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Post 238: London Congestion ..... it's nothing new.

‘’Passenger traffic within London has reached a stage where not only are the existing means of transportation totally inadequate, but any increase in traffic can no longer be dealt with through the extension of existing means. Suburban trains are overcrowded during rush hours, tube trains are full to the point of suffocation and buses, although now so numerous that all road traffic is reduced to little more than walking pace, are already unable to carry the crowds who wish to travel on them’’.

As a despatch rider in London, congestion is a way of life. In fact, if it wasn’t for congestion then despatch riders probably wouldn’t exist. I often look back through my rose tinted visor and dream of how beautifully quite the capital’s roads had been when I first began riding on them. Thirty years ago, London's roads seemed to flow freely, trains were a pleasant means of travelling Inter-City and there was always a seat available on the Tube. The report above reads like a recent consultant’s analysis written for Mayor Boris Johnson and the London Assembly ....... but it’s not.

I was sorting through a dusty leather suitcase full of old family papers and photographs. Amongst the memories and documents, I found an official report entitled "Summary of Proposal for Elevated Mono-Railway System". The report’s author was my maternal Grandfather Mr. H.W. Fright, and was written way back in the 1920's. The proposal talks of 'Central Stations' with radial arms that would serve the developing suburbs. It states that providing trains with a more rounded frontal area would vastly reduce their resistance through the air. He calculates that given the electronic engine technology of the day, such trains would be capable of achieving speeds of up to 150 mph. He suggested the introduction of the 'Soft Closing', centrally operated sliding door, a system that would allow a train's guard to safely operate all doors from one point and thus dramatically improve time-table efficiency. He talks of the inconvenience of and cost of building such a Mono-Rail system but suggests that failing to tackle London's congestion problem would be far more costly in the long run. In today's terms, this all sounds so familiar ...... but this 'Proposal' was written more than eighty years ago.
Since the days of H.W. Fright (Military Cross & Bar), transportation in London has enjoyed some massive capital investment. Countless litres of paint has been used to designate 'Red Routes' and drivers now pay a daily fee to enter the Capital's streets. London clearly decided against the idea of building a functional Mono-Rail system but they did eventually develop the Docklands Light Railway. I wonder if there is a timeframe for the expiry of patents under UK Law?

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