The private car in war



LAST month’s Editorial was concerned with motoring as a means of war-time relaxation—that was before intensive night bombing raids on London had brought the war home to countless civilians and altered pleasure motoring to something to look forward to in happier times to come. But that is not to suggest that private motoring has no place in cities and between cities where bombs have fallen. The worst effect of Germany’s prolonged air attacks on London and other cities has been loss of sleep on the part of our workers. Public transport vehicles are largely brought to a standstill when the raid-warning sounds and trains slow down to 15 m.p.h. Consequently, the worker gets home about in time to have a quick meal before entering his home shelter or a public shelter for the night. The “all-clear” goes usually at the time when he must set out again for his destination. If the railways have been put out of commission, a trying, worrying journey lies ahead. Argue, if you will, that no employer would sack a man for being late under the circumstances, the important fact remains that work of tremendous national importance is held up and the nervous strain on the worker, anxious to get to work, perhaps losing money by arriving late, is seriously increased. Until such time as we can put our munition factories and workers’ homes below ground, it would seem most unwise to suggest that the worker should live on the factory doorstep. The alternative is reliable, personal transport, which private motoring provides. Those who have scoffed at the enthusiast who rebuilds his own car should be made to realise that it is this person who can put into good condition the sort of baby car which was popular some fifteen years ago, and make it provide worry-free transport for two, three or even four persons with a minimum expenditure. The original “Chummy” Austin Seven can be seen giving grand service to workers engaged in fighting the enemy in our factories these troubled times. They can be pretty sure of getting to work and getting some sleep at nights, if they can get enough petrol for the daily journey. Alas, our arrangements do everything to discourage such praiseworthy immunity from transport worries. The tax absorbs some 5/- week, insurance almost as much, and the latter is based on car condition. Then there is that stupid law which attempts to stop an owner sharing his car-expenses with fellow travellers. On a ten-mile-a-day journey. six days a week, which is what tens of thousands of workers make, an 8 h.p. car carrying four persons could be operated for rather less than 1/- per head, or less than 3/- a head all-in, per week. Why make such expense-sharing illegal? Other arguments come to mind, in favour of private transport. An arterial road was recently in use again after a bombing attack long before the railway in the vicinity was normal. The Editor of this paper, using an 8 h.p. car, could get to and from the Government job on which he is now engaged—after his driving services were turned down by the War Office and A.R.P. gave him no useful outlet–in under three hours for the two-way journey, at a cost of around 25/- a week on a weekly fuel allowance which would last a fighting aeroplane less than half-an-hour at cruising speed. And there are three spare seats in the car at the disposal of fellow travellers. The railway journey has been taking some three hours and costing over 16/- a week. The roads outside London are quite empty, and if half London’s outer ring of workers tried to go home by car, would congestion be any worse than on the summer Sundays of yesterday?