Monthly Archives: August 2016

Making the Connections: transport and its place in history, York 16 November …

It is easy to find examples of transport’s impact on history, but for several reasons it has proven harder to study its intricacies and effects, and over the last thirty years the subject has received little attention, with some even arguing that it has been progressively marginalised within scholarly circles. Whereas decades ago, no book on the nineteenth century would omit the construction of the canals and railways, now their existence and role in shaping the period’s history receives little acknowledgement. The ‘Making the Connections’ one-day workshop seeks to re-invigorate the study of the history of transport by bringing together scholars of different historical periods and from different disciplines. Sponsored by the National Railway Museum, supported by the York Management School’s Management and Organisational History Research Cluster, and run by the York Transport Historians Group – which was established in 2015 and is a joint venture by staff at the National Railway Museum and the University of York – the workshop aims to demonstrate and celebrate transport’s central importance to the grand tapestry of human existence.

Registration details will follow. The full registration fee for the workshop is expected to be around £29, and there are 10 student places available at £10 each.

The saga of the 42 traffic lights junction in Beverley …

The Times, August 31 2015, Alexi Mostrous

Traffic lights make drivers see red
Residents in a picturesque Yorkshire town have complained after 42 sets of traffic lights were installed on a single junction.

Vehicles have to navigate the lights as they pass through the new Grovehill junction in Beverley, east Yorkshire, a town voted one of the best places in Britain to live.

The new junction in Beverley, which has 42 sets of traffic lights. It was previously a roundabout.

The lights, which were introduced as part of a £22 million renovation, have “lit up” the crossing like “Hull fair”, according to Howard Tomlinson, 72, of the Grovehill Action Group.

“The main concern is the layout and complexity of the junction,” he said. “It’s like something you would see coming off a motorway. It’s like Spaghetti Junction. There are about ten sets of lights all close together and it requires drivers to be very alert.

“People don’t know where to look, drivers are looking at nearby green lights thinking they can go when in actual fact their light is on red. [The council] said it would take some months for it to bed in, but they don’t appear to be observing what is happening.”

Steven Smart, 50, a painter, said: “The lights look like a fairground – I avoid it like the plague. It’s a total waste of money. Things were absolutely fine at the roundabout beforehand. If it’s not broke don’t try and fix it.”

A spokesman for East Riding council, which implemented the changes, said: “As there will be more traffic using this junction, the old roundabout has been replaced with a junction controlled by traffic signals to control the traffic flow better at this location. We ask for motorists’ and pedestrians’ continued patience.”

Beverley was named as one of the best places to live in the UK by The Sunday Times last year. The town is renowned for its 13th-century minster, and a Yorkshire tourist website boasts that its medieval skyline remains “refreshingly unspoilt”.

The Times, October 9 2015, Faisal Hanif

When all 42 sets of traffic lights went out at a notoriously chaotic road junction, there were fears that it could lead to a real-life version of dodgems.

However, motorists using the Grovehill junction in Beverley, near Hull, reported that the flow of traffic was better than usual — and they want the lights to be switched off permanently.

The junction had been nicknamed “the red-light district” by Bild, the German daily newspaper, and a crew from a Munich television station, Pro-Sieben, came to film it last month. One resident wrote to the local paper this week saying: “This international laughing stock is a disgrace.”

Peter Robinson, 78, said it had been a nightmare since the traffic lights were installed in February.

Another resident, Terry Fawcett, of the Grovehill Area action group, said: “We had a perfectly good roundabout before, without the need for any lights.”

However, residents said that the failure of the lights had led to an improvement and demanded that they be abandoned. East Riding of Yorkshire Council said it would monitor the junction.

The Times, October 9 2015, Martin Cassini

When 42 traffic lights failed at a junction in Beverley this week, the biggest surprise was that anyone was surprised that traffic suddenly flowed better.

We are supposed to accept traffic controls without question. But who is the better judge of when to go, or indeed what speed to go at: you and me at a particular time and place, or lights and limits fixed by absent regulators? When traffic lights are out of order, we are urged to exercise caution — which we do instinctively — implying that when lights are working, we can revert to norms of neglect.

Jump a cashpoint queue and you’d cause a riot, so why can’t we act sociably on the road? Because the rules prevent us. There is no more delinquent basis for road-user relationships than the rule of green- light priority. “Get out of my way!” it suggests. Drivers are given no chance to co-operate.

By contrast the motorists of Beverley, liberated from traffic lights, are saying “after you” instead. Their new-found equality encourages them to think of others and delivers them from antisocial traffic regulation.

Why do we actually need traffic lights? To break the priority streams of traffic so that others can cross. Instead of removing that way of thinking, therefore removing the need for lights, the clowns running our roads impose controls that cost lives and cost the earth to install and run.

Traffic officers want us to think we need their interventions, but the latest safety audit from Westminster City Council showed that 44 per cent of personal injury accidents occurred at traffic lights. How many of the remainder were because of the traffic lights themselves? The statistics don’t tell us.

The surprise — indeed scandal — is that traffic authorities are free to build their empires at public expense and, despite evidence, continue to resist reform. In 2009 I instigated a lights-off trial in Portishead, Somerset, which went permanent after journey times fell by more than half with no loss of safety. A deregulated low-speed environment in Poynton, Cheshire, was opened in 2013. It transformed the town.

Every year, there are 25,000 road deaths and injuries. The traffic control industry, with its vested interests, should not continue to escape scrutiny.

Motoring firsts …

The National Motor Museum Trust at Gaydon has made a list of the questions they are most frequently asked about the various motoring firsts. Listed below are some of the most common questions that have been answered by the Trust’s Motoring Research Service.

A fascinating example:

Why do we drive on the left side of the road in the UK but most other countries drive on the right?

The custom of driving on the left probably dates back to pre-history. It may have been an early road safety measure. At a time when the main danger on the roads was mugging, careful travellers would pass on-coming strangers on the left with their sword arm towards the passer-by.

The keep left rule did not become law in Britain until the increase in horse traffic made some sort of enforcement essential. Before this, the drivers of coaches leaving London for the country simply chose the firmest part of the road.

The main dates for introduction of the legal requirement to keep left are:

1756 – London Bridge

1772 – Towns in Scotland

1835 – All roads in Great Britain and Ireland.

In Europe Pope Boniface VIII instructed pilgrims to keep to the left in the year 1300. Later, class distinction in France meant that aristocrats drove their carriages on the left side of the road forcing everybody else over to the centre or to right hand side. Keeping left had really only ever applied to riding or driving. With the onset of the French Revolution in 1789 and the subsequent declaration of the rights of man in 1791 many aristocrats decided to keep to the ‘poor side’ of the road so as not to draw attention to themselves. Keeping to the right of the road was also seen as a way of defying the earlier Papal decree.

The subsequent Revolutionary wars and Napoleon’s European conquests led to the spread of driving on the right to Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Napoleon ordered his armies to use the right of the road in order to avoid congestion during military manoeuvres. The nations that resisted invasion – Britain, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia and Portugal – generally kept to the left.

The Netherlands changed to driving on the right in 1795, but Dutch colonies in the Far East continued the old practices. Denmark had not been invaded by the French but changed in 1793. Russia did not switch until 1916. Czechoslovakia and Hungary were the last countries in mainland Europe to keep left, only changing to the right following invasion by Germany in the late 1930s.

Portugal made the change from left to right in the 1920s; countries with border crossings found there was great confusion if drivers were required to change sides of the road when passing from country to country. Sweden remained on the left until 1967 and changed to the right following a lengthy road safety campaign.

In Austria from 1805 to 1939 half the country drove on the left whilst the other half, the area that had been invaded by Napoleon, drove on the right!

Most of the British Empire adopted the British custom of driving on the left although Egypt, which had been conquered by Napoleon, kept using the right after it became a British dependency.

Pakistan considered changing from left to right in the 1960s. The main argument against was that camel trains often drove through the night while their drivers dozed. The difficulty in teaching old camels new tricks was a decisive factor in Pakistan rejecting the change.

Canada stayed on the left until the 1920s. During the American War of Independence, French liberal reformer General Lafayette gave advice to the revolutionary forces and spread the idea of driving on the right. The keep right rule was applied to the Pennsylvania turnpike in 1792, New York in 1804 and New Jersey in 1813.

Bucking the normal trend, the Pacific island of Samoa made the switch from driving on the right to driving on the left side of the road on 7 September 2009. The official reason given was so as to fall in line with near neighbours Australia and New Zealand which, like Britain, still drive on the left.


Survey on Plug-in Electric Vehicles …

On behalf of Prof Wafaa Saleh, we would be most grateful if you could take some time in completing our survey on Plug-in Electric Vehicles.  This research is being carried out jointly by Edinburgh Napier University and Newcastle University.

We would appreciate your assistance with this research project on consumer’s perception on Electric Vehicles within the United Kingdom (those from outside the UK data will also be collected for further research purposes).

All you need to do is complete this short questionnaire, which should take approximately four to five minutes of your time. Responses will be completely anonymous; your name will not appear anywhere on the survey. Completing the questionnaire constitutes your consent to participate.

Thank you for participating in our survey. Your feedback is important.

Please follow the attached link:

Yvonne Lawrie
School Support Administrator
Transport Research Institute
Edinburgh Napier University
Merchiston Campus
10 Colinton Road
EH10 5DT

Tel:  +44 (0)131 455 2951
Fax: +44 (0)131 455 2953

Chinese bus will rise above traffic jams …

The Times, 26 May 2016,

Song Youzhou, a Chinese inventor, may yet have the last laugh. Faced by gridlock in cities, he drew scepticism six years ago when he proposed a futuristic “straddling bus” that would rise above traffic jams. “Driving through it would feel like crawling under someone’s crotch,” one critic wrote online.

Vehicles under 2m high can pass beneath the bus, which was derided by critics but which could soon become a reality

In July Mr Song’s unusual design may finally have its first test run along a special track in the coastal town of Beidaihe, where China’s Communist party leaders gather for summer holidays and secret talks.

Marketed as “a great original invention of China” that can benefit the entire world, the TEB (Transit Elevated Bus), or “straddling bus”, appeared at an exhibition in Beijing. Visitors crowded around a model that showed the TEB passing over two lanes of traffic.

Up to 1,400 passengers will be able to board the upper layer at platforms to be built in the middle of the road, at 1km intervals. The platforms will also function as pedestrian bridges.

At a speed of up to 37mph, the electric bus will run on steel tramlines. There is no lower level, allowing vehicles under two metres high to pass beneath when the bus is at a stop or to be overtaken, when traffic is heavy.

The bus will function like an underground system yet require only a fifth of a subway’s construction costs, and be completed in a year, says Song.


Do not give city bus plans the go-ahead, says transport group …

The Times, 15 May 2016,

One of Britain’s biggest transport operators has promised to challenge legislation aimed at restoring local authority control on the buses.

A day after the government published its Bus Services Bill, Go-Ahead Group warned that ministers had not thought through the plans.

The bill’s premise is that mayors of big urban regions, such as Greater Manchester and Tyne and Wear, should have the same command-and-control powers over bus services as the mayor of London and Transport for London. Go-Ahead is the biggest operator in London’s regulated bus model, but under government plans it would be challenged in its historic home market around Newcastle.

It said that it “remains to be convinced that the application [of franchising powers] will deliver better services for our customers than the existing system of competition between operators and partnership working with local transport authorities”. It said it would follow the bill through parliament “and continue to help inform the debate”.

Go-Ahead, Stagecoach and FirstGroup, the country’s other big bus operators, believe that the government has not presented evidence showing that a TfL-style regulation of bus networks would provide better value for money if replicated outside the capital. They are trying to alter the legislation to ensure that there is an independent scrutiny body that will investigate the plans of any mayor.

Last year an independent investigation blocked the introduction of a “quality contracts scheme” in Tyne and Wear because the proposals could not be shown to be a better alternative. “Measures brought forward in the Bus Services Bill must ensure that the franchise decision-making process is transparent and that any franchise proposals will deliver on customer service, value for money and affordability criteria,” Go-Ahead said.

A Go-Ahead spokesman denied that the bus companies wanted to block the new system for financial reasons. Unregulated provincial services typically are better money-makers than the regulated TfL model. In Go-Ahead’s case, the differential in profit margins is 13 per cent, compared with 9 per cent.

“The margin we make [in unregulated markets] is reinvested to keep services sustainable and competitive, to upgrade to greener fleets and introduce wi-fi connectivity and to work hard to attract and retain customers in markets where we are competing with the cars and taxis,” the spokesman said.

Manchester is keen to take greater control of its market, which is dominated by Stagecoach and FirstGroup. It argued that despite greater ratepayer subsidy and capital support for buses, the number of passengers in the city region had stayed flat.

“The current bus system prevents bus services being joined up and co- ordinated with each other, as well as with other modes of transport such as rail and Metrolink [tram],” Transport for Greater Manchester said. “The number and variety of tickets in Greater Manchester is unduly complicated and passengers have to pay more for a ticket that works across more than one bus operator’s network.”

Ministers say that the bill will help to drive up bus use from 13 million journeys a day, will cut city congestion, drive economic growth and prompt investment in technology, such as smart one-card-goes-anywhere ticketing and smartphone apps to tell passengers when their next bus will arrive.

“We are determined to increase bus usage and these measures are designed to give councils access to a range of powers to help deliver regular, reliable services for all,” Andrew Jones, the roads minister, said.


Pen and Sword Books proposals …

Pen and Sword Books Ltd are still looking for book proposals on transport themes for a general market, if anyone is interested. They’re especially interested in fresh perspectives, with readable texts on topics such as railway architecture, signalling, railway road and ferry services and air services, if anyone has been working on any of these themes. They’re also interested in the social history of railway modelling, and of course proposals on other forms of air, land and water transport.

If you have anything you would like to talk to them about please contact their transport commissioning editor John Scott-Morgan, on

Best wishes

Susan Major

‘Making the Connections’ Call for Papers …

I just wanted to put out a last reminder about the call for papers for the ‘Making the Connections’ workshop, which will be held at King’s Manor in the centre of York on the 16 November. All the details can be found in the link below, and the deadline is tomorrow!

Registration details will follow soon.

Dr David Turner
Associate Lecturer in Railway Studies
Centre for Lifelong Learning
University of York
York YO10 5DD