§ 2.48 p.m.
§ LORD FORBES rose to draw attention to the problems of moving freight in this country with special reference to the British Productivity Council's Review on Freight Handling; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords. I rise to draw your Lordships' attention to the problem of moving freight in this country and to the British Productivity Council's excellent review on freight handling. Let me at the outset apologise for having the audacity as a very junior Back-Bencher to introduce a Motion in your Lordships' House. I should also make it clear that I shall not be referring to the recent White Paper on the modernisation plans for the railways, as I understand that this is to be the subject of another debate. The problem of moving freight in this country is one which is daily getting more serious, and for the well-being of the nation it must be settled with the least possible delay, because any further hindrance is likely to increase the evils tenfold. However, it would not be right for me only to draw your Lordships' attention to some of the many problems without at the same time attempting, with the greatest humility, to offer a few solutions to at least some of them.
§ If we accept the fact that transport of freight is the very lifeblood of the modern nation, whether in peace or in war it is essential that thought should be given to the strategic plan, as well as to peace-time requirements. It is of paramount importance that we should be able to move raw materials speedily to our centres of industry, and then to move the finished products to our customers, or to the ports for export, because practically everything produced in this country has to be moved. In my opinion, a good freight system should be nothing less than a conveyor belt for industry, so that neither the factory nor the consumer, be he at home or abroad, is held up for want of materials.
§ There are three main principles in moving freight: speed, regularity and reliability. The present system is far too slow and is acting as a dangerous brake on our national productivity. It is also true that one of the reasons why some of our goods are in danger of being 237 priced out of the export markets is the high cost of freight, due to our inadequate freight system. In addition, the slowness of moving exports to our ports has, I believe, most regrettably, influenced some countries against placing orders with us. We must not forget that merchandise in transit represents capital which, to all intents and purposes, is frozen and unproductive. Moreover, the slower the movement of our materials and finished products, the larger the stocks that must be kept by industry and by the consumer to cushion any possible delay in delivery of goods.
§ It is distressing, to say the least, to find that to-day transport of freight represents a high proportion of producers' costs. An example of this is provided by the firm of Unilever, who have stated that to produce one ton of washing powder costs the equivalent of thirteen man-hours, while to move that ton of washing powder 200 miles to a retailer costs the equivalent of nineteen man-hours. In other words. in that case transport costs exceed production costs by over 50 per cent. This perhaps: is not surprising when ore finds, by reference to the British Transport Commission's Report for 1954. that goods moving by rail from one terminal to another travel at an overall average speed of just under 4 m.p.h.; and if shunting and marshalling at the terminals is taken into consideration, this speed is reduced to just under 3 m.p.h. After studious thought and boundless ingenuity, the producer may be able to lower his costs of production, and one of the most notable contributions of recent years has been the mechanising of freight handling within the factories. But there has been no comparable revolution in external transport, with the result that the consumer is always robbed, by increasing freight charges, of any reduction in production costs.
§ Unfortunately, the rising cost of products, due to mounting freight charger>, affects no only the home market but also the export market. It is perhaps pertinent to ask for how long purchasers abroad will be prepared to go on paying for our goods at prices that are partly inflated through our poor transport system. To-day we are in the happy position of having several alternative methods of moving freight—namely, by land, air, sea or inland waterway. It is up to us to 238 make use of these diverse methods. However, we must ensure that no one form of transport becomes dominant over any other potentially competitive form. Each one should help to give us that great flexibility which is necessary when moving freight. I do not think it is overstating the case to say that to-day our system for moving freight by rail is little more than a supplement to our crazy network of roads. There is no doubt that a large amount of capital will in future have to he expended to bring our transport system up to date. For this Her Majesty's Government must consider capital requirements for transport as a whole and not separately, so that capital can be expended to the best advantage.
§ First of all, however our fundamental transport policy must be resolved; and for this purpose I would recommend that the Government should set up a Commission to investigate and advise on the movement of freight. The last Royal Commission set up was, I believe, in 1928. That Commission recommended, among other things, that no further tramways should be built and that trams should gradually disappear. One trembles to think what the chaos in air city streets would be like to-day if this commonsense recommendation had not been carried out. Unfortunately, our railways are still losing traffic to our treacherous and overcrowded roads.
§ Surely, it is crystal clear what a person who sends his goods by rail is paying for. He is paying for the time goods occupy the wagons and not for the energy expended in moving the goods. It is the wagon waiting idle in the marshalling yards and in the sidings that is costing the money. It is interesting to find sated in the British Transport Review of December, 1954, that there arc at least £30 million worth of empty wagons sitting idle in marshalling yards and sidings on any one clay. I believe that there have been some improvements since then, but there are still a great many idle wagons sitting in marshalling yards. This fact illustrates only too clearly that the present turn-round of wagons is far too slow. In this connection, it is perhaps not surprising to find that, on an average, each clanking railway wagon does only one journey every nine and a half days. Even if the turn-round could be speeded up a little, so that a wagon did a journey every nine 239 days, representing a mere half day's improvement, it has been estimated that there would be a saving in wagons alone of about 59,000. Fifty-nine thousand wagons represents about £28 million; and if the life of a wagon is taken at ten years, that would mean a saving to the British Transport Commission of about £21 million a year—quite an appreciable saving for apparently so small an improvement.
§ Before freight can be moved as on a conveyor belt, the turn-round of wagons must be progressively improved. For this, freight trains must run like express trains; that is, on the same lines as passenger services, and they must run to schedule. To achieve this power brakes must be fitted. Here I must welcome not only the decision of the British Transport Commission to fit vacuum brakes, but also the statement of Sir Brian Robertson that the fitting of these brakes is to be treated as an emergency operation. That must be so, because increased speed can come only when all—and "all" is the operative word—wagons have been fitted with power brakes. You may have a number of "Flying Scotsmen" on the lines, but one Stephenson's "Rocket" can hold up a great many "Flying Scotsmen". As soon as all wagons are fitted with power brakes it is essential that some small marshalling yards and sidings should be scrapped, so that as few hiding places as possible remain for ramshackle old wagons. We should then find, I am certain, that once more the number of wagons required could be still further reduced, because a smaller number of wagons can be put to greater use by running trains at higher densities and by having a better turn-round of wagons.
§ Then we must strike a balance between moving freight by rail and by road. Unfortunately, the problem for us is far more difficult than for some countries, such as the United States of America, since we in this country cannot even contemplate a vast system of motorways, owing to the fact that we have a high density of population and every inch of arable ground must, wherever possible, be kept for agriculture. In order to alleviate our already overcrowded roads, the steel rails must form the arteries for moving long-distance and heavy freight.240
§ The roads must then be the veins feeding these arteries and linking up places not already served by the arteries.
§ Probably the most flexible systems we have to-day for moving freight are the container and pallet systems. I maintain that the container system is being grossly abused. In my opinion, containers should go only from one main-line station to another, and not on to branch-line stations, as at present, because the railway authorities have to ensure a quick turn-round of wagons. This can be done only if the flat wagon transporting the container has its load transferred to road wheels at the earliest possible opportunity on arrival at the main line station. The present procedure is, I think, a classic example of making what should be a really flexible system into one which is as rigid as a poker. The main drawback to the container system is, of course, the mechanical equipment necessary for loading and unloading the containers. This is another reason why containers should not go on to branch line stations, as it would mean spending money on equipping these small stations to deal with the containers.
§ Whilst in the United States of America this summer, I had the opportunity of investigating the American system of moving freight by rail, known as "piggyback". This system entails moving trailers forming part of articulated lorries on flat railway wagons. The trailers are left at the marshalling yards by haulage firms for loading on to "piggy-back" trains, which normally consist of about seventy-eight wagons, and may be loaded in six bays, each bay having thirteen wagons. The trailer is backed on to the flat wagon by a tractor belonging to the railway company, and the whole operation of loading and securing takes six men about three minutes for each wagon. A new and absolutely revolutionary flat railway wagon has, however, just been produced in the United States and is just going into operation. This flat railway wagon has two lines on it, and the trailers have small wheels attached to their axles so that the trailers can be easily pushed on to the flat wagons. In this case, securing and loading is done by two men, and it takes only one and a half minutes for each wagon.
§ The most interesting feature of this development is that the whole load is 241 very much lower, as the trailer is resting on its axles instead of on its road wheels—the road wheels actually overhang the wagon. This is a tremendous advantage, from our point of view, because, up to now, maximum loading height has been the great difficulty about introducing any system like "piggy-back". Another advantage is that the centre of gravity of the load is very much lower, so there is more travel at greater speeds but with the same safety. The present procedure in the United States is to run two "piggyback" trains between terminals each night, the first train taking perishable goods. The great feature of "piggyback" in the United States is that it is recapturing some of the freight that the railways have been losing to the roads. In fact, the Baltimore-Ohio railway system has stated that since the introduction of "piggy-back" they have increased the volume of freight carried by them by over 300 per cent. This means that by this ingenious method lorries on wheels do the door-to-door collection and delivery of goods for which the lorry is ideally suited. In addition, I consider that the lorry should carry wireless equipment, so that it can he in radio communication with its depot, so cutting out many unnecessary journeys.
§ If "piggy-hack" could be adapted for use here, it would mean that about fifty road vehicles could he moved speedily and safely by rail with one motive power instead of having fifty motive powers all using a form of petrol or oil which, I would remind your Lordships, has to be imported, as does the rubber for the tyres. Other advantages of this system are that drivers need never leave their home centres, so that lodging difficulties do not arise; the radius of the motor vehicle is increased: there is greater safety, and also less strain on the drivers; checking is cut to a minimum; covering and uncovering is eliminated, while pilfering is greatly reduced. The greatest effect here of a "piggy-back" system would be on long-distance haulage. as it would enable new centres to be brought within next-morning delivery radius of each other. At present the maximum distance for road haulage is about 200 miles, but with the introduction of a combination of road and rail it would be possible to increase this distance to at least 400 miles. That means that London would be brought within next-morning delivery radius of 242 such places as Glasgow and Edinburgh. What a tremendous advantage that would be! Amongst other things, it would mean that any noble Lord in -London who could not stomach a mature haggis for breakfast could have a fresh haggis.
§ Another advantage of this method, is that the railways could carry out nightly trunk hauls over long distances, thus relieving the main roads of at least a proportion of the traffic they now carry. By speeding up the movement of goods between centres, it should be possible for firms to enter into contracts with the Transport Commission for a specified number of wagons between centres each day. This would be a great advantage not only to the firms but also to the Transport Commission. I believe that to-day there are about eighty lorry loads of merchandise passing between Manchester and London each day. How much better it would be if at least a proportion of this regular traffic could be moved by rail, instead of by road!
§ In planning the movement of freight, the turn-round of wagons is vital. The railway authorities must ensure the quick turn-round of wagons and they must also ensure that the right wagon is at the right place at the right time. In the case of "piggy-back", a quick turn-round of wagons should be easy, for there should always be a motive power waiting at the main line station to take away the container or the trailer. It is also important that there should he immediate unloading of ordinary wagons, and for this the necessary mechanical handling equipment must be available. On no account must wagons he used by firms as storage accommodation. To stop this practice, monetary penalties, both painful and severe, must be imposed. To-day, I believe the present charge for not releasing a wagon after the first twenty-four hours is in the region of 6s. That, I think, is quite unrealistic, as it is almost cheap storage for those firms with inadequate storage accommodation. No wonder they make use of it !
§ Another so far unsolved problem is that of the careful handling of goods during shunting operations. To-day, many goods are being sent by road instead of by rail, just because of the high percentage of damage done to goods in transit by rail. One firm of bicycle manufacturers in the Midlands have stated that they have changed over to 243 using road transport exclusively, because last year damage and pilferage to their goods amounted to £950 17s. 0d. The most likely line of development here is, I think, something similar to that used by the Southern Railway system in the United States of America. There, shunting is carried out by means of a gradient and electronics. First, a radar device evaluates the rollability of the wagon, taking into consideration wind, speed, size and weight; then an electronic computer automatically regulates the braking of the wagon and so ensures smooth coupling. By this method not only is shunting carried out without jerks, but also shunting can be carried out in any weather, including fog. Whatever method the British Transport Commission decide to adopt here, it is essential that shunting should be carried out smoothly, just as a dry fly fisherman drops his fly on to a trout stream. To sum up the position regarding moving freight by rail, I consider that, if the railways are to regain their competitive power the remedy, rather than to increase the freight charges, is, first and foremost, to put emphasis on new techniques and then see what new equipment will be required to put these techniques into practice.
§ Now I want to deal with some of the problems involved in moving freight by road. The great characteristic of road transport is that it gives facilities for moving goods from door to door with reasonable speed and with the minimum of handling. Unfortunately. however the characteristic of "reasonable speed" is fast disappearing, owing to our inadequate roads. Already in this country the density of traffic on our few Roman and many romantic roads is far higher than in any other country. What does this mean? It means one thing for certain, and that is that the congestion on our roads to-day is a mere fleabite compared with what it will be in seven years' time. since it has been estimated that if the number of vehicles coming on to the roads increases as at present. there will be double the number on the roads in 1963 compared with the number to-day.
§ When building new roads and improving others we must ensure that we do not merely encourage the pleasure motorist to conic out on to our roads and once more block our freight lifelines. If 244 thought is not given to this matter the whole object of road improvement for freight may be defeated as has happened in some instances in the United States of America. The first essential is that the railways must win back freight from the roads in the form of whole and awkward loads. Next, if we are to continue to run traffic at such high density, we must get an even flow of traffic. This can be done only by cutting out all bottlenecks and black spots and then by constructing urban motorways. The construction of urban motorways would achieve far more than the construction of miles and miles of inter-city motorways. All this should lead to a reduction in the cost of transporting freight owing to less fuel being used. It is no use building fast trunk roads on which lorries can travel at 20 m.p.h. or more if the route is studded with bottlenecks so that drivers have to reduce speed to 5 m.p.h. or less, for this merely brings down the overall average out of all proportion.
§ Another problem is how to keep the amount of fixed capital down to a minimum. This, I maintain, can best be done by the development of more articulated lorries. The great advantage of the articulated lorry is that one motive power can be used for several trailers. It is common to find one motive power to three trailers, the practice being to have one trailer being loaded, another being unloaded and the third on the road. The added advantage of this is that the drivers can usually sleep at home, as one driver takes a load out to a half-way point and there he meets a driver coming from the other direction, they change over trailers and each returns to his home depot. Another matter which requires urgent attention is the development of moving more goods such as sugar, milk and animal feeding-stuffs in bulk transport, because bulk transport reduces transport costs very considerably. Whatever happens, do not let us forget that in making our road plan it should be part and parcel of a larger and far more comprehensive plan for moving freight.
§ I come now to freight movement at the ports. Here again there are many vexing problems, the main one being the slowness of loading or unloading ships. This is largely due to the lack of planning in the past. Traders have been allowed 245 to establish themselves too close to the ships' anchorage, with the result that extensive movement in the docks is greatly restricted and the development of full mechanisation has been greatly hampered. The result is that facilities for loading anti unloading ships are at present totally inadequate. This lack of mechanisation, coupled with the uneven delivery of the cargo by road, has done much to cause the unmanageable congestion at our docks and has led to the serious detention of road vehicles. Our docks were designed to be worked mainly by rail, hit to-day one finds that the position has been almost reversed. Probably the most glaring example is Tilbury where, before the war, about 20 per cent. of the cargo arrived by road. To-day, about 60 per cent. of the cargo arrives by road. So a possible solution to the dock problem might be once more to work the docks mainly by rail instead of by read. This would mean that palletisation, which has already increased the speed of loading ships by about 20 per cent., could he used to cut out a lot of double handling between rail and ship.
§ Next I turn to the movement of freight by inland waterway and by air—might call the Cinderellas of our freight systems; the one old and haggard the other young and undeveloped. I am glad to say that the present modernisation schemes for some of our canals at least show the importance attached to the steady movement of goods by canal. It would indeed be a great pity if our old and picturesque canals were ever to be relegated to the sole use of the bamboo and float fishermen; they are far too valuable for that. Some, at least, of our canals must he revived so as to carry freight at relatively low charges—non-perishable goods not required within a short period of time. Where factories are not sited adjacent to canals, the transport of freight by barge would he far more attractive if the present double handling could be cut out and instead loads could he transferred from road to canal by means of inter-changeable containers.
§ Of course, where speedy delivery is important there is obviously much scope for the aeroplane. However, to-day air freight transport is largely hampered by the complete lack of any special air freight system in this country. Having put this matter right, we must then 246 evolve a speedy method of moving goods from factory to aeroplane and from aeroplane to the consumer—in other words, it is another question of transferring goods, this time from road to aeroplane and vice versa.
§ Now about the future. Surely this is not a question of "When can we afford to modernise our freight systems?" but rather of, "How long can we afford our present neglect?" It must be admitted that some of the modernisation plans especially those for the railways, are at least attempts to put right the neglect of many years. But surely it is opportune to ask ourselves whether we are satisfied that the modernisation schemes are on the right lines. For instance, will the changeover from steam to diesel electric on our railways—a revolution in itself—be revolutionised once more by the introduction of atomic power?
§ In planning the future movement of freight, we must have close liaison with other countries to ensure that we have at least as good a freight system as that of any other country. But this is not enough. By our own research and foresight we must evolve a freight system so flexible that not only is it the best in the world but, by careful development, it will remain the best in the world. As I have already indicated, there are many defects in our techniques for moving freight, and I consider it imperative, if we are to improve our freight system, that a Royal Commission should be set up to investigate this complex problem and make recommendations for the future. In advising Her Majesty's Government to take this course. I must add one recommendation—namely, that speed in coming to a reasoned conclusion is absolutely vital, as any further delay in putting a plan into operation may land us in the same ditch that we have been in before: that of too hasty action or utter collapse.
§ Finally, my Lords, I would say this. I have talked mainly about machines, but do not let us forget that behind most of these machines are men and women living bodies, operating them. Without their co-operation we car not advance. With new machines coming forward I am confident that not only will there be increased vigour amongst those responsible for planning the movement of freight, but also the morale of the operators will go 247 up out of all proportion; because although in this mechanical age man may like to look at museum pieces of machinery, there is not the slightest shadow of doubt that he likes to work, and works best, with new machines.
§ It has been stated, I believe, that a great future lies in front of this nation if we work hard. I venture to suggest that the problem goes deeper than that. First and foremost, all of us, nobody excepted, must get back that absolutely vital sense of responsibility and pride in service which in the past has carried us over so many almost insurmountable obstacles and for which we were admired throughout the world. Without this sense of responsibility and pride in service this nation must surely sink to its lowest depth; but with it everything, including freight, should flow smoothly towards prosperity. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, at the opening of his most agreeable speech the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, apologised that a very junior Back-Bencher should dare to address your Lordships on such an important subject. If, over these past few years, I have sensed the atmosphere in your Lordships' House aright, we should sometimes prefer Back-Benchers, on both sides of your Lordships' House, to monopolise more time, instead of having it monopolised by some of those on the Front Benches, on both sides of the House, upon whom has devolved the major responsibility in discussing these great problems.
The noble Lord has to-day covered such a wide field that I am not going to attempt to follow him. I find myself at some disadvantage because, in the immediate future, your Lordships' House will be asked to debate the White Paper which the Government have produced, upon the future financial arrangements appertaining to British Railways. During the course of a speech that I made a week ago, I tried to inveigle Her Majesty's Government into putting before the House a Motion to discuss this matter but they seemed a little shy. The "usual channels" are now at work, trying to arrange a date in the immediate future for Her Majesty's Opposition to put down a Motion, and I do not want to say 248 much this afternoon that will be better said in a full-scale debate on the various serious proposals which Her Majesty's Government are making and which will have a most serious effect upon ail those things on which the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, has spoken.
I think that at the outset of this debate we had better get to the heart of the problem. The noble Lord spoke about a Royal Commission and the thought that went through my head was, "God forbid!" We have been talking about transport for so many years that I, now getting to the age when my memory is not as good as it was, have forgotten when we started. Let us come only to postwar times. In 1947 we passed an Act that had for its objective the very thing that the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, now wants—the complete integration of transport. We then had the Act of 1953, when the pendulum swung the other way which threw integration overboard and gave unrestrained competition, with "Every man for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost!" Then in 1956 we had another Act of Parliament more or less dictated by common sense, which tried to find a balance between the two; and only recently in your Lordships' House we gave consent to a measure which at least sought to stabilise the pendulum somewhere between the two.
Where do we now find ourselves? I find myself largely in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Forbes—more in agreement with him than he thinks. In this modern world we cannot have this fierce and unbridled competition. It is competition between—what? Competition has really hardly started, because the 1953 Act has only just started to work and what is happening? Over the last six months we have had a price-cutting war between the two factions of road transport which must have very grave repercussions upon rail transport. If the noble Lord wishes me to speak the truth in this matter and with what the noble Lord has called the "conveyor lines of industry" being so short, I cannot but see that the door-to-door conveyance of freight will prevail. That means a very large extension of road transport. One has only to look at the industrial fit-up of this country with a little knowledge to see that.
I see that the noble Lord. Lord Bennett of Edgbaston, is sitting opposite. He 249 knows as much about the motor industry as I do. Take the motor industry (one of our greatest industries) as an example. There is not a motor vehicle made in this country that is manufactured at the factory whose name it bears; sixty other factories contribute to that one factory in building a motor vehicle. The conveyor lines run from sixty, seventy or eighty factories, short hauls, door-to-door conveyance. The Motion of the noble Lord mentions freight handling, yet the truth is that the less freight is handled, the cheaper the goods are. Commerce and industry to-day demand door-to-door conveyance, for all the reasons so eloquently put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Forbes. Approximately 80 per cent. of the freight of this country is at present conveyed by road, and if one took a radius of forty miles from the consignment of goods, I would say the figure is nearer 100 per cent. Where, then, in what direction, are 'we going? We cannot afford the loading and unloading; we cannot afford the cost of packaging.
The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, has spoken to-day of palletisation, but that has been going on in industry for years. Special bodies are built on motor vehicles to carry particular goods, to avoid the cost of packaging and risk of pilfering, and to avoid all those things which, as the noble Lord has rightly pointed out, are time—and money—wasting. My fear is that at some future date (and here I find myself encroaching on the debate on which I said I would not encroach) we may have some Government which will try to liquidate a £450 million debt incurred by the railways by artificially curbing the most economic form of transport in this country for that is so easily clone.
We have to and out what is the proper function of rail transport and road transport. It is quite obvious that rail transport is by far the most economical form of transport to carry the minerals of this country. Without question, road transport is the most economical form of transport to carry goods short distances, from factory to retail shop or from one factory to another. We cannot all afford to have railway sidings. There is somewhere an area where both forms of transport, road and rail, impinge, but at present the idea seems to be to have fierce competition to find the level. As I have said, nearly 80 per cent. of the freight of this country is carried by road.
250 An interesting factor, which gives the lie to quite a lot of politically-inspired opinion, is that we have to-day an increasing number of those in trade and industry who wish to carry freight in their own vehicles. "C" licences are still growing. It cannot be said that that is because of the inefficiency of British Road Services, to whom I would pay a very high tribute. I think they have come through the transport war of the last few years with very great credit. Look, my Lords, at what they had to do. First, they had to acquire 40,000 vehicles in one year or so. Then they had to dispose of 30,000 vehicles a couple of years after. And through it all they have built up a service to industry in response to industry's insistence on such a service and its maintenance. That forced the Government to bring in a measure suspending the disposal of the road haulage vehicles. Why did they do it? It was because of the men who were concerned with industrial efficiency. I could not agree more with what the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, has said: you can hove machines, you can have all this automation brought into industry, but in the end it is a matter of men. And they, the British Road Services, had men who had the sense to go out and sell a service and to study what the customer wanted.
The noble Lord, when he talks about transferring traffic, is talking about something that makes me shudder. It is true that you can transfer traffic. We may, in this terrible time in which we live, be compelled to have petrol rationing. That will transfer traffic. I was delighted to hear the Minister of Transport say in another place only yesterday that he would not artificially take from the most economical form of transport, and force what he took on to what was not the most economical form of transport. We have to be desperately careful about that, because transport has been the plaything of political Parties ever since I can remember. I do not know, of course, but I do not think I shall ever see in my life a time when it is not. So the question arises—and this is what the noble Lord really was getting at—how can the railways, which are losing traffic every day, carry on successfully?
The noble Lord has mentioned this Productivity Council's report on freight handling. I do not agree with him that it is an excellent Report. I think it is 251 one of the poorest Reports which has been produced by this body. I have my grave suspicions that at one time it was rewritten by the British Transport Commission, because it is a very good advertising boost for them. But it says not one word about what is the heart of the problem. The heart of the problem is this. It is no good having modernisation on the railways it is no good, as the noble Lord said, raising the speed of freight trains from 4 m.p.h. to 100 m.p.h. It is no good having forklift trucks and modern conveyor belts in the centre of Birmingham. When it comes to dispersing goods from the country stations, what do you find? The goods lie there for days on end while clerks write out bills of lading and invoices that were invented in the days of Queen Victoria.
One of the things you must have in dealing with industry is salesmanship. And one of the reasons for the success of British Road Services was that it had drafted into it, willy-nilly, men who had had to struggle for their living, men who had had to fight for their businesses. They have gone out and worked on that essential matter. If the truth must be told, some people in authority in British Railways still seem to have it in their heads that when they carry your freight they are conferring upon you a very great favour. That is not the way to get business. May I give your Lordships one glaring example to illustrate what I mean? I should say that when someone consigns a consignment carriage paid, he expects that that means that what is consigned is carriage paid to its destination. That is what happens with British Road Services. But in the case of the railways the poor unfortunate person who receives the goods has still to pay a few odd pence or a few odd shillings to have them transported from the local railway station to his house. What that must cost in clerical work alone must, I should think, be prodigious.
These are some of the things that have to be dealt with before we talk about mechanical handling. The noble Lord has spoken about the "piggy-back". I could not help thinking of an instance which I saw the other day. That was a seagoing vessel being transported from Hull to Dagenham by road. I thought that was a supreme example of a "piggy 252 back". The real reason why the journey was made by road was because it was very much cheaper that way. Here was a ship weighing 35 tons put on the road, congesting the road and holding up traffic, because it was cheaper than putting it on the water at Hull and steaming it down to Dagenham.
The noble Lord has compared freight handling in this country with the way it is done in America. I hope he will not mind my saying so, but I do not think that that was a very fair comparison. I also have travelled in America, and during the course of journeys totalling thousands of miles by rail I have seen only very few freight trains. The freight trains over there travel at a speed of only about 10 m.p.h. but they are as much as two or two and a half miles in length, and they move at night. The problem over there is quite different from our problem over here. Here we are concentrated in a small island and our conveyor belts do not stretch the distances. I am afraid that we shall have to try to work this thing out. I shall have something perhaps more serious to say in another debate upon how I think it is going to work out.
I consider that the noble Lord has served a very useful purpose in raising this topic to-day. I think he has pinpointed many of the difficulties that exist and many of the things that are wrong. But in my view we must have more integration. At the present time we have common ownership as between the railways and 16,000 long-distance haulage vehicles. We have, I believe (the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, will forgive me if I put forward only a rough figure) about 1,500.000 goods-carrying vehicles in this country under A, B and C licences. We really are at the point of getting back to 1930. Then we were suffering from a surfeit of transport, not transport inefficiency. There was competition, and competition is a good thing sometimes but if you have competition between essential services, as we have in transport. it may temporarily․I think it has come about only in the last six months of the price-cutting war․reduce transport costs on the road, but I do not think it is going to be good for the economy of this country in the long run.
My Lords, I feel that I have not contributed very much to this debate. I have tried to express my views on some 253 of the points raised by the noble Lord. I have tried -to state as clearly as I can what I consider is the fundamental problem which we shall have to consider in a very short space of time—that is, how we are going to keep British Railways in being for their essential purpose at not too high a cost, either to those who use them or to the British taxpayer. I do not intend to embark on that subject this afternoon. I should like to conclude as I began by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, for raising this matter this afternoon. He has attracted a list. of speakers that staggered me and I shall listen to what they have to say with the greatest respect. When we come to debate this question on a more serious matter, I hope that we shall have learned something from this afternoon's debate.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ LORD MCCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
My Lords. I should like to make a short intervention in this debate as the Motion on the Order Paper refers to the publication on freight handling issued by the British Productivity Council, of which I have the privilege of being vice-chairman. The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, was very kind in his remarks about our publication, but I do not hold it against the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that his comments were a little cool. I should like to read one passage from our report on freight handling, which is printed on the cover.Transport is Britain's largest industry. It employs directly about nine per cent. of the total working population, and is estimated … to cost something like £1.800 million a year. … None of it spent directly en improving our national economy … This vast non-productive industry … has the power to safeguard or shipwreck that economy.I would say immediately, on behalf of the British Productivity Council, that we welcome the opportunity given by this debate of drawing the attention, if we can, of all members of the transport industry to some of the modern industrial techniques which are proving so successful in industry and agriculture and which we feel would, in many cases, be equally applicable to transport.
The British Productivity Council is sponsored by employers' and trade union organisations and supported by Her Majesty's Government. Mr. James Crawford, who, as your Lordships will know, is an eminent member of the General Council of the Trades Union 254 Congress, is the chairman of the Council. I think that we are in a position to obtain a broad picture of the condition of British industry; and because we are non-partisan and non-political we feel that we can often draw impartial attention to industrial activities which we think could be the subject of greater concern and attention, either of the individual firms or of the organisations of the industries concerned. Moreover, through the visits paid by the Anglo-American Council's productivity teams to the United States in the last few years we have been able to publish a most comprehensive picture of developments in that country, and have endeavoured to point out both the advantages and the disadvantages of adopting heir techniques over here. So far as freight handling is concerned, we think that productivity has recently tended to increase, partly through the adoption of more up-to-date methods of loading and unloading (although the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth does not seem to think much of that) and partly through the introduction of other modern techniques—notably, notably, work study.
Our interest in freight handling goes back to 1950, when the productivity team from both sides of industry, and from both nationalised industry and private firms, went over to America. This team was one of the most successful that went. I think, and they produced an admirable report. Among the members of the team was Mr. Frank Cousins, now general secretary of the largest trade union in the country, and I should like to pay tribute to the energy and the enthusiasm which he put into the work of his anion in this respect. I think that your Lordships may be interested to know that members of that team, on both management and trade union sides, still meet from time to time to discuss their problems. Surely that: is as clear an indication as any to support the contention that it is possible, given a common goal, for members of the different sides of industries and of different political Parties to work together for a common cause.
Unfortunately, the knowledge of all these good management techniques does not appear to us to be as widespread as it might be, especially in the transport industry. Some members of the industry—indeed, some members of al industries—are naturally inclined to say, "These 255 ideas may be all right in their place, but they do not really refer to us: we have special problems." I would suggest that at best this is an unlikely supposition, for if some organisations can use these techniques with great success—and many do—then it should be possible for others to do the same. I think that this applies especially, so far as the transport industry is concerned, to work in goods depots and warehouses. Among the techniques which we feel should be studied more is that of work study, which is proving of such enormous value to industry in general.
At the British Productivity Council we have our own work study unit which can go wherever it is required to tell the story of work study. Up to the present I feel that the transport industry, as a whole, has not been, shall I say, particularly enthusiastic about learning of these techniques; but of course there are hopes for the future. In addition to their proposal to spend over £1,000 million on modernisation, British Railways are setting up their own productivity council—indeed, I think it has already been set up. I understand that one of the objects of this council is to improve efficiency on the railways by means of work study and the Productivity Council are pleased to see that the council is representative both of the management and the trade unions concerned, as we are ourselves. We hope that the new council will play a valuable role in improving the efficiency of the railway industry, both passenger and freight. While problems in the different sections of the transport industry are, and must be, peculiar to themselves, in many cases we think that it is at least worth looking into this example of British Railways. In this connection, I would pinpoint the docks. I hope that those responsible for organisation and management in the ports of our country will take some steps to investigate this technique, which we believe could be of great value. Your Lordships will not expect me to give a lecture on work study this afternoon: there are many pamphlets and publications which can be secured to that end.
There is, however, one other contributory factor to which I should like to refer. We believe that the business of learning from one another in industry is a funda- 256 mental principle, and we have been "pushing" that for all we are worth, ever since the formation of the original Anglo-American Council of Productivity, to which the British Productivity Council is the successor. That is why productivity teams were sent to America, in the first place, and why they sent teams back here, as they did in like measure; and that is why teams from the Continent of Europe are at this moment in America studying techniques there. We in the British Productivity Council have also attempted to encourage exchange visits in this country between firms in different industries in different areas.
There are now over 100 local productivity committees up and down the country, and nearly all of them operate what we call a circuit system, or a circuit scheme, which means that representatives of both sides in one industry, one factory or one firm visit factories and industries in the neighbourhood dealing with different or allied subjects, and compare notes freely. I think it would be your Lordships' experience that anyone associated with industry, however large or small his experience has been, will find something to learn if he visits and spends a few hours in another factory in another industry. So far, I regret to say, the transport industry do not seem to have played a very great part in the circuit scheme. Possibly it is a little more difficult for them, but we would urge them to give consideration to this matter, because, while each industry has its own special problems, there are a great many problems which are common to all industries, and we can all learn from one another. I have no doubt, also, that the transport industry has a great deal to teach the other industries, if they would become interested in this scheme.
I hope that your Lordships will not consider from my remarks that our Report (which no doubt you have read) is wholly critical of the transport industry: indeed, it is not. We have endeavoured to pinpoint with praise the various physical developments which have taken place since the end of the war, but I would suggest that our economic situation in this country is such that no one can afford to rest and sit back on his laurels. We must all determine that every encouragement shall be given to industries in general and, according to this 257 debate, to the transport industry, not only to keep pace with the demands that we make on it to-day but also to make sure that its development will keep pace with the demands that will be made upon it in future. The physical factors affecting the industry, such as roads, the building of railways and other methods of transport, may primarily be the affairs of Government, but management and men in the organisation can also do a great deal. The efficiency with which the system operates will, I believe, depend upon the individual members, both of management and the trade unions, in transport. We trust that these members of managements and unions will take full advantage of the facilities which are offered to them to learn about and, where possible, and where they think advantageous. apply, these modern techniques to their special industry.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ LORD MATHERS
My Lords. it is not my intention to delay your Lordships long. It seems to me that the noble Lord who has just spoken has effectively answered the suggestion made by my noble friend, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that perhaps the productivity review which is principally under discussion to-day, had part of its authorship—to put it quite mildly—in the British Transport Commission and I hope my noble friend will have noted the terms in which the noble Lord. Lord McCorquodale of Newton, spoke.
When the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, told me a week or two ago that he intended to raise this matter, without giving me much in the way of details as to the line he would take, I indicated to him that I should endeavour to take part in the debate. I would say to the noble Lord that I am glad he has raised this subject, arid has done so, if I may say so without appearing to be patronising, in such art attractive manner. While I agree with him as to the importance of the subject, I venture to say that it appeared to me, on first blush, that what he was doing, on the road on which he was travelling, was not quite in keeping with the general attitude of noble Lords on the other side of the House. For really, what he was contending for, to my mind, in the attractive speech that he made, was a co-ordinated or, should I say, an integrated transport system. Of 258 course, we on this side of the House believe in that; we designed our transport policy along that line, and it has, now, to some extent, been sabotaged by Her Majesty's present Government.
My thought was that perhaps the British Transport Commission's Proposals for the Railways (Command 9880) might come into this debate to-day, but it appears, from what my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth has said, that there is to he a separate debate on that subject. That has, to some extent, taken away from the observations I had intended to make. However, I have a summary of opinion on that Command Paper that I should like to put to the House, because it seems to me to put things so concisely. This critic says:It can be argued that the present bad financial position"—that is, of the railways—is largely due to Government policy. First the inflationary situation has greatly increased costs, and wage demands had to be made which could not immediately be offset by increased charges. The Government, in 1952 and 1956, intervened to prevent the Commission increasing its charges in accordance with its statutory obligations and contrary to the advice of the responsible statutory body. Nothing in the White Paper justifies that interference with the Commission's endeavour to operate on a commercial basis. Government transport policy has undermined the Commission, and is in large measure responsible for its difficulties. The Commission point out that for its first seven years it was more or less in balance, except during the period when it was affected by the devaluation of sterling. Deterioration in its finances was due to Government economic and transport policies. The 1953 Act ended all possibility of consolidating and extending the integrated transport system planned by tae 1947 Act; and by de-nationalising a large section of road haulage, it deprived it of profitable revenue. It is significant that the Whie Paper practically ignores all but the railway operations of the Commission.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (THE EARL OF SELKIRK)
Has the quotation which the noble Lord is reading been published?
§ LORD MATHERS
It is a criticism of the White Paper that has come into my hands. I give it merely as a judgment upon the White Paper vis-à-vis the position in which the Transport Commission finds itself. I do not wish to impinge upon the debate which is? promised on another occasion on the White Paper, and that is all I wish to say about that matter. 259 My opinion with regard to the way in which the present position of transport should be tackled, especially so far as the railways are concerned, is to give the Commission as free a hand as possible. Its Chairman and members are competent people who may be trusted to justify their actions if given the proper opportunity, and I am sure that the members of the Commission would give full attention to considerations such as those advanced by the noble Lord who has raised this subject to-day. The way in which this matter has been raised is, I think, helpful to the debate that is to come in connection with the White Paper in the not too distant future. I am glad to have had the opportunity of making this brief incursion into a debate which I think is of great importance, and I congratulate the noble Lord who raised it.
§ 4.13 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to add my tribute to the noble Lord. Lord Forbes, for raising this important subject to-day—a subject in which every industry and, indeed, everyone in this country is interested. I propose to confine myself this afternoon to dealing with a specialised part of the freight system in this country, and that is the question of air freight. Problems are rather different in respect of air freight from those in any other type, because the packages are mostly small and the problems of physical handling are not nearly so acute. The great problem with regard to air freight is one of paper. It often happens that more time is taken over preparing the documents than the actual flight of the aircraft concerned from point to point. It is no good sending out a package to London Airport to go by air freight if the Customs Department take six or seven hours, or sometimes days, before allowing it to leave. All air freight is urgent, otherwise it is obvious that shippers would not pay the higher charges in comparison with surface transport. Up to now, the Customs Department and the Board of Trade have not fully realised that dealing with air freight is a completely new problem. It is no good using the old systems of documentation that were good enough for goods going on a voyage taking many weeks. Everything has to be streamlined, as the aircraft themselves are streamlined.
260 I made a speech on this subject in your Lordships' House just under a year ago, and I am glad to know that, possibly as a result of what was said during that debate, there has been some improvement. I am glad to know that a party of officials from the Board of Trade and the Customs Department visited airports on the Continent—in particular, Amsterdam and Zurich—to see what could be done to speed up dealing with air freight at London Airport and other airports in this country. This visit was an excellent thing, but I think it might have been even more successful if the Board of Trade had invited representatives of the air carriers and some of the larger shippers of air freight to accompany them on this voyage of inspection, so that the mutual problems could have been discussed, at the time, with all the interests concerned.
In my speech last year, I said that we were rapidly losing—in fact, had largely lost—all transhipment business because of the red tape in this country. By "transhipment business" I mean, for example, a valuable package coming in by B.E.A. from Rome for onward shipment by Pan-American to New York. That parcel is really not imported into this country at all. It merely remains at the airport a short period between unloading from one aircraft and loading in another. Nevertheless, in this country it has to undergo all the long formalities of documentation similar to those required for a genuine import. What happened? None of this transhipment freight came to London at all, but was sent via Zurich or Amsterdam, with consequent loss of revenue to our British carriers. I am glad to say that, as a result of the Continental visit, the transhipment procedure has been greatly simplified. I should like to congratulate the Government and the Customs on the fact that the speed of transhipment now compares favourably with that at other European airports. I think that the new procedure has been going now for about a month, and I understand that it is working very well. We have now to work hard to get back that transhipment traffic which we had previously lost.
That is very satisfactory, but I am sorry to say that practically nothing has been done in regard to speeding up the export of small consignments. Some of 261 your Lordships may from time to time have been stranded on the Continent, because, we will say, an axle on your car has been broken or you require some part urgently. You telephone the manufacturer and are surprised that the part does not come within twenty-four hours. That is probably due to the complicated documentation necessary at the airport.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
Forgive my interrupting, but it is a particularly interesting point. Is the documentation to which the noble Lord has referred, and which causes such delay, due to freight difficulties or to Customs?
To Customs. As I understand it, the present procedure is known as the pre-entry method: in other words, all the documents—and very voluminous documents they are—have to be prepared before the object, however small, is actually shipped in the aircraft. This is quite different from the method used before the war, when, of course, air freight was in its infancy. At that time a procedure known as post-entry was allowed. In other words, the piece of freight was permitted to be shipped first and the documents were subsequently taken to the Long Room and dealt with by the Customs. One reason given for not reviving this procedure now is exchange control. Regulations with regard to exchange control have been very much lightened; Form C.D. 3 (I think it is) is now necessary only for freight to the value of over £500. So I see absolutely no reason why it should not be possible to revert to the pre-war practice for less valuable consignments.
I will now turn to the question of imports. Here again, the documents are cumbersome and lengthy. Physically, they are enormous pieces of paper, and all sorts of questions on them have to be answered, many of them entirely unnecessary. I feel quite sure that this documentation could be greatly simplified. There again, I feel sure that we can learn from other countries, who use very much simpler documents. in similar circumstances. There is one way in which certain imports could be more quickly dealt with. There is at the moment a system for packages up to a value of £25 which allows the object to be imported simply by recording it in the 262 Customs Long Room in a register, without large number of documents having to be prepared. People accustomed to the handling of large quantities of air freight, and the air companies, believe that this transit shed register, as it is called, could be used to a much greater extent. I think it would be quite possible for it to be used for articles up to a value of, say, £200, where the duty probably would not be more than about £50.
There is only one other class of freight which I want to mention briefly, and that is the luggage of air passengers. The luggage which travels with the passenger is excellently dealt with, and I do not think there is any airport in the world where the luggage comes through so quickly and is passed more expeditiously than here. There is, however, one snag, and that is where the passenger sends luggage in advance. He may be paying several business calls on the Continent by air, and detouring by various air lines. He sends a couple of suitcases in advance direct to this country. So far, no arrangement has been made possible whereby this luggage can catch up with him in the ordinary Customs hall and he passed with his other luggage. It has to come in as freight, be documented, cleared by a landing officer, and collected from the other side of the airfield. Those passengers with this experience tell me that it is a most cumbersome and annoying process. I have tried, briefly, to cover this not unimportant question of air freight. Once more, I put my plea for simplification of paper work so that goods can be moved quickly by air and not sometimes take as long as by surface means, merely because of delay in the Customs sheds and elsewhere.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I do not think anybody can doubt that the subject we are discussing to-day is of great importance. We have heard a great deal, and very truly, about the fact that the economic condition of our country is dependent upon increased productivity but it surely is obvious that increased productivity is very much dependent upon increased efficiency of transport, both to and from the factory. In fact, transport really may be said to hold a key position in industry for, without it, without an efficient system of transport, any improvements in factory machinery 263 or methods of production are completely useless. Unless one has the transport to cope with the productivity it is no use having it.
First I will touch lightly on the subject of the railways. Three points occur to me. The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, spoke of one very strongly and enlighteningly, I thought; that is, the fact that it is surely essential that British Railways must get to work and replace their older rolling stock, the loose-coupled type, with fast-coupled and through-braked rolling stock in order that much faster goods transport may take place. I thought his suggestion of the "piggy-back" system, as it is called, was an extremely interesting one. It deserves a great deal of examination, and probably could be made the solution to our great problem of the compromise between rail transport and road transport.
I felt that in his speech the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, was almost singing a requiem for British Railways. I hardly feel that they are quite dead yet. They are certainly suffering from malnutrition very badly and also, I think, from old age; but there is every hope that they may recover and, what is more, do what most of us would like to do, and that is regain our lost youth. Another point that British Railways might consider more strongly is the modernising of marshalling yards. That, too, was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Forbes. The old type cause much frustration, and modern types have been built in this country which have proved so efficient in their working that I am certain they would greatly speed up the re-marshalling and reconstruction of trains.
Now I am going to look at the problem from the point of view of the roads—and what a problem it is! When we look at the congestion on our roads to-day, surely it is obvious that strong measures will have to be taken by the Ministry of Transport before we come to an absolute standstill. Unfortunately, the Ministry seems to be willing only to nibble at the question. Minor repairs and alterations to roads are taking place all over the country, and they certainly must cost a good deal; but they are doing nothing whatsoever to ease the problem or to make an effective solution.
I do not know whether any of your Lordships happened to attend the three- 264 day conference on urban motorways which was held by the British Road Federation in September. It was a most enlightening conference. The Minister of Transport paid it a brief visit. I must confess that I was not surprised that he did not stay longer, because, if he had, he would have learned some very unpalatable facts. For one thing, he would have learned that, in spite of the fact that we have more vehicles per square mile than perhaps any other country, we are among the most backward in our road system. A really effective road system as far as concerns freight handling, which is the subject we are considering to-day, would mean an enormous expenditure of money. It seems to me in the present circumstances, when economically we are not a wealthy country, that for the moment the best thing would be to try and make the most effective compromise. We cannot at the moment, perhaps, afford to build a vast scheme of new roads, though I only wish we could. Eventually. I think it will have to be done. But at the moment we can increase the effectiveness of transport a great deal by making a slight compromise.
A few points arise to me, such as these. The congestion on the roads is caused really not so much by the private motorist, who is blamed for so much of it, but by large and slow-moving vehicles—those lorries which carry a heavy load and which are incapable of moving fast. They cannot help it because it is inherent in their size and in their speed. I should like to say, in parenthesis, that I have always found long-distance lorry drivers among the most courteous and efficient on the roads. If we were to introduce legislation that would keep lorries of over a certain unladen weight off the road, and force the goods that are carried by them to go by rail, or else force the lorries themselves to travel by rail, as the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, suggested, in the "piggy-back" system, it seems to me that that would be part of a solution. The 20 m.p.h. limit, which this Report of the British Productivity Council says is more honoured in the breach than in the observance, would then be removed and the lighter lorries would be able to travel at a reasonable speed. Naturally, the heavier lorries will have a short distance of road travel between station and factory, but the shorter that can be made the better. Equally, if they do not have 265 long journeys, they will not cause the frightful congestion that they do at the moment.
I know one road in particular that springs Ito my mind at once—namely, the A.30 between Basingstoke and Black-bushe. It is a road which should be, and is, looked upon normally as one of our trunk roads, but it is wide enough for only a single stream of traffic each way, and it is very winding. The result is that if one gets behind one of these large and slow-moving lorries one is very likely to remain there for miles, and with a queue of cars forming up behind one. Well, that kind of thing could be avoided and the speed of freight handling could be greatly improved if the heavier lorries were to travel by rail and the lighter ones were to be allowed to increase their speed. Unless we have better roads it does not seem to ore that we can ease the problem in any other way.
Why is it. I wonder, that road transport has replaced rail transport to such a great degree? As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has said, it is largely due to the fact that it gives a door-to-door delivery, which makes it much simpler both for the manufacturer and for the customer and of course it is quicker. But if the railway improvements go ahead along the lines that we have heard, I do not think that would necessarily be the case. Of course, road transport, too, has certain drawbacks. Although, as I say, it is not really generally observed, theoretically the 20 m.p.h. limit has to be observed it drawing up the timetables for loading and delivery, and I think an average of 16 miles an hour is the limit that has been taken as the maximum. That, of course, refers only to heavy lorries, those over three tons. Certainly these lorries are not directly responsible for accidents. Certainly, we cannot say they are: first, because they are driven by very responsible men, and secondly because naturally their speed does not allow them to do anything unexpected. Nevertheless, they cause such congestion that the less responsible driver begins to suffer from impatience; and impatience is, of course, the one thing that is fatal on the road, because it makes one do silly things. I regret to say that a very large percentage of our drivers are of the less responsible type and do these silly 266 things. That is why we have accidents. I feel, therefore, that the unladen weight should be strictly limited, and also the overall width, because often it is hard to see past a lorry; and in some cases the cab is so narrow and the lorry so wide that the driver is quite incapable of seeing anything that may happen to be behind him.
Now I turn to the vexed question of waterways. The last time I spoke on this subject, the noble Earl tool: each of my points, tore it into neat little shreds and threw it on the floor. It was a masterly performance. I hope the noble Earl will not think I am being too obstinate if I say that at the end I was not entirely convinced. I gathered from his speech that the policy of the Ministry of Transport with regard to canals is to concentrate on those which are already paying propositions and to ignore the others. That seems to me a very short-sighted policy indeed. Had it been observed in the past with all our various methods of transport and of industry, we should have had none of the facilities that we have today. Naturally I do not expect a queue to he standing outside the Ministry asking when the first barge is to sail on a given canal, but surely, with proper publicity and a growing number of users who find it an economical and satisfactory means of transport, it would become a paying proposition, and would rapidly pay back the comparatively small sum that would be needed for the reconditioning of these canals.
On the last occasion I was speaking in particular of the Kennet and Avon Canal, but naturally what. I said applies also to others. At that time I quoted a figure of £250,000, which the noble Earl rather questions; but even if the cost were more than that, it is a great deal lower than the figure which would be required to build an efficient road of that length. These waterways arc an alternative to our grossly overcrowded roads, and to the railways, which are already coping with almost as great a density of traffic as they can handle. Are we to ignore them simply because in their present decayed condition they are not a paying proposition? Surely it is rather like ignoring a house which has been vacant for many years and is falling to pieces but which, for a reasonable sum, could be put into good condition. 267 I entirely agree with one point brought up earlier in our debate, about the desire to work, the desire for service and the team spirit, which unfortunately seem to have disappeared. I may be treading on rather dangerous ground when I say that, on the railways, nationalisation was to some extent responsible for that. I am not speaking with authority, because I cannot do so, but I remember being taken round the Royal Oak engine sheds once, by an old ex-driver, a very noted driver, who in his day had made a world speed record. He was showing me the sights, and we came across one of his old friends who was still working there. He asked how things were going, and his old friend replied: "Well, it is no use expecting anything of these young fellows nowadays. All they want to do is to get off the moment the whistle blows." One must admit that that is rather the spirit in some quarters to-day and in more quarters than one. But I believe that it could be eliminated if we were to get back that feeling of pride in one's own railway, or whatever one's concern may be, the feeling that one was working for it, not merely for money but with pride in one's work. I believe this psychological aspect is a little ignored to-day by those responsible for the organisation of industry, yet I feel it is highly important. I only hope that before long we shall go back to the time when we may see everybody—each one of us—doing his work because he feels he wants first to serve his company or his industry, whatever it may happen to be, and secondly. by so doing, serve also his country.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ LORD GLYN
My Lords, I wish to intrude in this debate for a short time and will start by thanking the noble Lord who introduced this Motion, because it is of vital importance at this time, when we are seeking to increase our exports, that means of transport should be considered with particular care. Many of the subjects mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Forbes—"piggy-back" transport, and other such matters—have been most carefully considered by the Railway Commission. As with so many other things, we suffer through having been pioneers in the railway industry. One of the difficulties is that the "piggy-back" arrange- 268 ment can more easily be operated by countries with later railway systems, which have not differences of gauge, high platforms and so on. In considering how far we can convey goods on the "piggyback" system in this country, we find that we have almost to reconstruct certain sections of track with very narrow, knife-board types of conveyancing vehicles.
I wish to say something with regard to the work that has been done by the Railway Commission and the old Railway Executive, something which I am sure will hurt many people but it is true. No industry has been so messed about by politicians as the railway industry. In contrast to what has happened in other countries—France, in particular, as well as Italy and Belgium, to quote only a few—those of us who were connected with the railways and who realised, after all the hard war work was done, that we had been working ourselves to death in order to win the war, found that, instead of the remedies put forward by those at that time responsible for the railways being adopted, nothing was done for ten years. For ten years the railways were a kind of Cinderella, despite the fact that they represented the most important work to be done. Then the railways found themselves mixed up in Party politics. I hope and trust that for the time being that has all come to an end, because nothing did more to interfere with traffics than the intrusion of politics of that kind into railway matters. A point which is not often realised is that £3.100 million is invested in transport. of which £1,328 million is invested in railways. A large part of the railways needs modernisation. But if you go through the plans of the Transport Commission and you look back at the plans of the old Railway Executive, you will find that a great many of the reforms which are now supported would have been in operation long ago if we had been able to go ahead as planned.
There is one thing that I should like to say in regard to the matter of wagon demurrage, which has been mentioned by Lord Forbes. It is a deplorable fact that not only are there certain idle hours for wagons in railway sidings, but that far too many traders still utilise railway wagons as extra storage for their purposes. That is one of the big crimes which traders commit. I believe that if they realised how the cost of freight is increased by the very 269 fact of this demurrage, they would clear their sidings much more quickly. Another result of demurrage is that it delays the turn-round of wagons. This is not due to any fault of the railways; it is merely that traders will hold on to the wagons. It is impossible to take away a wagon which is loaded; it must be left until the [...]rader has discharged it.
Another matter about which I wish to speak is the continuous brake. That will do more good for the railways as regards freight handling than anything else. This change-over is being tackled by the Transport Commission. Every week, wagons are being brought in and fitted with. proper brakes. Not only will this, I hope, put an end to the clanging of goods wagons at night, but it will enable the railways to operate freight trains at some passenger train speeds, which in turn will facilitate quicker delivery. But the tilting of continuous brakes is a very expensive operation. It will be completed successfully only if we have the wholehearted support of the men in the shops, as well as that of the men responsible for the handling of trains. I am sure that when this new system comes into general operation it will be for the benefit of the country to an extent which is hardly realised at the present time.
A further point is that of the "green arrow" system. Some noble Lords may not have heard of this system. It was started in May, 1953, and its purpose is to speed up the transit of goods for export. This special mark is easily "spotted" by the railway workers. Its main purpose is to give quick delivery, so that goods which are so marked will reach their destinations without delay. People have sometimes said: "Why not mark everything with a green arrow?" That, of course, would be ridiculous. The railways have to handle all kinds of goods traffic, some of it perishable and some of it not perishable, and there is not the same urgency in all cases. The green arrow mark is for goods for export, and it means that traders engaged in export business can be sure of almost certain delivery within the hours specified. It also means that shin-owners have much better opportunity of gauging the tonnage necessary. Moreover, it helps at the clocks and assists in cutting down road congestion. Clearly, if goods for export are conveyed under 270 that express system, it ensures quick de livery straight from the factory to the shipper.
The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, did not mention the matter to which I am now about to refer, but I think one ought to give credit where credit is due. I know that everything connected with the railways is not always good, but this is something for which they deserve our gratitude. I think most noble Lords must have realised that the streets of London in the spring—and in the 'Otter, too, for that matter—are much brightened by the many flowers that come crier from the Continent. But little attention is paid to the fact that the success of this very important trade is due to the handling and the ferry service which brings fruit and flowers and other perishable goods to the London market in first-class condition. That is a far more difficult trade to handle than is often realised. But a very good and satisfactory trade has been established and maintained, and, as I say, it is one which adds brightness to the lives of all of us—and that surely is something well worth while.
Now I want to say a word about something in connection with which I think the railways have been remiss. There seems always to have been an idea that weight and strength go together. The result is that in far too many cases what we call "containers" are still made of great, big, heavy baulks of wood, just as they were in Georgian and Victorian days. Now, however, we have light metals and other materials which may be used to great advantage for this purpose. The use of such materials would enable traffic of this kind to be immensely improved. Often the tare weight of the container to-day is far greater than the weight of the goods it contains. What is needed is to construct containers of very light material, so that the tare weight can be reduced. There are materials such as fibre glass, and so on, which can be used. They can be moulded and made very srong—indeed, they can be made so that they have a strength equal to that of containers made with the wooden baulks of which I have spoken.
The lighter containers, naturally, can be much more easily handled; and, most important, such containers can be shifted from road vehicles on to the railways and vice versa without a great deal of 271 handling. It is much easier to deal with appropriate goods in that way. The employment of the container system has grown enormously in the last few years. I am sure that it would have grown a great deal more if more care had been taken with regard to the material of which containers are constructed. If advantage is taken of such materials as those to which I have alluded it means that a whole train can be loaded with refrigerated perishable goods in containers, and they can be delivered with great rapidity to all parts of the country.
I should like next to mention something which I should be grateful if some of your Lordships would take the opportunity to look into for yourselves. A very interesting experiment has been made at Consett, in the North of England, by British Railways in conjunction with the Consett Iron Company. It is a very important experiment because it shows what can be done, as the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, said, if a work study is made between firms and the transport industry. The Consett Iron Works are largely dependent on imported ores. These ores come in great quantities, for the output of steel from Consett is about 18,000 tons a week. The ore is imported from abroad; it is sent over in large vessels, and everything turns on unloading them quickly.
It is only a 22-mile haul from the Tyne to the Consett Iron Works, and special trains are made up of 56-ton hopper wagons, of which there are nine to a train. The organisation is such that, when the whole of the ore has been conveyed to the Consett Works, there, merely by one man—the driver—pressing one lever, the bottoms of the hoppers fall out and the whole of the iron ore drops on to containers underneath and is distributed throughout the works. And not only that; there is a similar arrangement at the dock side, so that without any manhandling at all the iron ore is delivered from the hold of the ship to the works; it is handled mechanically throughout the whole process. This greatly reduces cost, compared with anything which has been done before. As all noble Lords know well, the steel industry is one of the most important industries of this country, and unless we do everything possible to increase production of steel, a great deal 272 of our export trade will be held up. This co-operation between the Consett Iron Company and the North Eastern Region represents an example of co-operation between a firm with specialised work and the railway industry which I think should cheer the hearts of noble Lords who may have some doubt whether the railways are up to date.
The last thing I want to say is this. I believe that there is a very fine spirit at the moment among railway workers. A great many hard things have been said about them, but they are facing, in automation, a complete change. Unless these changes in mechanical handling, the use of electronics and all the other devices that have appeared, are accepted, the great transport industry will fall behind other industries. It is essential that there should be no doubt in people's minds, particularly in the workers' minds, that it will not be detrimental to their interests to co-operate in modernising the transport in this country.
I am convinced that the transport problems that we have to face in this island are far more difficult than those in almost every other country. The fact that the average wagon makes only thirty trips a year gives an idea of the waste that goes on, and until we are more economical and get rid of existing waste—and that depends entirely on co-operation with the workers․we shall not bring the whole of this great industry round to the position it ought to occupy. I spent more than thirty-five years on the railways, and we used to pay our chief officers a high rate of salary, commensurate with what a man received in a similar occupation in other industries. That is not always so to-day, and until that matter is readjusted, I am afraid that we shall not get a management as efficient as it should be. While wage-earners deserve to get a proper rate of pay, let us not forget that those in charge, who have come up from the bottom, are also worthy of recognition. Until we can get a good spirit from top to bottom, we shall not get the efficient working we want to have.
§ 5.3 p.m.
My Lords, like other noble Lords, may I be allowed to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, on the excellent way in which he initiated this debate. He spoke with great knowledge and clarity. I find two things 273 rather interesting about moving freight. They are perfectly obvious and simple and because of their simplicity are often completely overlooked. The first is that practically everything we see has been moved. That is a straightforward fact but a very expensive one. The second is that the moving of goods is a totally unproductive industry; yet, as has already been said, 9 per cent. of the total working population are engaged in this industry. If one were to stretch the point a little, one could say that out of every eleven people you see one is engaged in this totally unproductive job of work. Therefore, we must make this business of moving freight as efficient as it can possibly be, and I wish, to turn my few comments on the movement of freight by road and by rail and add a few suggestions, some of which have already been made, about how it can be improved.
To put it as simply as possible, there is a network of roadways and a network of railways in this country. One of the main differences is that the roadways are used by everyone and by anyone, when they like, where they like and as often as they like, while the railways are used only by British Railways. The tracks are there, whether in use or lying idle, and one would imagine that it should be our policy to see that those tracks are used to their fullest possible capacity. But is that what has been happening? The answer is that the reverse has been happening. In 1939, 54 million ions of goods, excluding coal and minerals, were moved by the railways, and in 1955, 48 million tons. During that same period the number of vehicles on the roads doubled, and whereas in 1955 the railways were carrying 48 million tons, it is estimated that the roads carried 904 million tons. I am fully aware that these figures are not directly comparable, but at least they are a pointer to the fact that all this extra moving of freight has come precisely where we do not want it․on to the roads.
What can we do about it? Many people, some of them most vociferous gentlemen, tell us that we must reorganise our road system and build new roads. I should like to make it clear from the first that I am not one of those. The other day I asked a contractor what it cost to build a road. He hummed and ha'ed and said. "It all depends"; but I got a 274 figure of a sort out of him, which was that an A road, 22 ft. wide, would cost £.10 a yard: that works out at £ 17,500 per mile. I certainly would not urge any Government to spend money on a scale like that, particularly if economically we are not well situated to do so. I may be accused of sitting on the hedge, but I should like to urge the Government, where it is possible, when it is possible, to improve the roads, but not to go on with a major road building programme.
Clearly, there are many pieces of equipment that travel by road that ought to travel on the railway. We have all seen them—huge lorries, sixty or eighty feet long, travelling uphill on first gear, blowing out clouds of black smoke on the people behind them. Nobody can pass them. I witnessed such a procession at Stamford the other day. First. came an outrider in the form of a policeman on a motor bicycle. He was followed by a police car with two policemen in it. This was followed by a colossal lorry with two men on that it too five men to move this one lorry. My car was practically squeezed on to the pavement and all other traffic in the street was at a standstill, except for the slow. ponderous procession of unfortunates stuck behind the lorry. And what was on the lorry?—one propeller; just one propeller. I cannot help feeling flat it was that sort of situation which prompted A. D. Godley to write this charming verse:What is this that roareth thus?Can it be a motor bus?Yes, the swell and hideous humIndicat motorem bam",and end his poem by saying something which I am sure reflects the opinions of marry of us:How shall wretches live like usCincti bis motoribus?Domine, defende nosContra nos motores bos.The place for these vast pieces of equipment which must be moved is on the railways.
There is one thing that could be done to improve the roads, and that is to abolish the 20 m.p.h. speed limit. I have always been amazed at three factors about that: first, that it was ever initiated; secondly, that it is always. broken; and thirdly, that those who break it are never prosecuted. It seems to me to be a quite useless law. In fact, 275 the only people who abide by it constitute nothing other than a living danger, because all those who follow behind are so aggravated because they are going so slowly that eventually they overtake, more out of the desire to end their frustration rather than out of the desire to observe the most elementary principles of the Highway Code.
I wonder why it is that so much freight goes on to the roads and not on the railways. If we are honest with ourselves, I think we shall agree that the railways are inefficient. We have all heard it said: "It has gone by rail. I am afraid it will be held up." And how often have we heard it said: "I have sent it by rail. You will not hear of it for some time." We hear things of that kind said. The railways are slow and careless. If they want to keep the custom they require, they must produce a service which the consumer wants: it must be quick, and it must be reliable.
I would suggest that one of the ways of achieving this would be to incorporate an express goods service. At the risk of boring your Lordships, I should like to give an example of what I mean by efficiency. In the spring of this year I urgently required a piece of equipment for my farm. I rang up the manufacturers on a Friday and said, "I want this urgently. How quickly can you get it to me?" They said, "We will put it on the goods train." I said that I did not want that to be done, because I knew that it would take three or four days; and I told them to put it on a passenger train. They were to put it on a passenger train in Essex and send it to Norwich station, where I said that I would call for it on the Saturday. It did not arrive on the Saturday. Eventually, it arrived at my farm on a British Railways lorry the following Tuesday. That had taken four days. It did not go to Norwich, but went to Lowestoft. The only reason why I told them to put it on a passenger train was because I believed it was the quickest way that I could get the piece of equipment to me. Yet it took four days to go 90 miles. If British Railways work like that, they will never get any custom. They must be swift; they must be capable, and they must take a pride in doing the job and handling other people's goods. If they do incorporate an express 276 goods service, I believe it will be found that more people will use the railways, and thus the railways themselves will be able to reduce their costs.
I could not agree more with what my noble friend Lord Forbes has said. I think there is tremendous scope for both roads and railways to join together more in the use of this "piggy-back" system of these movable containers. So I come to the point at which I started. The railways are there. Let us use them. The more we use them the cheaper they are to use; and the more we use them, the less we shall see of these hideous monstrosities crowding our over-congested roads. But, whatever we do, we must realise that the moving of goods and freight is unproductive work, and therefore must be done in the most efficient way and as quickly as possible.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, I hope that I shall be forgiven for intervening for just a few moments. It is now fifty-six years since, as a timid youth, I made application for employment with the old Midland Railway. One thing that has impressed me in those fifty-six years has been the idea of men who have not had any railway experience that they can run the railways so much better than those actively engaged in that work. I have often wondered whether that comes from the almost universal pleasure which young boys, particularly, find in playing at trains. Railwaymen have always had to suffer that sort of criticism, but some of the criticism has been based on knowledge not really advanced beyond that acquired when those people were playing at trains. Therefore, while I have listened to the criticisms made, as a railwayman my head is bloody but still unbowed. I am glad that this afternoon we have had a dose of sound common sense from a railwayman like the noble Lord, Lord Glyn.
The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, who has given us the opportunity for this debate, has devoted himself entirely to freight handling. There is another class of traffic which travels by railway and has to be handled by railwaymen, kindly and otherwise. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Forbes can remember, or has ever seen, the famous Rule 167 277 dealing with passengers. I think it must be fifty years since I read it, but I may remember it. It says:If any passenger is drunk or disorderly, to the annoyance of others, the guard must use all reasonable means to stop the nuisance, failing which he must have him, and any luggage which he may have, removed from the train at the first station.Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, might apply his mind to some mechanical means for dealing with that problem.
We have had from the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, an instance of the way in which, without any public credit, the railways have developed this transcontinental ferry system, bringing the flowers to this country, and the inter-invoicing between Continental countries and this country. One sphere of its activities might be all right from the railway point of view, but every morning when I travel here I see a number of Volkswagens which have been brought over by Continental ferry standing waiting for further transport. The noble Lord, Lord, Lord Glyn, has explained some of the difficulties of the "piggy-back" system in this country—station platforms, and so on. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, will realise, however, that this development is already in operation on British Railways, in the transport of motors from London, to Scotland, and vice versa.
There is the problem of the turn-round of railway wagons; and we all agree that a quicker turn-round is absolutely necessary. May I bore the House with details of how it used to work? Every day a responsible goods agent sent a statement to headquarters that wagons were one, two or three days under load, and every effort was made to get the traders to co-operate and to unload more quickly. Will the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, look at this point and help me? One of the worst offenders in regard to keeping wagons under load is the coal merchant whose wagons are loaded with coal. Twelve wagons arrive at a goods station in the winter, when everybody is clamouring for coal. The roads are icy; the coal merchant is short of labour, and although he would like to get the coal to his customers, he just cannot do so. Who is going to pay this penalty charge of 6s. a day or up to £1 or more a day? The selling price of the coal is fixed by the National Coal Board, and the margin of 278 profit which the coal trader may make is also fixed by the National Coal Board. How is he to recoup himself for the £1 a day charge? There are other problems of the same sort in connect ion with bricks.
I sometimes wish that attention could he paid to the faults of the traders when sending goods to be despatched by rail. The railways are endeavouring to educate traders and to ensure their co-operation, in packing so that this new paneling; system can be developed. A number of firms are doing it, but the railways would he happy if all works—not only the large factories, but the smaller ones also—would get down to the problem of the proper packing for paneling of the wares they send by rail. On hat point, I believe I am correct in saying that at the present moment there is a type of container, made of aluminium, which is being used by one Government Department. That might easily he extended. Following on that point, I wonder how much time is lost, and how much money has to be paid out, through the carelessness of traders in regard to returned empties or goods not properly addressed, wrongly addressed, or not addressed at all? The faults are not all on one side. There is a good deal which could be done if traders or their staffs were more cooperative. I am not saying that all traders are like that, but I know from my own experience that much time, thought and labour is expended by the railways to-day in order to get a larger measure of co-operation from the traders.
I feel that the railways have never had a fair deal. Before the war strenuous efforts were made by the old London and North Eastern Railway to keep their Ordinary Stock on the Trustee List and to pay ½ per cent. dividend. I would not go so far as to say that if nationalisation had not come the old London and North Eastern Railway would have found it impossible to carry on, but it was getting pretty near that state of affairs. But after the war, with nationalisation, the railways and the roads were brought together. Those of us who had any practical experience of the railways during the war will know' how the railways were inevitably allowed to run down because of the inability to keep them in proper running order. Not only that: many of their staff were away on war service. Then the railways were 279 handed over to the British Transport Commission, who were told to get on with the job. Since nationalisation, it is fair to say that the railways have been starved of capital for development, and it is remarkable how much has been done up to the present time by the British Transport Commission under great difficulties. We shall have a debate on the White Paper and the Government's proposals at a later date.
Finally, I could not agree more heartily with what the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, said about this great industry being bedevilled by politics. The last time I spoke on this problem I ventured to appeal to politicians to let the railways alone and let them get on with the job. Nothing is more disheartening to railwaymen, who are proud of their jobs, than to hear the statement, no doubt made in all good faith, that nationalisation has undermined the morale of railwaymen. Quite frankly, that is not in accordance with the facts. It is true that it is taking time to weld together all these diverse elements, but if there is one industry in this country in which people are proud of their jobs it is the railway service. We have our difficulties, and the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, referred to the difficulties so far as those who are managing the railways are concerned. Administrative ability of that kind is rare, and we have to pay for it.
But there is another side. The old railwaymen of this country are going, and new ones are taking their place. Your Lordships will remember that the railways are in competition for their labour with industries, many of which are working on business in connection with munitions and so on. Some of those people work on a cost-plus system. It is difficult for the railways to-day to attract more and more of the right type of labour which they ought to have to replace the railways of the past because of this competition in regard to salaries and wages paid by firms who can afford them. If only Is. a week more were given to the 600,000 railwaymen (I am putting a low figure) it would mean a substantial increase in the wages and salaries bill.
Therefore, I hope that out of this debate good will come. I hope that both sides will realise that the staff, as well as the 280 management, are imbued with the idea and the resolve to make this great industry run and work in the interests of the whole community. In order to help forward that great ideal, I say: please leave the railwaymen alone and let them get on with the job.
§ 5.32 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I do not think that there is any dispute that there are too many things moving on the roads and, equally, that the railways could be used more. I hope that I shall not be considered too rash if I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in his suggestion that integration is the heart of this matter. I would suggest that utilisation of each in its correct sphere is much more to the point. The railways themselves, in order to get the best and the quickest results, would prefer that, apart from the matter of the mineral trade, in the carrying of freight they could deal in either train loads or, alternatively, wagon loads. They would also prefer, if possible, to have a regular service or one for which there are trucks of the type available at very short notice. Both those needs are best served by railways on long-distance traffic. Let it not be said that there is not equally long-distance traffic for the roads. What I am concentrating on is long-distance railway traffic which, in its own sphere. has its own problems to solve in the way that it can do so best.
The British Transport Commission, as the Review on which this debate is founded tells one distinctly, is not by any means unaware of the various possibilities in this sphere and the ways in which it can win back freight which it has lost to the roads. The flower trade has already been mentioned in this debate. There are, for instance, regular services for the tomato trade from the South Coast and also the flowers from Penzance and the Scilly Isles. It would probably be of interest to your Lordships to know that in the 1955–56 season 199 special trains were run from Cornwall, carrying the broccoli traffic which went to London, Birmingham, Manchester and other big centres. Those are trips of the kind which can be done profitably and economically by British Railways. They have to be done between big centres and there must be a regular traffic. The fish trade is another case in point. There 281 are fish trains which run from Aberdeen, Hull and Grimsby to the other big centres. There, British Railways are quick, regular and efficient. The number of these special trains has gone up colossally between 1939 and 1956. The number of trains is, in fact, now 75 per cent. greater than it was in1939. It can be helped by the co-operation of the traders in their methods of packing and their use of pallets and containers.
The traders can co-operate in these ways, but it is for the railways to provide the initiative for that co-operation, and they are doing so. Many are the attractions they offer for those who use pallets and standard-size containers, and for those who can provide enough goods and require regular service. Even if at the moment traders have their own lorries and prefer to use them, that is not the end of the battle, because when those lorries become obsolete or worn out, then is the moment for British Railways' inducement to take effect. Again, the British Transport Commission know this. Therefore it is by permanent advertisement that they must win this trade back—permanent advertisement for the sort of trade for which they are fit.
Their hands have been very largely untied by the revision of the freight charges scheme which is to come into force next year: but that they have not been completely untied is perhaps a pity. The present system is, at least, a great deal bette7. In combination, the ability to compete and the various facilities, which will be introduced under the modernisation, about which we are not to talk to-day, surely can put the railways back into the position in which they belong, where they will carry the freight for which they are suited and thus will help in the general transport difficulties of this country. At any rate, that is the object, and that is the sphere in which I believe the railways can be of most use. I hope they will have every possible encouragement in doing this.
§ 5.37 p.m.
My Lords. I should like first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Forbes on bringing this Motion before your Lordships and, in particular, on the way in which he has done so. At this stage of the debate it is useful to consider only some of the more fundamental points. Most of the 282 detail has been discussed and a great many interesting things have been said, but I feel there are two fundamental points of view which govern some of the details connected with the haulage industry. The producer pf consumer goods wants, obviously and only. the cheapest and most efficient form of transport which he can get; but the man whose business is haulage has to make his living out of an efficient organization with a profit margin. From that, it seems to me that, given conditions of equal efficiency—and I an- not taking into account capital, their having full employment, and so on—it must always be cheaper to own and run your own vehicle, because you have not then to produce a profit margin. Where the origin of the material transported is on a farm or some remote place where there is no rail access and it must be loaded on to a lorry, and provided the distance is not too great, it seems that a lorry is nearly always the most efficient method of tackling the job. I think the lame can be said about door-to-door deliveries where again the points of origin and delivery are remote from rail. And given the same conditions I think it is true to say that when the freight is perishable the lorry is probably the most expedient way of tackling the problem.
It appears to me from that, that the railways should concentrate their efforts on the traffic which is suitable for them and which is not fundamentally better carried by lorry transport. I do not know whether they are allowed to do this but, if not, I think legislation should be introduced to enable them to discard what is fundamentally, and always trust be, traffic which they cannot really carry efficiently owing to their particular set-up. I do not think the railways should have to spend a large amount of capital equipping themselves to handle all and sundry in the way of traffic which fundamentally can never be a railway job. There is a great deal to be said in regard to the close classification of the traffic, and that the two sides of the industry, rail and road transport, should be carefully integrated—I do not want to be too enthusiastic about the word "integrated"—so that they both expand with the greatest possible efficiency in those two fields.
There is one aspect of road transport about which I should like to mention the possibilities. This matter may have been 283 gone into—I do not know—but it appears to me that there is a possibility of using the "mothball" fleet of tank landing craft and ships to transport loaded lorries to the remote parts of the Western Islands, there to carry out the transportation of pit wood and timber, and particularly the small sizes of timber. It seems to me that that might open up to the Forestry Commission a lot of ground to which at the moment there is no access and to which there is unlikely to be any access, at any rate economically, for a long time to come. The same method could possibly be adopted to transport farm produce from remote crofts; fodder crops could be transported back, thus increasing the possibility of producing beef in those areas. One can elaborate the possibility of assistance to our economy from that scheme, remembering that very likely there will be a free trade area on the Continent. One might organise a door-to-door service to the Continent by utilising the same method. In any case if it has not been thoroughly examined, I think it would be a worthwhile proposition to consider.
There is one other point that I should like to mention. I may be wrong, but I believe that a number of new, all-steel wagons—I think they are mineral wagons—are appearing on the railways. Every week we see new wagons arriving. But although the railways were given permission and agreed to fit vacuum brakes, so far as I can see the wagons about which I am talking have not been fitted with these brakes. I am not speaking of wagons which are withdrawn and come out fitted with brakes; I am speaking of new wagons which appear to be coming off the production lines with the old handbrake and, so far as one can see, no provision for a vacuum cylinder and the dual-purpose brake such as is fitted to the fish cars from Aberdeen. I may be entirely wrong about that matter, but I should like to have some answer, because it is discouraging for people to observe these things and to think that nothing very much is happening in regard to the continuous braking system, which is of enormous importance to the railways. That is just a question in regard to the railways.
Then, one must bear closely in mind that any transport cost is an unwanted on-cost between the producer and the 284 consumer. Therefore, whatever is done, the real crux of the matter is that the cost must be kept down to an absolute minimum. From the detailed side of it. I personally am quite happy to leave that matter in the hands of British Railways. Their engineers and people in charge (some of whom I used to know) are fully up to the job, and we can leave the detailed side in their hands. If we can help them by not meddling politically. I think it will be all to the good.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD BENNETT OF EDGBASTON
My Lords, my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton, has told your Lordships the story of the British Productivity Council, with which I have been associated from its commencement. I will not go over that ground again, but I should like to take this opportunity of paying a warm tribute to our American friends, who did more than anybody else to get these schemes going. I was a member of the Anglo-American Council for Productivity and I know what the Americans did. They not only threw open all their factories, but they paid every dollar of the expense to which we were put in sending our teams over to America. They made our teams welcome and looked after them splendidly: and, as I say, they paid the whole of the cost, which we could not have done. It was the success of the British productivity teams which eventually made possible the British Productivity Council. The work that they did to the benefit of this country is, I believe, immeasurable. It woke us up and it helped us to start a ball rolling which has not stopped.
Having said that, I will come to the subject before us. This is the twenty-fourth Report of the British Productivity Council, which is carrying on the work started by the Anglo-American Productivity Council teams which went over to America. When I looked at it first, I said to myself, "I suppose I shall read about fork-lifts and pallets"; and of course I did, because those are the two outstanding and most easily used facilities for increasing freight handling. I go to many works and I see them in use in growing numbers. Your Lordships would hardly believe the amount of work that is saved by these two single items. Numbers of organisations to-day which are not using them would be well 285 advised to do so. It used to be all wry pretty to see a couple of men passing bricks to one another, bat you do not see that to-day. The bricks are put on to wooden platforms, sometimes with collapsible sides, and they are wheeled on and wheeled off; all that pretty play that we used to watch has gone.
I have read in this Report that Unilever's say that they are saving 60 per cent. in their handling charges by using these pallets. Not only is there a saving in the handling of things of different sizes, but there is also the saving of an enormous amount of warehouse space. Instead of things piling up on the shelves, they are lifted on pallets and put into position. So I would urge that an easy way for people to help themselves, by saving building space and reducing their costs, is by the use of these two simple things, pallets and fork-lifts. I read in this Report some criticisms that we in industry have not provided quite the right type of loading and unloading decks. I think that is quite right. But if you look at the vast changes that take place, whereby industries have been reorganising and redeveloping, you will realise that as soon as one loading and unloading deck has been built something happens and you have to alter it again; so that if you are not progressive, you are always out of date in part of your premises.
Some of the things I had intended to say have been said by other noble Lords, so I will not repeat them. I have a foot in each camp and perhaps by the time I have finished your Lordships can judge where I put the pressure. I am delighted to know that, as the Report says, the railways are looking at these matters very seriously. In Birmingham, we are very proud of what has been done. Lawley Street is a showplace of which we are very proud, and I hear that the same kind of thing is going on in other directions. Those of us with interests in roads are as anxious as the most enthusiastic railwayman that the railways should get on to a proper basis, for we realise how vital and essential the railways are. We cannot do without there. If they are to fill their proper position in this country, they must be as efficient as possible and must be used to the maximum extent.
286 As the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, said, the railways have suffered through having been pioneers. They are not the only ones to suffer. Sometimes I see new industrial areas growing up on the Continent which are clean and fresh in comparison with ours. They started generations after we left off, so of course they can make nice, clean-looking places. They have avoided all the errors, whereas we had to follow a process of trial and error. Our railways are paying the price for having been pioneers, and we should always remember that. It is very heartening to read that the railways are going in for a productivity council. The noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, mentioned that the British. Productivity Council has urged them to give further attention to works study. I, too, would emphasise how important that is.
We have a way of thinking that when we have done a job it is finished, though usually it is not; and in that connection let me tell your Lordships a story. In our organisation years ago, we spent a lot of time getting a shop laid out that was thoroughly up to d ate in every direction. Technically it was just right, arid we were proud to show it, with everything working smoothly. There was another shop which we could not seem to get going properly. We were always striking troubles and difficulties there. After a time we brought in a firm of outside consultants who went right through it. At the end, they smiled and said: "The shop of which you are so proud is really very inefficient; the one that you are bothered about is much more efficient." The answer was simple. We were content to feel that we had everything right with the first shop and that it was doing the job, but with the other we were worrying and bothering about it and making changes.
I hope that the railway companies will not think that, when they have done the job, it is therefore finished and they can forget it. They have to keep on as we have to keep on in every other branch of industry, continuously working; otherwise they will fall behind. We have the greatest sympathy with railways in their problems and difficulties, for railways are essential to the rest of industry. Do not run away with the idea that I believe that the roads side will lose anything. It will not. I was delighted to read of the 287 up-to-dateness of the British Road Services, with teleprinters and radio, and to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, what they are doing. I am sure it will rejoice the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, to know that the time he put in and the work that he did is not to be lost, and that we as a nation shall benefit from the organisation that he helped to create.
On one point I would agree with everything that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth: it is no use for the railways to expect to get back a lot of the traffic which has left the railways and gone to the roads. The noble Lord pointed out that a motor factory to-day is not a self-contained unit, but draws supplies from a large number of other ancillary factories and equipment makers. It would be hopeless for them to try to use the railways at a time when models are being changed. A railwayman once came to me and said that he had a container scheme. I said to him: "We must look at the problem. They are making changes, and supplies are running short. The factory is working all day in order to produce the goods; in the evening they are collected. They are loaded on to lorries in the small hours of the morning, and at daybreak the lorries drive away to the main factory, perhaps sixty miles distant, so that the factory there may have supplies when the line is started up at eight o'clock in the morning." It may be said that those circumstances are exceptional, but that is not at all the case. It is because that happens that no great amount of traffic will ever be taken back from the roads. Road transport has become essential. Once in Detroit I was told by the Ford organisation that they had material pouring in all the time, and that if they did not have new supplies from outside they would come to an absolute standstill in twenty minutes. Of course they have their own railway sidings.
Without a steady flow of material, industry, as it is organised to-day, would come to a standstill. That does not mean that we do not want the most efficient railway service we can have. At the same time we need the most efficient road delivery service; and what have we got? I must say something about the roads, otherwise your Lordships will wonder what is the matter with me. Our 288 traffic density is the greatest in the world, and this Report points out that until this year only 1.5 per cent. of our total highway expenditure has been devoted to reconstruction. Now we are to have 15 per cent. devoted to that purpose. That is a great improvement, but the Americans are using 62 per cent. of their total expenditure. This Report mentions what was said in relation to road transport by the O.E.E.C, Road Transport Mission, following its visit to the United States in 1954:We are certain that much of the increase in American productivity is attributable to the building of an excellent road transport system based on good roads, and we think European Government should pay more attention to the American example in this important matter.I know that it is easy to preach, and easy to write a paragraph like that; and I have the utmost sympathy with the Minister of Transport in the task which he has inherited. So far as I can remember, the motor industry has never been exactly encouraged by any Government in this country. We started behind scratch, and have been trying to catch up ever since. It was the same with our roads. They were very good for driving coaches on, but they have never been brought up to date. There was always a certain opposition against efforts to get things moving. Now the poor old Minister of Transport, following the line of his successors, is having stones thrown at him; but we shall continue to throw stones for that is the only way to get things done. We must have a more efficient road system.
The noble Lord, Lord Somers, suggested that we might transfer some of the big, heavy loads to the railways. But the railways will not stand it; many bridges are not made for it, nor are the platforms. When I was handling a Government job during the war I had to get a consignment of railway wagons, built in Birmingham, to the coast. Although they were running on the same guage, we had to take down platforms and to load very carefully, because we could not get those railway wagons through stations in this country. When one looks at some of the enormous pieces of machinery moved by road one can see why the railways cannot handle this traffic. I feel, however, that there might be a little more co-ordination.
Two or three times on the Bristol-Gloucester road I have been struck by 289 the congestion. I felt, "Why could not some arrangement have been made in advance to facilitate the passage of these big lorries and avoid such road congestion? Could not the police, or some other authority, perhaps by telephoning, have fixed matters so that the loads made a detour instead of holding up traffic for many miles along the main road?" It is no use expecting these heavy loads to be sent by rail. For almost as long as I can remember we have heard the cry: "Get rid of the 20 m.p.h. limit for lorries: it is honoured more in the breach than in the observance." I know that during the time of office of the Labour Government we got Mr. Barnes to agree, but other interests stepped in. We have hopes that at last we are going to get this. It will certainly help to accelerate the speed: at which traffic moves, and will save a great deal of cutting out. On one point I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth: that we do not want any more inquiries. It sometimes seems to me that throughout most of our business lives we have been giving evidence at inquiries. I say: let the men who have to do the job get on with it. I believe that they have the requisite power if they are left alone and are riot interfered with. They should he encouraged, I think, and I reiterate my plea that they should not be interfered with but should be allowed a free hand.
My Lords, I do not think that there is any need to emphasise the importance of this subject. In the Report which we are discussing, mention has been made of some figures given by Mr. Peter Masefield. He is reported as saying that out of a population of 51 million we have some 7,200,000 at work on transport and the manufacture of vehicles for transport. That means one in seven of the population. A more realistic way of looking at it, I think, would be to take first the working population of this country, which is 24 million. If Mr. Masefield's figure as to the numbers employed in the transport and allied industries is correct, it means that one in four of all the people working in this country are directly interested in transport in one form or another. They are interested either in its operation or in the manufacture of its vehicles. That being so, I think we can congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, on having 290 initiated this debate and on the contributions which his Motion has elicited from both sides of the House. I hope that people who are in a position to take action will note what has been said in our debate to-day, and that, as a result of some of the statements made in this House, they will move.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords as in the case of so many debates in your Lordships' House, this discussion to-day has been conducted with every evidence of great knowledge and great experience. Noble Lords who can speak with great authority upon this subject have taken part in the debate. It is a highly technical, subject and one with regard to which, therefore, I feel some anxiety about replying. Straight away, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bennett of Edgbaston, for the sympathy which he has expressed with my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport. The Minister has indeed a colossal task to carry out—there is no doubt about that. Anyone can throw a brick at him, but I can assure your Lordships we are grateful to those who make constrictive suggestions as to how the Minister's task can best be carried out. I should also like to thank the House for keeping off the White Paper which was recently published. It is really not much use trying to discuss it until the Minister Ins expressed his intentions about it. He will do that very shortly, and then we shall be only too glad to have a discussion about it.
I should like to add my congratulations to Lord Forbes for introducing this Motion. He has spoken with great knowledge of his subject and I think that he has done two things of very real importance. In the first place, he has emphasised; clearly the importance of the element of freight transport in the whole economy of the country. Secondly, he has dealt with the more technical, and perhaps more difficult, problem of exactly how such a principle should be applied. I think it is desirable that this should be brought out once more. As Lord Ferrers has said, there is nothing we produce into which transport does not enter. I give rather tentatively the figure of 15 per cent. as representing the extent to which transport charges enter into the cost of everything. The noble Lord, Lord 291 McCorquodale, referred to the annual expenditure of somewhere about £1,800 millions a year on all forms of transport, which probably represents approximately 15 per cent. of our gross manufacturing costs.
Lord Bennett of Edgbaston referred to the number employed in the industry in one form or another. Transport constitutes a basic cost of production, and I think it is desirable that those who are engaged in it should have that recognised. The immense contribution which they make should be understood and appreciated. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, talked about transport in a rather narrow economic sense as an unproductive industry. I prefer to regard it—and I think that the noble Earl probably really regards it so himself—as a form of conveyor belt in which all those concerned are playing a very important part. I think it is fair to say that we should recognise the contribution which the old London Midland and Scottish Railway Company, under the enlightened leadership of my old friend Sir Ernest Lemon (the value of whose work is recognised by all railwaymen who remember him), made to increasing the efficiency of goods terminals by introducing the more up-to-date mechanisation and other methods resulting in increased productivity. A striking example of this is to be found at the Lawley Street Goods DepÔt, Birmingham. I think that is one of the better examples of this type of development.
In a matter like this, I do not think that a Royal Commission is the best way to accomplish our aim. I believe that most of the things we seek are known fairly well. As Lord McCorquodale has said, the British Productivity Council has sent a team to America and I was very glad to learn from Lord Bennett of Edgbaston how well they had been received and how much Americans had helped in making their work as valuable as possible. The British Railways Productivity Council was set up in 1955, and it has studied problems of this type very thoroughly. Moreover, for many years officers from the British Transport Commission have been visiting the American and Continental Railways to study their new developments.
There was some little controversy as between Lord Lucas of Chilworth and 292 Lord Mathers, the basis of which, I think, was the importance which should be attached to the railways. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, used the words: "by curbing the most economic form of transport". I was not quite certain what he meant by that, but I thought he meant that the emphasis should have been more on road transport than on rail transport.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I referred to curbing the most economic form of transport—whichever that proves to be.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
There, of course, we come positively into some difference. It seems to me that whenever some people try to resolve that problem, they fall back on the word "integration". After listening to that word for nearly ten years, I have come to the conclusion that it represents a form of escapism. When you cannot see a solution to transport problems, you use the word "integration". We have it clearly in our minds that the person who must decide the way to send his goods is the consignor—the trader himself. I say this, with respect, to the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven. He said he thought that these goods could be classified for the best form of transport. I doubt very much whether it is possible to do that. The only practical way, I think, is to leave it to the trader. Thus we are seeking to promote a movement from the road back to the rail by making rail transport more attractive.
If I may, as a matter of detail, I will correct some figures which have been referred to. It is true, and it was said, I think, by Lord Ferrers, that if you take the weight carried by road, you will find that 72 per cent. was carried. But if you take it as a matter of ton-miles, you will find that it falls to only 37 per cent. So in ton-miles, the railways are still carrying a great deal more than the roads. We are trying to bring back more traffic to the railways because we think it is important. We are trying to do this by providing a better service. In the first place, we are fitting continuous brakes to goods wagons. We hope that a result of this will be to raise the average speed of goods trains from the present ten miles per hour to forty-five miles per hour. That means a tremendous difference in the speed at which goods can be reliably delivered.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I am not sure when it will be completed, but it is corning in now. I admit to my noble friend Lord Stonehaven that there are still a few coming through the pipeline which are without modern braking, but there are already some goods trains of that character and the changeover is taking place steadily. Another point, which goes with that, is the quicker turn-round of wagons. I must emphasise that there must be a float of wagons of some kind, but I think it is probably fair to say that the present demurrage rate is not high enough arid should be a good deal higher than it is. In any case, this will be helped to some extent by quicker movement and better marshalling yards. The intention is to close about 150 yards at present in use and to open fifty-five new ones. The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, referred to electronic equipment. I do not know whether he has seen an installation of that character at the Thornton marshalling yards in Fife, but there they have a system of that character which has the advantages he emphasised, such as being usable in all kinds of weather and being without the bumping and banging which is so often seen in shunting yards. In that respect I would also mention that seventy-fix e new freight terminals are already in use and another 250 are planned.
A good deal of emphasis has properly been placed by the noble Lords, Lord Burden, Lord Glyn and Lord Bennett of Edgbaston, on pallets and containers. We are making a good deal of progress in that respect. There are about double the number of containers in operation this year than there was before the war, and they are increasing at the rate of about 5.000 a year. These include, I am told, special containers for bicycles, typewriters and building materials, and some are ventilated and insulated. I would also refer to the new container on its own wheels called the D.A.F. which enables it to be rolled straight from a road vehicle on to the railway. This type has come in from Holland and I am told that it is a great improvement. I have some photographs of it here, if any of your Lordships wishes to see it afterwards.
294 We also recognise the value of articulated trucks, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, and trucks with semi-trailers. A good deal has been said about the piggy-back "method, and on the whole I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, said on this point. It is in use in car-sleeper trains between London and Scotland, Exeter, Dover and elsewhere and also for transporting road trailers carrying beer, milk, glucose and herring oil, and, for some reason. Loch Katrine water, which is carried piggy-back" from Glasgow to London. The difficulty is that the load gauges in this country are riot nearly so suitable for that type of development as they are in the United States of America. The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, emphasised the point of bringing the vehicle down on to its own axle. I would merely say that British Railways are aware of this procedure. I am afraid that I cannot say at the present time whether it really constitute a new step forward, but the point is one which they have considered and which they would be happy to encourage if it seemed a useful development.
I would also mention the question of damage, to which noble Lords referred. Of course, this will be greatly reduced by proper brakes and smoother movement at freight terminals, but recent figures are encouraging. For instance, between 1950 and 1955 there was a reduction of 17 per cent. in the claims paid by British Railways in respect of goods damaged in transit, and there w as a further reduction of 12 per cent. in the first nine months of this year.
I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, said in regard to docks. Many of them are old and rather cramped and their lay-out would be better if they were on completely new lines, but I think it is proper to recognise that with roughly the same dock labour force we are handling 50 per cent. more imports and twice as much exports as before the war, which I think shows beyond any doubt that there has been a considerable increase in the efficiency of our docks over the last fifteen years. Of course, there is congestion, and it is true that there is a tendency to use lorries more than railways. This point is being met. I am glad that the noble Lord. Lord Glyn, referred to the Green Arrow 295 Service, which is intended to give a guaranteed delivery date at the docks of full wagon loads. I believe that this is serving a useful purpose. In fairness to the Commission, I should say that they have already spent nearly £11 million in improving the docks and propose to spend another £7 million.
It is common in your Lordships' House to examine the width, the breadth and the size of vehicles on the road, and we have had quite a number of discussions on the point. The real answer is that almost whenever you get down to the details of any case, it is very difficult to find an alternative way of moving the particular item. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, referred to a propeller on the road. I do not know its dimensions but 1 suspect that it was one which could not have been put on the railway and which required immediate delivery to a ship. I do not know, but in almost every case where we have come to examine it, this proved to be the only way of doing an essential economic task.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl would agree with me, at least, that the ship which was transported by road from Hull to Dagenham could have gone by sea.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I almost always believe all the stories I hear from the noble Lord, but if the noble Lord wishes, I will make some inquiries about this one.
I would turn shortly to the question of roads, but I will not keep your Lordships too long because I think you would like to discuss this question at greater length some other time. It is easy to put more emphasis on this side or on that side of the transport problem. What we have to remember is that the road programme only started less than three years ago and previous to that nothing had been done for fifteen years. We have tried to meet what have seemed to us to be the most urgent cases. It is not correct for the noble Lord, Lord Somers, to say that we are doing nothing. More than 1,500 separate improvements of a major character have been started since April, 1955, not including minor improvements and road maintenance, and these are going forward at the present time. I know that the results of this work will not be seen 296 for a little time, but by March of next year there will be committed on major improvements over £80 million, so that it is fair to say that a start has been made. I would say a word about urban motorways. Of course, these are very fine, but they are by far and away the most expensive form of road. The Cromwell Road extension, which I suppose would barely be classified as an urban motorway, cost about £1 million a mile. The A ring road project for London would have cost £130 million for eleven miles.
The noble Lord, Lord Somers, made a strong appeal for the canals. I can only say to him that I find it hard to justify maintaining the canals unless they really serve an economic purpose. The Transport Commission have already stated those which they are prepared to maintain. They are going ahead spending a considerable amount, something like £5 million or more, on improving those parts of the canal system which are worth while. The real answer is that the bulk of our canals are too narrow for the large type of barge which enables economic operations by barges to be carried out on the Continent. If anyone can find a way of using the canals so that they would not be a dead loss to the British Transport Commission, there is at present sitting an independent Committee to examine the most economic use of the canal system, and they would be delighted to have evidence of how these canals could be employed.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, talked about tank landing craft. It so happens that I had experience of trying to use a D.U.K.W. on the west coast of Scotland, and I can tell him that one difficulty is that in most channels up there the tide goes too fast for a D.U.K.W. at sea. None the less, any suggestion of that sort is welcome, and it may be possible to make use of it in some places.
The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, raised a number of points in regard to freight traffic by air. I am glad that he has raised those points. I am given to understand that the question of complex documentation is well known and that discussions have been proceeding to see if these requirements can be simplified. On freight traffic by air, I would add only 297 this. I do not think there is a great need for freight air traffic in this country, although I notice that there has been a substantial increase in the freight traffic carried by the independent airways in the last two years, and also an increase in the freight traffic of British European Airways during that period. However, I should have thought that the use of air freight overseas, carrying important machinery and things of that sort, is a service that is likely to increase and indeed is, I believe, increasing substantially.
I am afraid that this is a technical subject, and it is difficult, in debate, to answer some of the quite unexceptionable and sound statements which the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, has made as to the development that we need. However, it is expensive. In recent years, when we have been able to undertake modernisation of the railways, we have taken steps which are of great importance, and which will, I hope, leave a lasting mark on an improved transport system. May I conclude by echoing what the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, said: that if we are to make the best use of our facilities, it is important that the closest liaison should 298 exist between the users and the manufacturers, on the one side, and between the customers and the transport organisations on the other. That, indeed, is fully emphasised in the Productivity Report. I thank noble Lords for having taken part in the debate, and I assure them that what they have said will he carefully examined.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ LORD FORBES
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, for the comprehensive reply he has given. I only hope that his words will soon lead to deeds. If we want to see freight movement working at its best, undoubtedly we have to turn to the British Fighting Services during war-time. However, I am not advocating another war so that we may learn how to move freight. I should like to thank all noble Lords on both sides of the House who have so ably supported this debate. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past six o'clock.