Tag Archives: R&RTHA

Amy Graham on the R&RTHA

Committee member Amy Graham has written an entry on the Association, with a report on the 2016 Autumn Conference, in her excellent blog – https://213bus.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/roads-and-road-transport-history-association/

It is well worth following Amy’s blog for a contemporary view on road transport, especially buses.

All aboard the Portland bus (in pictures)

Photographer Geoffrey Hiller and writer Tom Vandel have spent the past year travelling on the number 75 bus in Portland, Oregon, stopping off along the way to explore and capture parts of the town usually only glimpsed thorough the window.

The route runs for nearly 20 miles and comprises 131 stops, from upper St Johns to downtown Milwaukie.

Their pictures depict the wide range of communities spread along the way as well as capturing something of the gentrification in parts of the town.

Here is a selection of images from the project.


BBC 29 December 2016


When we cut rural bus routes we cut our vital culture and tourism

The Times, 2 December 2016, Richard Morrison

It was only when I attended the funeral of my colleague Rodney Milnes, who died a year ago this Sunday, that I learnt about his last years. After retirement he had swapped reviewing noisy operas in noisy cities for the polar opposite: idyllic tranquillity in a Gloucestershire village.

That, however, wasn’t the end of his attacks on institutions he felt were failing the public. A lifelong devotee of public transport, he apparently kept a fierce watch on buses serving local villages — castigating operators that disregarded their own timetables and local authorities that let routes disappear.

Perhaps it’s because of Rodney’s trenchant pen that Gloucestershire county council cut its spending on bus services by “only” 12 per cent last year — compared with the 100 per cent cuts inflicted on such places as Stockton-on-Tees, Wrexham and Luton, or the 44 per cent cut across Cumbria. If he had lived to read Buses in Crisis, however — a report published this year by the Campaign for Better Transport — he would have been horrified. So am I.

In the past six years, the report notes, more than 2,000 bus routes across England and Wales have been cut or withdrawn. Most are in rural areas where they haven’t had a railway either since the Beeching massacre of the 1960s, and where a taxi into the nearest town can cost £20.

If you live in that big bubble called London, where (uniquely in England) buses are still regulated (by Transport for London), plentiful, reliable, enhanced by smartphone apps and consequently massively popular, you have no idea of how comprehensively Britain’s bus services have been obliterated in the sticks. And the stupid thing is that cutting those 2,000 routes — which means cutting public transport links to hundreds of villages — has saved local authorities, collectively, only £44 million. That’s £16 million less than the amount of public money that the government has committed to the Garden Bridge project in central London.

Yet the social, cultural and economic damage inflicted on rural heartlands is a thousand times more significant than the debatable benefits of building a tree-walk over the Thames. If rural communities are cut off from towns — especially in the evenings, because even those country bus routes still existing seem to stop after 6pm — they are also cut off from cinemas, theatres, choirs, children’s music centres, bingo, sports facilities and all sorts of other recreations. Not to mention jobs. A car, or even two cars, per family becomes a necessity — but many people can’t afford to buy and run one. And even if they could, is it desirable to make car ownership mandatory when the country is trying to lower carbon emissions, pollution and road congestion?

Then there’s the effect on tourism — a vital economy in rural Britain. Our national parks are now all but inaccessible by public transport. So are hundreds of landmarks, stately homes and castles. So are thousands of miles of glorious coastline. No wonder that National Trust membership is overwhelmingly a middle-class enclave.

It’s not just a question of withdrawn subsidy. Unlike in London — where Thomas Heatherwick’s reborn Routemaster has made bus travel seem almost chic — rural buses have a dated, dusty reputation. Yet marketed properly, and routed through Britain’s most spectacular landscapes, they could become tourist attractions in their own right — like the legendary 100 bus along the vertiginous coastal road between Nice and Monte Carlo, or the spectacular Greyhound route over the Canadian Rockies.

In the past six years more than 2,000 routes have been withdrawn

As it happens, there’s a Bus Services Bill going through parliament now. I’ve read it. (I also watch paint dry.) Frankly, it’s a mishmash of fiddly adjustments that will do little to stem the decline. Indeed, some measures seem to put even more obstacles in the way of those local authorities that want more proactive input into bus networks. I can detect no overarching vision for nurturing the renaissance of the bus. And, crucially, there’s no commitment to restoring subsidy — even though the economic and health benefits of having a mobile rural population would repay such investment many times over.

Nor will the bill tackle a bizarre paradox of present-day transport policy, which is that a scheme introduced with the best intentions — free off-peak bus travel for pensioners — has had disastrous unintended consequences. Pensioners are indeed flocking on to buses (where they can find them), but the compensation offered to companies for carrying non paying passengers doesn’t cover the costs involved. Consequently, operators are dropping routes rather than predominantly carry old people.

On top of funding problems is also a feeling of chaos. Rival bus companies thwart attempts to establish integrated timetables and ticketing. Websites send you on three-hour journeys, involving four changes of bus, to get 30 miles across the shires. Even where quick, useful bus routes do exist in rural England, visitors rarely discover them.

Margaret Thatcher reputedly declared that any man who finds himself on a bus after the age of 26 “can count himself a failure”. There again, she also said that there’s “no such thing as society”. The first statement is surely part-cause of the second. This snobbish belittling of buses from those leading the country is fragmenting rural communities and destroying society.

Shared spaces for drivers and pedestrians ‘are causing chaos’ …

The Times, 24 October 2016,

Trendy shared space schemes that attempt to declutter streets by stripping out kerbs, road markings and traffic signs are causing “chaos and catastrophe”, ministers have been told.

The system — adopted by town planners across Britain — has created a “traffic free-for-all” in busy shopping areas, putting pedestrians and cyclists at risk, it was claimed.

The Conservative peer Lord Holmes of Richmond said that at least 14 local councils had scrapped shared space schemes by reintroducing zebra crossings and segregated cycle lanes.

He made the comments as experts prepared to publish a government-backed review of the system this year. The review, led by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, is expected to be critical of the process, saying that planners often fail to ensure an “inclusive environment” is created that benefits motorists and pedestrians at the same time. It suggested that the Highway Code may have to be rewritten to tell drivers how to approach shared spaces.

Shared space was developed in the Netherlands in the 1970s to declutter streets. It seeks to blur the lines between pedestrians and vehicles by taking out kerbs, surface markings, crossings and signs.

Drivers are supposed to reduce their speed because of uncertainty over who has priority. In some areas, zebra crossings have been replaced by “courtesy crossings” that have no basis in law and rely on the goodwill of motorists. About 100 roads have been adapted in Britain, figures suggest.

Safety groups have been highly critical of the development, claiming that it puts pedestrians at risk, particularly those with disabilities or sight problems. MPs from the Commons women and equalities select committee have begun an inquiry into shared spaces and other aspects of the “built environment”.

In a written submission to the inquiry, Lord Holmes, a former Paralympic swimmer, said that shared space had “absolutely failed to achieve an inclusive experience”. He added: “Shared space is not a safe place nor a pleasant place; it has turned high streets into traffic-free-for-alls; it has caused confusion, chaos and catastrophe.”

A number of deaths have been linked to shared space schemes. In 2012 David Thompson, a pensioner, died when he was hit by a bus while crossing a junction without traffic lights or road signs in Coventry.

Lord Holmes reported that 14 schemes had been scrapped in recent years. These included a zebra crossing that was reinstated at a cost of more than £100,000 in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Another crossing was reinstated in Bath after the council was warned that pulling it out had created a safety risk.

In its submission to the inquiry, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation said that the Highway Code may have to be rewritten to make sure that drivers give proper consideration to pedestrians in shared space areas.

“There may be a requirement to consider how we balance the needs of people driving vehicles and other people in certain areas of our built-up areas, in particular where those needs interact,” it said. “There are a number of ways that this may be achieved, including changes to the Highway Code . . . or to primary legislation.”

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “We are absolutely clear that the needs of the whole community, including disabled people, need to be considered by councils looking to introduce shared space schemes.”

Sat nav will make sure you get the green light …

The Times, 22 October 2016,

The frustration of continually coming to a halt at traffic lights could be eradicated by technology that guides cars down roads without hitting red signals.

Ford is trialling an in-car system that uses information on traffic light timings to speed or slow vehicles well ahead of signals, making sure they always meet them on green.

The technology is being developed as part of the £20 million government-backed UK Autodrive project, which is also responsible for the development of driverless cars.

There is concern that a sharp increase in the number of traffic lights in towns and cities is fuelling congestion and increasing journey times. It is estimated that regular drivers spend the equivalent of two days every year stuck at red lights.

Earlier this year, a report from the Institute of Economic Affairs found that 80 per cent of traffic lights could be scrapped without making roads more dangerous.

Christian Ress, an expert in driver assist technologies for Ford, said: “There’s not much worse after a long day than to hit one red light after another on the drive home and be forced to stop and start again at every junction.

“Enabling drivers to ‘ride the green wave’ means a smoother, continuous journey that helps to improve the flow of traffic and provide significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption.”

The company is developing technology to be fitted to traffic lights that emits a wi-fi signal to show when signals are about to turn from red to green.

As part of the “green light optimal speed advisory”, this information would be relayed to the car’s inbuilt sat-nav. The driver would then be told which speed to travel at to maximise their chances of hitting green.

The system will also tell motorists stopped at a red light how long they will have to wait for green.

The company is also trialling a system to warn motorists of cars braking sharply ahead. The emergency electronic brake lights system uses wi-fi signals in cars that indicate when it brakes sharply. This can be picked up to 500 metres away so cars can change their speed in advance. Trials are taking place in Milton Keynes and Coventry over the next two years.

Older People Fit to Drive?

The Times leader, 20 October 2016

Older people who can safely get behind the wheel must be allowed to

Cars are heavy metal projectiles that can kill. They can also keep older people in touch with friends, family and work. As the government ponders how to promote the wellbeing of an ageing population it needs to do more to tackle ageism in the workforce. More specifically, it needs to ensure that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency does a better, quicker job of deciding which elderly people are fit to drive, and which are not.

These tasks are linked. New research compiled in part by Andy Briggs, the government’s new “older workers’ champion”, shows that people over 50 looking for a job are five times more likely to get an interview if they do not reveal their age than if they do. At the same time it is clearer by the day that staying in work beyond the statutory retirement age, and staying mobile enough to get to work, gives many older people an extra sense of purpose and belonging as well as money in the bank. It also helps the actuaries struggling to fund pension deficits and the NHS.

In these circumstances it is especially important that older drivers who do not present a danger to others are allowed behind the wheel, yet the DVLA is getting in the way. A detailed study of complaints to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman reveals that “lives have been put on hold for years”, and livelihoods lost, because of a flawed assessment process run by the Drivers’ Medical Group (DMG), a DVLA department.

All drivers over 70 must now renew their licenses every three years. Those with medical conditions are reviewed by the DMG, but too often it has failed to consult patients’ GPs or acknowledge when they have passed eye tests or recovered from illnesses or operations. Inadequate consultation has also been a cause of tragedies when those who should not drive have been allowed to. There is no excuse for it.

Sat-nav maps update aims to prevent stuck lorries …

A multi-million pound sat-nav project aims to stop lorries and other vehicles getting stuck in narrow lanes and under low-lying bridges on UK routes.

Ordnance Survey is creating a database that will contain information about 200,000 miles (321,869km) of roadways to prevent such accidents.

Read more – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-37703556


Abandoned fire station basement in Dudley rediscovered …

A former firefighters station that has been mysteriously shut away for half a century has been rediscovered.

Based in the former national works in Dudley, it housed the Co-operative Wholesale Society’s company crew.

The station is believed to have been used until the 1960s before it was locked and left untouched for decades.


Investors fear China’s big bus is taking them for ride …

The Times, 11 August 2016,

A “straddling bus” that gained worldwide interest when it was road-tested in China last week may be just a fantastic scam, its investors fear.

They have demanded their money back after criticism of the electric bus’s performance and the discovery that its main production base was still an empty field.

The bus, which was given a brief 300-metre test run in Qinhuangdao last week, glides on rails over traffic jams like a moving tunnel.

Song Youzhou, its inventor, says that a four-car train of electric Transit Elevated Buses (TEBs) could carry 1,200 passengers and travel at up to 37mph over other vehicles.

His company has admitted that the well-publicised trial in Qinhuangdao was an internal test and not a formal road test because the city had made no commitment to the project.

Critics say that the giant bus may turn poorly, prove too heavy for the road and risk constant collisions with unruly drivers who routinely cut into bicycle and emergency lanes to get ahead.

Chinese media discovered this week that despite reports that the futuristic buses would be introduced across the country next year the main TEB production base was just an empty field.

Some investors in TEB, which were promised annual returns of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent, have turned up at its office in the capital demanding their money back, the Beijing News reported.

Huaying Kailai, a company blacklisted for illegal finance activities last year, has sold investment packages in the buses that Chinese media suspect is an illegal peer-to-peer financing scheme. Elaborate scams remain all too common in China.

Mr Song, who said he expected global demand of about 500,000 TEBs, rejected the barrage of criticism. “We haven’t done anything wrong at all,” he told the Shanghai news website Sixth Tone. “The latest tests show that the bus design is entirely possible.”

Mr Song said that the design was best suited to six-lane roads in big cities, where the buses can occupy two lanes in both directions while higher vehicles use other lanes.