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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 2 (May 1, 1940.)

Trends Of Transport

Trends Of Transport

The world picture of economic development to-day finds transport bulking large in the foreground. From the present transport tendencies may be predicted their probable lines of progress. Prior to the new war, speed and luxury were the preponderating notes in passenger transport demands by land, sea and air. So there were Queen Marys, Aquitanias and Empress liners on the water, Clippers, Aoteas in the air, and Cheltenham Flyers, Blue Trains and Zephyrs on the rail to make distance negligible and comfort superb.

The war puts a check to all that. Stern necessity calls for utilitarian rather than luxury methods of civilian travel. But the taste for it is there; and when the present conflict ends, lessons learned from it, in the hard school of this life-and-death struggle, will be applied to the ways of peace over the whole transport field.

The future of passenger transport, therefore, may be said to be definitely one of still greater speed and increased comfort. A prerequisite is some form of co-ordination on all through routes to avoid excessively expensive duplication of services. Much has been done along this line already: but there remains a vast spread of interlocking agreements and adjustments to be effected before there emerges the best possible pattern of transport service to meet the demands of travellers.

The principal railways of the world have survived, in recent years, the dangers of displacement by road services. In fact the multiplicity of privately-driven vehicles on the roads, with the associated dangers and delays (which appear to increase directly as the square of the number of cars operating), plus the difficulties of parking, have actually helped to save the Railway passenger traffic position. By no form of land transport can one relax with so much safety and comfort as on the signal-guarded railway—operated by trained experts whose work is centrally controlled and whose right of way none may challenge with impunity.

By sea there is not likely to be much divergence from present tendencies. Even if the development of air travel might otherwise relegate the passenger liner of the long sea lanes to the position of a museum piece, the operating costs of air travel, apart from its additional risks, are likely to ensure good loading at much lower fares for sea vessels engaged in the tourist trade.

The battle of freight by road versus rail is approaching settlement on a compromise that will save the best features of each. The economic waste of trains and road vehicles travelling long distances in competition on adjacent parallel routes is everywhere recognised, and the cold economics of that position are distinctly in favour of rail transport.

Terminal collection and delivery by road services, with further improvements to reduce handling costs and risks in transfer between road and rail, are included in the solution of the long haul problem of the future. The cost of counteracting gravity is the real deterrent to effective competition by air transport for the carriage of heavy goods either by land or sea.