail unions failed to back the miners whose wages had been cut.

    In the 1926 General Strike the railway workers were out for just a week – (the miners held out for nine months). Granddad, a Durham miner, had seen his pay reduced by a third post 1918 with longer hours. He faced this again in 1926.

    The railway strike in 1926 was just one week. The real reason for the decline was lack of investment and maintenance during WW 11. They were clapped out by the time of Nationalisation in 1948. ‘Strikes destroyed the railways’ is, I’m afraid, an urban myth.

  • “The A34 in Oxford is highly congested, and part of the solution proposed is to build a major road, the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, over the greenbelt.”

    A deeply flawed idea. Reading the strategic study report, it is clear the people writing it didn’t have a clue!
    1. It totally omits any mention of the mostly dual carriageway’d A34-M40-A43-A45-A14 route!
    2. Insufficient work has been done on identifying the reasons for the congestion on the M4 to M40 section of the A34 around Oxford and hence doubt whether it will have any positive effect on traffic around Oxford and Wheatley specifically – just as the M6 Toll has had little real effect on the flow of traffic along the M6 through Birmingham.
    3. In focusing on the population centres it desires to link, it ignores the real route problems – with much of the identified route (ie. roads to be upgraded) being through populated areas with existing local traffic flows and difficult to dual etc. (Once you start talking about bypass’s etc. then enhancing the existing mostly dualled carriageway route looks even more attractive.)
    4. Little is made of the Varsity Line, the reinstatement of which would firstly cost significantly less than the proposed road, be delivered quicker, be less intrusive and would link city and town centres together – enabling greater use of public transport, bicycles and foot…

    Also given how the government is blowing hot-and-cold over something as simple (and relatively cheap) as the electrification of the London-Kettering-Sheffield line – an upgrade that would pay for itself out of reduced running and maintenance costs within 10 years. I doubt the government can really justify spending significantly more on something that ‘could’ (ie. most probably won’t) improve journey times or give a substantial boost to economic activity to justify the expenditure.

  • Fundamentally the problem with bus routes, outside of London, goes back to the privatisation model used by the government. I suggest if local/regional authorities had greater control over routes and timetables as TfL has then I suspect we wouldn’t need so many ‘community’ ie. volunteer services, to patch the holes.

    With such control perhaps we could get away from the absurd routes and timetabling we do see. In my part of the east midlands, I recently did some research – it was quicker for me to cycle the 16 miles between two towns than even attempt to take a bus – circa 40 minutes as opposed to over 2 hours, excluding waiting time as the service didn’t run very frequently. So with the bike it was possible to “day trip” to my neighbouring town and do a days’ work rather than waste most of the day travelling, particularly as the bus service didn’t run in the early mornings or evenings…

  • “The railway strike in 1926 was just one week. The real reason for the decline was lack of investment and maintenance during WW 11. They were clapped out by the time of Nationalisation in 1948. ‘Strikes destroyed the railways’ is, I’m afraid, an urban myth.”

    In the 20’s and 30’s the Labour Party was rising from strength to strength. It’s episodes of minority government were, sooner or later. going to mature into full majority parliamentary rule. Its policies were clear and determined and built around large scale nationalisation.
    No sensible Board of Directors, in any of their declared targets, would make any long term investments. The correct choice was to sweat the assets and let the Labour Party deal with the consequences,
    That happened and those who knew how to run about one fifth of our industry were, as expected, pushed aside and replaced by the usual placemen and friends who then ran our economy into the ground with their bungling.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Sep '17 - 11:00am

    David Raw: I think you have proved my point. The railway workers could see that road haulage would damage their industry and had the sense not to engage in prolonged strikes but the damage had already been done. It was difficult to get people to invest in them by then as they saw lorries everywhere. Railways are just not suitable for short distance freight because of the need for double handling except for bulk commodities like coal but that traffic has almost disappeared and railway yards are now full of redundant coal wagons where they have not been converted to carry aggregates.

    The coal industry became uncompetitive with imports and oil and could no longer sustain the high costs of production of which pay was a substantial element. The long strikes did not help matters and we no longer have any deep mines. Presumably coal will be phased out completely for environmental reasons which will further damage rail freight prospects. It seems that many people want a railway system which no longer serves any practical purpose as all the traffic which it carried is taken away leaving just passenger trains running to time tables prescribed by the Government.
    You are right when you say the railways are not really privatised because the tracks and signalling are still in the public sector and passenger services are effectively controlled by the Government except for a handful of trains to the North East. I wonder if any industry would prosper if it had to get permission from the Government to provide any particular item, especially as that Government was clearly lacking in any knowledge of that business or any other business.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Sep ’17 – 11:00am…………..David Raw: I think you have proved my point. The railway workers could see that road haulage would damage their industry and had the sense not to engage in prolonged strikes but the damage had already been done. It was difficult to get people to invest in them by then as they saw lorries everywhere. Railways are just not suitable for short distance freight because of the need for double handling except for bulk commodities like coal but that traffic has almost disappeared and railway yards are now full of redundant coal wagons where they have not been converted to carry aggregates…………

    Quite the opposite…You put the demise of rail traffic down to long distance ‘lorries’ in the post war years…
    Years when the major road in the UK was a single lane A1 and winter travel was regularly disrupted by breakdowns and accidents due to bad weather….The motorways were not even a glimmer in anyone’s eye..
    Railways were not designed for short distance freight but for long distance…The short distance was from the freight yards to the customer by lorry and, post war, even the trucks were BR …A common sight around London were the lorries in BR livery….

  • nvelope2003 2nd Sep '17 - 12:28pm

    Roland: There are plans to give some local authorities control over bus services but I am not confident that this will always be beneficial as they will be subject both to the pet whims of council officials and those of the more articulate and vociferous members of the public. Although I have lost the bus service to the place I needed to visit there are 2 other bus services available to other towns. The commercial route does the 16 miles from my town to the nearest big town in 54 minutes every 2 hours but does serve some villages on line of route although it could go via a more direct route which does not have any places not served by other buses. The remaining subsidised service serves a more tortuous route and carries few passengers until near its destination. The route which was cancelled went via every lane and estate and simply took too long.
    To make bus services attractive there has to be some selectivity about the route because trying to cover every hamlet or house will make it unattractive to those who have a choice. Commercial operators have introduced some limited stop or express services which have attracted passengers. Maybe public subsidies could be used to try to get such services started instead of trying to cover everything but the council will have to resist complaints and campaigns. Hopefully once established these services might be commercially viable. Frequency is important but where this is not practical the bus times need to meet wishes of potential passengers. Not many people use early or evening buses in rural areas.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Sep '17 - 3:32pm

    Expats: Where did I say that I put the demise of rail traffic down to long distance lorries ( why the inverted commas ?) in the post war years ? I did not and was clearly referring to local freight traffic.
    The railways have retained some long distance traffic such as containers from the ports but not much local traffic except where coal was once carried from the mine to a nearby power station siding to siding using long trains but presumably this has now ceased.

    Yes I remember the unusual BR lorries (the US word truck was not much used for road vehicles then and some drivers still called their vehicle ‘wagon’).They were still using some horses in the 1940s and possibly 50s. The pre nationalisation railway companies had their own collection and delivery service and even shared some deliveries by using the lorries and horse drawn wagons of competing railways. Road haulage was also nationalised by the Labour Government in the 1940s but returned to private ownership by the Conservatives in the 1950s.
    In the 1960s and 70s BR asked the Government for permission to use their lorries to carry parcels direct from the sender to the customer where it made sense but this was refused and the traffic was lost to competitors.

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