“A History of London Transport – Vol. 1: The 19th Century,” by T. C. Barker and Michael Robbins. 412 pp. 10 in. x 6 1/3 in. (George Allen and Unwin Ltd., Ruskin House, 40, Museum Street, London, W.C.1 40s.)
This is the first volume of a comprehensive history of the complex problem of providing transport, by rail, road and tube, in the Metropolis. The authors are Dr T. C. Barker, Lecturer in Economic History at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and R. M. Robbins, Chief Commercial and Public Relations Officer of London Transport.
Transport historians will derive satisfaction from the masses of statistics, maps depicting the growth of London’s transport network, and good photographic reproductions of early horse-‘buses, trains, stations and the personalities who instituted these systems
I do not propose to devote any more space to this first volume of a lavishly-produced history, because it is the second volume of “A History of London Transport” that will be of intense appeal to readers of Motor Sport’s vintage section, except to say that it forms an essential introduction to this keenly-anticipated second volume. And that those who despair of congestion in London in 1964 will find cold consolation from the fact, vide page 66 of this detailed account, that by 1846 “a regular traveller from Brighton had reached the conclusion that it was quicker to walk from the railway terminus to his office in Trafalgar Square than go by omnibus or cab” and that by 1854 “it took less time to travel from Brighton up to Town than to get from London Bridge to Paddington.” Even then, over 100 years ago, “at least one shop-keeper had been driven to move elsewhere,” due to parking and traffic problems,” at Ludgate Hill.
So it appears that we are rather better off today, when a private car, even in the rush hour, can get about as far as Wimbledon or Morden from the City in the time it rakes a train to go from Victoria to Brighton. I hope that, in their second volume, the joint authors will pay some small tribute to the car designers and tyre and brake lining manufacturers for enabling London’s traffic to flow at all (imagine the sluggish pick-up of a 1920 Daimler, for instance, and rear-wheel-braking, repeated ad infinitum in the sprint tactics round Marble Arch and down Park Lane that prevail in the rush hours of 1964. And may I venture to express the hope that Mr. Robbins, in spite of his official connections, will not advocate banning private cars from our Cities in the next, eagerly-awaited of these painstaking volumes. After all, traffic jams were extremely bad on London Bridge, down Ludgate Hill and up Fleet Street as early as 1846 but the cure was never found in banning private carriages froth London’s streets and thoroughfares. – W. B.