“Tuppence all the way”

Or three sections for a penny! Those workers who were familiar with London Passenger Transport at the time of the so-called General Strike, and subsequently experienced unemployment, will have clear recollections of the trams which in those days were still under control of the London County Council and competed with the “private enterprise” passenger transport provided by the then London General Omnibus Company (L.G.O.C.) and the “pirate buses.”

It was of great advantage for an unemployed worker who signed on at the City Labour Exchange or at his Union offices, to be able to board one of “our” trams at Camberwell Gate Walworth Road, and travel to the Embankment (Blackfriars) for a penny! This midday travel concession could also be taken advantage of on buses where they ran on parallel routes with the Trams.

Those living further out, in Lewisham or Clapham, were able to take advantage of the concession that, providing you reached your suburban destination before 4.30 p.m., it was “tuppence all the way !”

Most of us are now familiar with the development of the Control of London Passenger Transport: and, now that it is under state control, midnight of Saturday, July 5th, saw the finish of the last London trams, operating from the New Cross tram depot.

The increase in the cheap midday fares and their ultimate withdrawal was the inevitable outcome of the elimination of competition resulting from the setting-up of the London Passenger Transport Board (L.P.T.B.) and its culmination in the present-day London Transport Executive (L.T.E.) which is merely a department of that State octopus, the Transport Commission.

The workers today then, who require transport to and from their place of employment, are given the “privilege” of travelling threepence all the way, provided they reach their destination before 8 a.m. On the return journey home from work it is full fare ! Gone are the tuppenny and fourpenny workman’s return tickets—such are the fruits of “ progress.”

While many of us, no doubt, will breathe a sigh of relief that our ear drums will not any longer be offended by the rattling, grinding crescendo of noise that indicated the approach of a tram, we should remember that the unpleasant noise of travel is infinitely preferable to the even more unpleasant noise of war.

For, workers should not be under any delusion that the trams have been taken off the main roads of London for philanthropic reasons. Our masters may be much concerned that their racehorses or prize cattle are conveyed by the most up-to-date methods of transport. But we doubt that they lost any sleep on behalf of the crowded workers who endeavoured to keep on their feet—or their last meal down—as they swayed, swerved and rattled on their way to and from work, packed together like the proverbial sardines!

The antiquated London trams—often referred to by some workers as boxes on square wheels—could have been removed long ago and replaced by more modern and comfortable means of transport. But what this would have cost in millions of pounds far outweighed any alleged consideration for those workers who are not in a position (by reason of the limitations of the contents of the pay packet) to take advantage of other and more congenial forms of transport.

We would remind workers in London and elsewhere that it is also the intention of the transport authorities to cease from extending the trolley-bus services and to replace these also with the modern diesel-engine omnibus.

Workers might well ask themselves what all this points to. The cessation of trolley-bus services means an economy in the upkeep of a costly overhead system necessary to convey precious electrical current. The obsolete tram lines will yield thousands of tons of precious steel so necessary to the armament programme of British capitalism and its “allies.” Steel that Mr. Winston Churchill pleaded for in America recently. Steel that is required to build the weapons of war! For it is in war that capitalism finds the need for a modern and efficient fleet of mobile buses which, when workers are not required to shed their blood in their masters’ interests—will continue to convey them to and from their place of employment, on payment of the due fare, despite damage to roadways through bombing.

We saw the result of bombing in London during the second world war and its effect on passenger transport vehicles. If the overhead system of a trolley-bus service is laid on the ground as a result of “enemy” activity then those vehicles are immobile until repairs are effected; this makes apparent the limited availability of the trolley-bus in time of war and its inferiority compared to the independent diesel-engined modern bus, free to come and go !

Likewise the tram track which has been “hit,” necessitating a trunk bus service over that part of the tramway that is out of action. While it is possible to push trolley-buses off main roads, it is not a practical proposition to push a tram up a side street if the track is damaged or the tram has been put out of action. So, in addition to questions of relative cost the powers that be have also, no doubt, been influenced by the fact that it would be impossible to maintain an outmoded tramway system in an important metropolis like London in the event of World War III with possibility of large-scale devastation, resulting in streets made impassable by debris and craters and stranded trams adding to the chaos.

In war an important consideration would be facility for moving troops rapidly through London should the necessity arise. To this end a large fleet of modern double-decker buses could be a useful contribution. And it won’t be “tuppence all the way !”


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