Anarchy 44/Transport: the scope for citizen action
Transport: the scope
for citizen action
Ministries, nationalised industries, local authorities large and small are working away with long-
1. When British European Airways makes a loss on its services, the government decides that the services are to be kept going and the empty seats filled by reducing the fares. When British Railways makes a loss on its services, trains with empty seats are discontinued, and fares on those remaining are increased.
2. Among the stations closed on September 6th this year was Castlethorpe, Bucks, on the main Euston-Crewe line, where villagers sat down in front of the last train in protest. More than £40,000 had recently been spent on modernising their station.
3. At Stranraer in the west of Scotland, where the government is subsidising new industrial enterprise, British Railways recently put into service a new 3,500 ton ship, specially designed for the Stranraer-Larne ferry. But in Dr. Beeching’s plan, Stranraer will not only lose all its special express boat trains from London, Newcastle and Glasgow, but it will actually become almost 60 miles distant from the nearest passenger-
4. The London Traffic Management Unit of the Ministry of Transport is attempting to alleviate traffic problems in London by introducing large-
5. Battersea Council has had to abandon a major part of its housing programme, because of proposals for a six-
What is the remedy for absurdities of this kind? The Labour Party (which can hardly blame “the jungle of private enterprise” since it is public bodies which are involved in each of these instances) proposes yet another government department to co-
Our own approach would be quite different. We want a citizens’ plan for transport: an alternative to official proposals, to serve as a focus for informed pressure and agitation. We would like to see transport workers and transport users draw up their own national plan, and then enforce it. The indispensible bodies of special knowledge already exist in the form of the transport workers’ unions and transport users associations. Now, when everybody has some interest in the subject either because of their own actual transport problems or because of the impact of the Beeching Report and the Buchanan Report (which has made everyone aware of the link between <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: town-
One aspect of a Citizens’ Plan for Transport, is that suggested by Robert Swann in his article “Direct Action and the Urban Environment” in anarchy 41: a campaign to “defend the city against erosion by automobiles”. Swann envisages citizen action of the civil disobedience kind as the teeth of such a campaign. In this country Professor Buchanan himself recommended the same kind of thing last June, in his “Don’t let traffic ruin your communities” speech.
Another approach, in rural areas, is that of citizen self-
One citizens’ initiative set off by the Beeching Report is embodied in the pamphlet Hampstead and the Broad Street Line, published by the Save the Broad Street Line Committee, 62 Upper Park Road, London NW3. (3s. by post). Dr. Beeching proposed to close the Broad Street to Richmond Line to passengers, even though it carries 18,000 of them a day, on the grounds that the service loses money. A public meeting was held to protest about the proposed closure, and it set up a committee which has produced a report that not only demolishes Dr. Beeching’s calculations, but investigates in detail who actually uses the line and what the cost of alternative means of transport would be. The social cost analysis set out in this report indicates that the actual cost to the community as a whole of closing the line would be £578,000 a year, as opposed to the claim by Dr. Beeching that British Railways lose £69,000 a year on running the passenger service. The detail and impeccable statistical analysis which this group of citizens has assembled will certainly make it considerably more difficult to close the line.
“I am a member of Bromley Design Group, a voluntary group of architects, surveyors, art teachers and like-
Similar citizens’ groups have been formed to “implement” the Buchanan Report—
What Mr. Timms calls the “insurmountable obstacle of local authority philistinism” and its equivalent in other public authorities, are likely to be the brick wall that most citizen action groups will find themselves up against. What they can do about it. Well, the only alternatives are to give up, or to increase the pressure. A handful of really determined people who don’t intend to give up, can achieve what otherwise seems impossible.
An example of this comes from another field of transport, the canal system. In sharp contrast with other countries where large-
The British Transport Commission proposed to close this canal at an estimated cost of £125,000. After a campaign of protest in 1958, the National Trust took it over, and employed Mr. Hutchings to bring it back into use, after 30 years of total neglect, for £50,000. Mr. Hutchings says, “When I was an architect in Coventry I got involved in preserving canals and so on. And when this came up the National Trust asked me to do it. We had no plans, no tools, no men, no money, no anything. Ever since, it’s been a job of getting contacts, persuading them to help, scrounging equipment, making people give things they didn’t want to give, volunteer when they didn’t want to, and work far harder than they wanted to for much longer than they wanted.”
Mr. Hutchings talked his way into getting the army, prisoners from Birmingham prison, and hundreds of volunteers to work on the canal. It took three years and involved dredging half a million tons of mud, rebuilding 30 locks, replacing 70 lock gates weighing over four tons, and virtually redigging more than half the canal bank. The 13 miles canal was reopened this year, and, inspired by this success, the National Trust is thinking of restoring another 16-