Chapter 5                                                                           Lloyd scheme revised                   


Back to Home Page


In 1957, Brigadier Lloyd published his much revised plan in a booklet: The Twilight of the Railways. In it, he tried to cater for criticisms of the weaknesses of his scheme, arising from the ICE debate and elsewhere, and other oversights.

‘On the converted system, apart from a few level crossings where traffic lights will normally give priority, there will be no conflict.’

Cross traffic would have very limited opportunities to cross between 60 mph vehicles travelling 100 yards apart. Effectively, opposing direction flows would cut gaps to 50 yards apart. Among cross flows, of which he is so dismissive, were many on main roads which crossed railways throughout the country. He ignored publicly available data. There were 24,000, which hardly constitutes a few. His paper to the ICE shows he referred to BR Facts & Figures which included this data.

‘The permanent way having been constructed by many companies includes numerous ready-made flyovers. Route junctions occur on average scarcely once in ten miles.’

In fact, by far the majority of railway junctions did not have flyovers. Such remarks suggest that he had never been near the railway.

‘Transfer from the existing road system will be provided only at existing stations to or from the permanent way, left handed invariably so as never to interfere with through traffic.’

This would involve some vehicles making detours to approach only from the left. Their journey times would increase accordingly. Likewise, vehicles leaving the system would have to turn left, and make similar detours to get to the right hand side of the network.

‘A strict traffic code will be enforced by helpful patrolmen. Parking will be forbidden except in plentiful sidings with their service stations, etc.; there will be a prompt breakdown service.’

Vehicles would leave to the left, which would extend journey times.

‘A million rail vehicles will be replaced by 30,000 vehicles of a type already existing in Britain to the number of 7m and being manufactured at a rate of one million pa.’

He gave no indication where the 7m vehicles - 63 foot long, capable of carrying 60 passengers or 20 tons or more of freight - could be seen. He ignored that some existing rail rolling stock were required specifically for maintenance and breakdown, and they would need replacement by suitable road vehicles. Needless to say, he ignored the reduction forecast under the Rail Modernisation Plan.

‘Sixty road employees will always be more productive than sixty rail employees. A high proportion of railwaymen are specialists, requiring years of training and experience, leading to a strategical aspect, for in war, manpower rules national strategy and specialists are a nuisance.’ (This claim was made by a Minister over 20 years later & demolished in Britains Railways - The Reality, page 148).

This is typical of the superficiality, generalisation and ignorance of railways which underlies his concept. Many grades of rail staff were trained in weeks. To gain promotion, many advanced their knowledge by attending training courses in their own time.

Brig. Lloyd claimed in his book: ‘The subject of railway conversion provokes a multitude of facile objections. At heart, we humans are great know-alls on transport understandably so, for are we all not the experts? - expert passengers’![1] This remark is facile. By the same token, all can claim to be as expert as Royal Engineers at building bridges, because they have all walked over one! What he overlooked in trying to make what he saw as a clever point, was that having convinced the reader that every rail passenger was a railway expert, this would equip them to become expert in road building and road transport operations!

The book states that ‘in ten years, railways have worsened. BR was always bankrupt.’ They were not bankrupt in the first years before inept government policies kicked in. (See Britains Railways - The Reality.)  Lloyd claimed that an increasing number of thoughtful people point out that railways might be converted very simply into superb roads. Typically, he failed to quote figures or a source for his sweeping claim. In comparing the number of railway wagons with road vehicles, his lack of railway knowledge shielded him from the facts. Government had long manoeuvred to get railways to take on the liability of the 0.5m decrepit colliery owned railway wagons, had finally forced it on BR by the 1948 Transport Act. Over the next 10-15 years, BR had to devote precious capital to replace them with new wagons. Had they not been so burdened, and permitted to exercise the freedom of commercial decision enjoyed by competitors they would have remained profitable. The Railway Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, compelled railways to accept those decrepit wagons from collieries and industry. They were of a lower standard than railway owned wagons and not as well maintained, (see Britains Railways - The Reality, page 50}.

He claimed that railways ‘now receive extra capital freely.’ In fact, the capital being advanced was solely interest bearing loans. Clearly, he had not studied published and independently audited accounts.  For details of the source of capital and repayments by BR see Britains Railways - The Reality.


Traffic speed

He invited readers to ‘imagine cross-roads, junctions and other bottle-necks eliminated or much reduced in number so that traffic goes three times as fast.’ Even with his ingenious arithmetic, (see below), he could do no better than claim that the speed of his yet-to-be-designed vehicles would be double. Their purchase, maintenance and running costs had yet to be established. No self-respecting planner could make comparisons between this non-existent transport and existing rail transport, nor higher speed trains already coming on stream, for which costed plans were set out in the 1955 Railway Modernisation and Re-Equipment Plan, published December 1954. Its ultimate cost was increased by industry fuelled inflation. Equally important, he made no allowance for the cost of flyovers and bridges to enable the conflicting cross routes to be eliminated.


He stated that a road freight vehicle, carrying 40 tons already existed on an open-cast coal site in Northumberland. He advanced no data on its cost and speed, no data on the cost of converting it for high speed use on the new roadway system shared by other users, and, of course, no assessment of how these lorries could form a design for a bus. It is a safe bet that they had a very restricted speed. No assessment was made of the higher fuel consumption which is a known consequence of higher speeds.    

He claimed that the [better] reliability of rail travel in bad weather and lower reliability of road travel are largely a measure of gradients, corners and intersections on their routes. In fact, the reason is due to not having to steer on icy surfaces, having signalling, a control office system and good organisation in tackling problems.


Lloyd arrived at his 60mph by forecasting an improvement on existing average speed - said to be 28 mph - by up to 7 mph for each of seven different ‘benefits’, and when this reached 56 mph - double the current speed - he rounded it up to 60! He advanced no data to prove that any one of the changes would produce such an improvement. This basis was not explained in his original 1954 paper nor to the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1955. With pseudo-scien­tific accuracy, his seven benefits were allocated 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 mph improvement re­spectively, totalling 28 mph! The seven ‘benefits’ were:-

1. Cross-roads, particularly in towns, are the chief source of delay. On the converted system, the driver will meet none - apart from a few level-crossings where the traffic lights will normally give him priority.

2. There are numerous flyovers. Junctions occur on average once every ten miles. Connection will be provided only at existing stations where vehicles will transfer to/from the new system left handed - entry being controlled so as never to interfere with through traffic. (On the busy 158 miles Euston-Crewe line there were 2 flyovers in 1957 & over 30 flat junctions - one every 5 miles - excluding junctions into collieries and industrial premises. There were 8,000 passenger & freight stations, - see BR Facts & Figures  one every 2½ miles.  At many locations, motor vehicles would use a station level crossing to turn left. If a road at a station is bridged, a new route would be needed, leading to compulsory property purchases).

3. Slow vehicles will not be allowed, admission being restricted to fast road-worthy vehicles competently driven. Patrols will enforce a traffic code and penalise dawdling, unauthorised lane quitting or parking. (The labour, equipment and buildings required to undertake this monitoring task were ignored).

4. Delays caused by uneven surfaces will be avoided, as the new roads will be brand new, built to the latest standards, will be uniformly perfect and will remain so.  (He must be turning in his grave. Fifty years on, contraflows are endemic! Lane blockages destroy his 60 mph traffic, 100 yards apart round the clock and throughout the four seasons).                        

5. Trespassers, such as pedestrians, children, cattle, dogs and non-vehicular users of public roads will be banned. (Railway Bye-laws and fines have not stopped trespassers, - pedestrians have a legal right to use public level crossings. Farmers have a legal right to take animals across of about 21,000 farm & private level crossings).

6. There will be no corners which reduce speeds. (Except when they exit sharp left at a level crossing).

7. Gradients are easier, and coupled with improved design, buses and lorries will be able to keep up with cars on the converted system. (They are unable to do so today, despite advances in vehicle design).


Having laid great stress on 60 mph, and made all calculations as to the number of buses and lorries required to move ex-rail traffic on the basis of that minimum speed, he then says that ‘no particular speed is essential for conversion: 40 mph would be ample because rail speeds are so abysmally slow at present.’ The prevailing rail speed was irrelevant to calculation of the number of buses and lorries required, and their impact on converted route capacity. Clearly, lowering the speed, increases the number of road vehicles, requiring a review of costs and the adequacy of route capacity.

He claimed when ‘a motor breaks down, it does not block the route.’ It sometimes does. It always blocks its lane. As he would ban overtaking, traffic would be delayed. With no ‘U’ or right hand turns permitted, the approach of a breakdown vehicle would not be swift.


Capacity of the new road system

Lloyd claimed that four track routes would be wide enough for six road lanes (This is ridiculous, see diagram Chapter 14). and that three track routes would convert to a 40 foot motorway adequate for four lanes. He asked whether any converted three-track route would be required to carry more traffic than the 8m vehicles pa of the 36 foot wide four-lane (He seems to have lost the plot. One would expect four lanes to carry more traffic than three). Mersey Tunnel, which had adequate width - but gave no answer. He posed a similar rhetorical question of the converted double track rail routes which were - he said - between 26 and 30 feet wide, narrowing to 24 feet. He compared these to the projected Dartford-Purfleet road tunnel, which was to be 21 feet wide. He ignored that the latter, unlike converted tracks, would be used at 30 mph, later raised to 40 mph and still unchanged! It took six years to build. The 44 foot wide Mersey Tunnel opened in 1934 had - and still has - a 30 mph limit, which any prudent person would consider essential with such narrow lanes. Hence, neither can be prayed in aid of a plan which depends on a 60 mph average!  

The best width of lane, he said ‘is a controversial subject. The Mersey Tunnel shows that 9 foot lanes are adequate, but only just.’ As it is used at 30 mph, not 60 mph, that  would destroy his theories. He was dismissive of the MoT decision to increase lane width standards from the existing 11 foot to 12 foot, arguing that the narrower the lane, the more conscientiously do drivers observe lane markings! (He appears to have forgotten that, to achieve the utilisation and productivity that he envisages, two vehicles - buses or lorries - will approach each other at a combined 120 mph, with inches to spare between them). ‘The precise width to be adopted is unimportant’, he added. Such a statement is incredible. The viability cannot be assessed without a decision on it. The narrower the width, the lower speeds must be. The wider it is, the more costly it will be. (His plan was based on rail traffic being carried on such vehicles, built to high standards and checked - at an unspecified cost. The use of the converted routes for cars was a reluctant afterthought).

He claimed 24 ft clear width at bridges & tunnels, (see photos).  Most viaducts and long bridges are so tight between parapets that electrification masts had to fixed to the outer face, (see photo). He was certain ‘a single line is immediately convertible to a road of 14 ft minimum clear width’, (7 foot lanes were bound to cause delays to his eight foot wide vehicles, requiring light controlled contra flows). Enlargement to 22 ft where required for two-way traffic will possibly be the most costly type of conversion. (Single lines would be useless for road traffic unless widened to two lanes. One way streets of the length of typical branch lines do not exist for obvious reasons. This is stating the obvious, and exposes the unreality of the plan).

‘The railway system is so abundant that there is scope for organising extra-fast one-way routes.’ So now, the double lines would become one-way. This idea was advanced at the debate in November 1955, (see Chapter  4). The original proposer overlooked - as did Brigadier Lloyd - the effect on journey mileages and contra-flow during road maintenance.        

Lloyd was making comparisons between futuristic road transport and existing - already being displaced - rail transport. This is the classic error of comparing chalk and cheese. Once, government gave authority for BR to spend its own money - from its depreciation funds and loans it negotiated - improved signalling, new traction and improved rolling stock would rapidly increase line capacity well above prevailing levels. This is what should have been compared with his implausible road transport figures. Railway modern­isation had been deliberately held back by government to release maximum materials and resources into what it believed were the key industries. Many began to lose market share long ago, and some have vanished. Manufacturers of road vehicles and the road transport industry ignored less stringent government limits on vehicle production for the home market, thereby giving them an advantage.

He intended that operators’ new vehicles will spend their entire life on the converted system, never using public roads and never becoming subject to normal laws and taxes. They will be 63 foot long, able to turn in their own length, very low tyre pressure and no springing. Terminal facilities - bus stations - will be provided by BR. Coal, coke and minerals will be in the new large vehicles. Other rail freight will be in conventional road-licensed vehicles or trailers to eliminate or minimise transhipment. (This is another afterthought to resolve another overlooked problem. Hitherto, all traffic would be in the new ultra large vehicles).

‘Hire car services, corresponding to rail first class, using tied vehicles will range from conventional cars to special motor coaches which may be equipped as multi-seaters, diners or sleepers. These will pay tolls.’ These vehicles were not costed.

‘Unlike the railbound vehicle, the free running vehicle can overtake and be overtaken,’ he stated. This contradicts his traffic rule that there will be no overtaking, (see Chapter 4). He was making up the rules, altering them and altering his figures as he went along!

He stated that ‘although the public road system is 186,261 miles, the greater part of the traffic is carried on 8,254 miles of trunk roads and 19,551 miles of Class 1 roads. Those roads will be outclassed by railway conversion’s 20,000 miles. The extra roads will be 4-8 times as useful.’  (Yet another figure pulled from thin air to justify his theory). This is another chalk and cheese comparison. He sought to compare traffic moved on 15% of existing roads with that moved on 100% of the existing rail network! Again, he had not been studying available data, or he would have realised that thousands of miles of rural railways faced closure under the Modernisation Plan, due to low traffic potential. Even if they were not, many of these railways running from the back-of-beyond to the outback were useless for existing trunk rail flows, and hence for use by new road vehicles carrying that ex-rail trunk traffic. Indeed, they would run mostly empty on such routes Major coal and mineral flows and most of the merchandise never went near these minor lines. Some mineral traffic originated on a short branch line, but most branches carried very little as the Beeching Reshaping Plan indicated.  (The Plan showed that 99% of traffic was carried on two thirds of the system).

He forecast that ‘much of the fast traffic using public roads will transfer to converted railways, lessening congestion and accidents on public roads. The public will become free to use it [the converted system] as and when they - being reasonable - will.’ A reasonable motoring public and reasonable professional drivers - are still a distant dream. Driving standards have fallen. It is almost endemic for drivers of commercial vehicles and cars to pass red lights. The amber light, which in Lloyd’s day was regarded as one at which to stop, unless it was dangerous to do so, is passed routinely. The consequences of this conduct at the traffic lights that Lloyd planned to have at the 24,000 level crossings, given a main route flow at 100 yard headways at 60 mph would be disastrous. However, road users will not switch from dual carriageways to other roads, which would have thousands of traffic lights.


Costs of conversion

He claimed road making would amount to 320m square yards, without naming a source of this figure. Despite the mass of statistics required by the bureaucratic DoT, BR did not supply this figure. Aided by a crystal ball, he foresaw ‘as work progresses, better machines will be developed and the cost of the last mile will be very much less than the first.’ Given the time to design, build and test one, conversion would take many years. (This pie in the sky - jam tomorrow - basis is typical of his superficial plan. Better machines would cut BR costs).

He went on to postulate conversion costs of the whole 20,000 miles of railway route, based on an estimate of converting the rural Inverness-Wick line to a fast all-weather motor road. The conversion cost of £2.25 per sq yard [of surface] was attributed, in Lloyd’s book, to Sir David Robertson, MP (see below): £29,000 per mile for converting the 155 mile Inverness-Wick single line into a 22 foot road. (The BR timetable shows the distance as 161 miles). The first reference to the conversion of this particular railway line was in a debate in the Commons: ‘Robertson was the author of a scheme to lift the Inverness-Wick railway line and replace it with a motor roadway,’ (Hansard 11.7.55, vol. 543, col. 1682). Sir David died on 3rd June 1970. He was still alive when the opportunity arose to fulfil his dream, when BR proposed to rationalise, and later to completely close the line, (see chapter 6). Newspapers carry no record of his support for closure, rather they record his opposition to closure! Railway closures were a vote loser.

That estimate did not mention the cost of acquiring adjoining land to make the single track line wide enough, nor make any mention of the wild terrain and hillsides into which some of that railway is built. Nor does it mention narrow high viaducts and bridges - all of single line width, (as illustrated in various books on this line).nor level crossings, especially those used by farmers, which would represent a special hazard to high speed road traffic.

Claiming conversion ‘in its most difficult form would cost £2.25 per square yard,’ he concluded that ‘the total cost of conversion would be £600m for the whole of BR’.

He said costs of ‘platform removal, illumination, drainage, traffic lights, land marking and tunnel ventilation’ were ‘incidentals’ - ‘something of little significance’. Tunnel ventilation would be a major and costly task.

His book states that ‘inland transport used annually only some 32m coal-equivalent tons [1954]. Of that 15m tons was debitable to railways. Other transport on a consumption of 17m tons does an amount of useful work that has been variously estimated at 5-10 times that done by railways. That other transport is mainly road transport. If road transport were to take over from rail transport there would be a considerable saving, because on converted roads, road transport will require even less fuel per journey than rail.’ Given the higher speeds he envisaged, that was pure conjecture. (Estimated by whom, he did not say. The road lobby juggle between originating tons on all roads and on trunk roads, and studiously avoid the crucially important ton-miles figure on all roads).


Passenger traffic

His ‘buses will be presumed to be 60-seaters, consisting of a 20-seat motive unit, 20-seat semi-trailer and 20-seat trailer. Internally, they will resemble air liners.’ This was a further modification. In 1954, buses had 30 seats, then, in 1955, 40 seats with a 20 seat trailer. The working life of a bus - which has a major bearing on depreciation costs - was not mentioned. The greater the annual mileage, the shorter is its working life. He also claimed that with the journey time halved, each bus seat would be worth two train seats. Given impending InterCity 100 mph speeds, halving journeys would be a challenge.

His previous & subsequent estimates of the size of his bus fleet were based on there being no daily nor seasonal peaks - which created high demand on a few summer Saturdays only - nor major events such as football matches. Buses would travel at a minimum 60mph.

In trying to make his case, Lloyd argued that rail passenger speeds of 60 mph were rare. The underlying reason was that government. had skimmed-off £1bn of railway profits in the war, and had prevented fares being linked to inflation, despite rocketing industrial-fuelled inflation which pushed up costs of materials bought by railways. Worse, BR was compelled to provide below cost services for UK industry to enable them to compete with more efficient foreign industry, and continue to retain under-utilised resources on branch lines - without subsidy - to keep the electorate happy.

‘Buses will not be railbound like trains’ forgetting that he has decided to have 63 foot vehicles with no springs, etc., on the grounds that they will not leave the converted system, (see below). ‘These buses will be equipped with two-way radio between driver and owner.’ Another hidden cost, which would also require the ‘owner’ who would have no intention of personally working a 24 hr day, to employ control staff.

His plan - previously outlined to the Institution of Civil Engineers - for dining facilities on sixty-seat buses, without regard for the ensuing higher costs, scale of take-up, nor staffing and equipment costs was typical of his superficiality.

‘The services need not run to a timetable. Passengers would arrive at any terminal and find a bus waiting for them, which will depart as soon as it is [100%] full.’ Unfortunately, the prospect of every bus starting from or calling at different towns and villages, and slipping into a slot 100 yards behind one vehicle and 100 yards in front of a following one from different towns and villages, so that each could run at 60 mph, was nil. In which event, his theoretical calculations - as to the number of buses and lorries required to move existing rail traffic - simply disintegrates. The idea of a bus waiting at a rural station until it was 100% full is completely ludicrous.

‘Every city and large town will be given an express service to London. These need not run to a timetable. As soon as one is [100%] full, it pulls off, and another pulls into the bay.’ The time that could elapse before a bus is full is unknown, so departure and arrival times will be a complete mystery. (‘Meet me at Euston bus station some time this evening’). Yet, he forecasts twelve 60-seat buses departing every two hours from each city or large town - each would stand two hours [see above] before leaving. A friend or relative waiting at the destination would have no information as to arrival time, because the actual bus concerned out of the twelve would be unknown, even if they retained a railway-style control organisation to know the whereabouts of buses.

‘A bus would be continuously employed on a long and busy route such as London-Glasgow, covering the 402 miles in 7 hours’ (pity the poor driver needing a legal break), ‘with a full load of 60, but might fall to a load of 66%. It would manage 21 hours running in 24, though maintenance time might reduce its effective working year to 330 days.’ It would run 12,000 miles between service, even assuming no breakdowns, which Lloyd expected - or else why have a breakdown service? If these mileages are not achieved, the whole basis of his superficial ‘costs’ collapse. One factor which would affect his working year would be the time taken for a bus to be loaded and unloaded. No reference had been made previously to this aspect, but in his book, he envisages that loading a coach and stowing luggage would take 5-10 minutes. Most people who have travelled by coach with luggage would probably argue that the time required has been underestimated. He made no reference to any allowance for time to load and unload at intermediate points.

Having first envisaged a 21 hour day for buses, later in the book he opts for 22 hours as the norm. From this he arrived at 6450 buses,  (his fourth figure for bus fleet size. Chapter 3 has 1,250 & 25,000, chapter 4 has 3,434) - saying it would not be beyond the wit of man to control a fleet that size. One man? If not how many working round the clock, at how many locations, and with how many staff on the ground reporting passenger numbers.

‘It will be possible to resurrect the slip-coach principle. On the London-Bristol service, the 20-seat trailer might be slipped off and on at Bath.’ A coach may be slipped-off, but never on. His unwritten schedule would be in chaos as some buses stopped at Bath to attach a trailer. How that would be organised is a discreet mystery.

‘A first class hire car will provide express service from any station to any station. Travel in a hire car with all seats occupied, need not be as expensive as railway first class.’ It is not stated how many seats there would be in a hire car. It is overlooked that each first class businessman would need to find others to fill a car, as no provision is made for a sales organisation for hire cars. The time lapses at each end, whilst someone tries to find the next remunerative job for such a car, not to mention empty running to the next pickup will eat into his fantasy headways, and the economics and reliability of first class services. No vehicle nor manpower costs are disclosed for this service.


In earlier versions, he overlooked commuter trains run lightly loaded in one direction. In his book, he introduces a 50% load factor on rush hour services, when trying to assess costs and revenue, but his fleet was premised on 100% loads and remained unaltered. How commuters could decide which bus to catch to ensure keeping their jobs, without a timetable, is not explained. It would not be long before buses would be scrapped as commuters turned to cars. This may have led him to say that private cars would be allowed on the system in exchange for tolls, although, he did not accept that they would drive into city centres. ‘Railway yards and sidings and other railway land will form vast car parks’.  (By definition, these will allow access in one direction only to avoid right turns. How far they would travel in the wrong direction, before being able to make an off-system ‘U’ turn, Lloyd did not consider. How they would complete their journey was not explained. Moreover, there was no prospect of private cars and other non-specially designed vehicles slipping into the traffic stream on converted railways, in such a way as to preserve the crucial 100 yard headway).


Freight traffic

Throughout, he assumes that all traffic - bulk material or otherwise - will fill a lorry to its maximum weight capacity. Much traffic (eg coke) fills a vehicle’s cubic capacity long before it reaches the weight capacity. Some BR traffic was Sundries - consignments of less than one ton. These included returned empties - some of which were not returned - which meant having arrived by rail - but had arrived by road, and the hauliers did not want the trouble of handling such unprofitable flows. (See Britain’s Railways - The Reality, page 118). These would still need depots to amalgamate them and would involve much mileage in making multiple calls. His theories on freight show that he has no real comprehension of the diverse nature of freight. His book refers to an open-cast in Northumberland which built a private 1½ mile road to convey coal in special 40-ton lorries to a railhead instead of extending the railway or using an available public road. Under no circumstances was a local authority likely to permit 3,000 tons of coal per day - 75 juggernauts, with coal dust blowing everywhere on public roads. It made economic sense to build such a road for a seven-year project, when rail life for such a low volume would have been more like 50 years, and required that use to be economic.

Initially, however, he was less ambitious than 40tonners. He envisaged that rail freight will be in fully-laden 20ton freighters. The average number of freighters in motion on the 20,000 mile network will be no more than 1,480. (Unfortunately for his arithmetic, they would never travel over more than one half of that route mileage - see Reshaping Plan, page 10. Branch lines had very little traffic and were kept open for electoral reasons, and were mostly remote from points of origin and destination of bulk mineral and coal loads! Elsewhere, in making comparisons to try to prove that road utilisation isn’t as bad as it is, he claims that road freight only travels over 15% of the road network, whilst deliberately concealing that an analogous disparity applies on railways. He goes on to say that: ‘at the worst, an equal number of freighters would travel empty.’ It is not ‘at the worst’, which implies that it may not be that bad. That the vehicles would return empty after carrying coal and minerals is a cast iron certainty. There are no - nor can there be - return loads. Wagons conveying petroleum products will return empty for obvious reasons - as they do on roads. Even the vehicles conveying merchandise will have some empty running between unload­ing and re-loading points. There are no return loads, with the possible exception of returned empty crates - full of air - from wholesalers who distribute their own traffic).

He claimed it was ‘an arithmetical fact that 1,452 freighters, of 20-ton capacity, running at 60 mph were needed to move existing rail traffic, but it has to followed by a certain amount of speculation’!  He concludes that with one running under load, one running empty, one loading or unloading, and one under repair or maintenance - would give a total of 7,260. He then cut the figure to 5,000 because of improved efficiency! (That his figures are so unrealistic, clearly stems from speculating instead of studying detailed point to point flows and working out requirements as any operator - road or rail - would do).

He forgot to ask the NCB for an opinion. Engineering and steel industries would have to double handle raw materials. Instead of discharging as convenient direct from BR owned wagons. They would have to unload, stockpile, lift and move again. All these non-transport costs are ignored in the equation - equation is too precise a word to use for his figures.


Given his basic lack of railway knowledge, which led him to overlook the more obvious seasonal peaks for passengers, it is no surprise that he was unaware of a seasonal peak - and a corresponding deep trough for freight, especially coal. Colliery output fell during the summer due to holidays.  The effect on wagon use was experienced in BR’s Sheffield Division - one of ten with collieries. It stored upwards of 7,000 from summer to Christmas in the 1960s - see Britains Railways - The Reality, page 123. During an extended summer, collieries had to stockpile coal in the order of millions of tons. This arose because, during the summer, when consumer demand for heat and light plummeted, power stations, the gas industry and coal merchants slashed their orders. (There were, nationally, only a handful of merchants who had hopper discharge to ground level compounds). Likewise, industries that closed down for summer holidays, cancelled their orders. In the winter, all was reversed and above average levels of movement were required. Collieries used BR wagons, supplemented by a small number of their own wagons to move surplus coal to stacking areas. When demand lifted, they required extra wagons to lift coal direct from stacking areas. If this traffic transferred to road, and lorries and their drivers were not wanted for several months - what would happen to them? and where would the extra be found in the winter?

During the hours when they were open - mostly not around the clock or weekends – each colliery needed a pool of hundreds of wagons, per location. Their production conveyed coal through overhead screens, which sorted coal according to size and dropped it through the screens into BR wagons below. Typically, the screens at a colliery would span six or more tracks, on each of which there would be a string of wagons. As a wagon was filled, a worker would release a wagon’s brakes and let it run by gravity over a weighbridge and into the departure sidings. If a track had no wagon under the screens - due to a colliery, not a BR failing, as sidings were kept well supplied - conveyors would stop or coal be diverted to stock. If that did not happen, a growing pile of coal would end on the tracks below. The idea of a colliery organising its output to the forecast arrival of one lorry to cope with coal from one screen, much less five is laughable. NCB management would not be laughing!

He must have been unaware that the height of a railway wagon was dictated by the headroom of screens, and its other dimensions by the space between vertical supports of colliery screens. These would impose the same limit on the size of lorries. Attempts to manoeuvre 63 ft long 8 ft wide lorries under screens would be slow, if not impossible.

His lorries would have had some problems with coal merchants, who were unwilling to unload a 16 ton wagon at once. Their standard practice was to shovel coal into sacks direct from wagons. Tipping to ground from a lorry would be unacceptable, because it breaks coal, degrading its value and use. No inducement that Brigadier Lloyd could think of - short of carrying coal free of charge - would have induced them to even consider changing. When BR suggested mechanised handling at coal depots, with lower freight charges and a contribution to mechanisation costs by the NCB, it was like trying to draw blood from a stone. A 63 foot lorry would only be one-third filled for a coal merchant’s order.

Ore and other mineral quarries did not work round the clock nor week-ends. They required a large pool of wagons to maintain a smooth loading pattern. Halting conveyors to await a lorry delayed by a breakdown, or hold-up at the destination of the last load or other problems would create chaos.

Steel, coal and the engineering industries used BR wagons for internal movements - often keeping wagons under load for weeks, whilst waiting for an order. They were required to pay a hire charge for BR wagons, but that depended on them reporting the user. Often, it was a question of paying if caught. Obviously, Lloyd was unaware of the practice, never having been involved in day-to-day rail or industrial management. Keeping thousands of lorries on the premises for days or weeks would be a non-runner. Excluding wagons kept under load by inefficient industry and consumers would severely reduce the BR fleet with which Lloyd made comparisons.

The Lloyd plan envisaged hauliers who make use of the converted railway will have a great advantage in respect of port traffic - because rails would be replaced by roads. In fact, beginning in wartime, many ports had set rails in concrete allowing access to both means of transport. However, road hauliers being highly selective did not want the traffic which created vehicle detention - of which there was much. (An example was loose loaded timber - see Britains Railways - The Reality, page 121). BR had no choice. Ports required thousands of wagons to wait an incoming ship, whose arrival was not subject to reliable prediction. They also required thousands loaded with exports to ensure that ships were loaded quickly. Port authorities and shipowners believed that ships must be turned round quickly - not wagons. They would take the same attitude to lorries. The change in recent years to containerisation - which was initiated by BR through the Freightliner train system - will have reduced the problem. Lloyd could not have foreseen that.

The fact that UK industry did not work round the clock, and enjoyed a five-day week, would scupper that even and Utopian flow of freight around-the-24-hours-and-around-the-four-seasons. His lack of appreciation of how railways and commercial road transport operate was truly staggering. Apart from these examples of the industrial limitations on the scope for the most productive handling of freight, one could not pass industrial premises without seeing a queue of lorries waiting to unload or load.

To try to reduce the volume of traffic which would be transferred to the new freight vehicles, he reiterated the comparison of one-fifth traffic only being by rail. This, of course, counts all traffic over every road, including domestic deliveries in residential streets. Elsewhere, he tries to argue that only 15% of roads should be considered in any comparison, (see below). It is also expressed in originating tons, regardless of whether it is conveyed one mile or fifty. For all practical purposes, and for a meaningful comparison, it was irrelevant, and made less so, by current revelations of unreliable data, (see Chapter 11). 

He claimed that ‘the swelling volume of ‘C’ licensed vehicles will have whittled away BR’s obligations as common carriers’. These were licensed only to carry a trader’s own goods. They would not, in any way, affect volume, but would increase empty mileage, being predominantly employed in one directional flows. BR would still be obliged to carry any traffic from firms not having such vehicles, and even from ‘C’ Licence owners who tried to avoid sending vehicles to rural backwaters with one package..

He tried to hedge his bets on vehicles required and route capacity, by remarking ‘if a rigid eight-hour day is worked ....’ If it isn’t, manpower comparisons are invalid. Railway staff had an eight-hour day imposed by government in 1919 against the wishes of railway companies, whilst road transport for the next fourteen years could work a 24-hour day - and some may have got close to it, and do so now. Thereafter, an undemanding limit of 11 hours was imposed by government on road transport, which was largely ignored. Although, the limit has been trimmed, the law is still ignored. (A driver was killed when his lorry left the road, after he had worked 22 hours - see “Juggernaut”, page 55).

A properly policed lower limit on drivers’ hours is long overdue. One thing was certain, if BR ceased to exist, the lid on road prices which are held down by low haulage wages and long hours to maintain pricing competition with BR will disappear, and secret cartels will push prices through the ceiling to meet demands for shorter hours, higher wages and bigger profits. With BR as an alternative, senders could threaten diversion if road operators hinted at price increases. Now, there is less of a problem, because UK heavy industry has thrown in the towel. They left the railways with redundant freight resources.

To prove what could be conveyed by road, he took the average BRS lorry in 1954, which, he said earned £2380 & cost £2100 to operate. Its load totalled 1100 tons, it ran 16,200 miles laden or part laden for 142,800 ton-miles. ‘Those ton-miles are one-eighth the theoretical maximum a vehicle could produce in a year, fully laden at its customary 15mph’. (The source for that speed is not quoted. It was not in BRS Accounts). ‘Theoretically, [at 60 mph] one vehicle will do the work of 4. (Subject to a willingness of labour to give up their 8-hour, 5-day week, displaying unaccustomed anxiety to take immediate delivery of traffic. Lloyd overlooks, that outside any UK factory, would be a queue of lorries waiting to load or unload, and woe betide the driver who arrives at break time! He made no provision for time to load, unload, sheet and rope, deal with documentation and pull out onto a public road). He says ‘an increase in productivity will be attainable provided techniques of mechanical handling result in a speeding up loading/unloading’. Assuming UK industry could have dragged its workforce and methods into the 20th century by 1960, which it failed to do, unlike BR which introduced mechanisation without disputes.[2] (Subject to a willingness of labour to give up their 8-hour, 5-day week, displaying unaccustomed anxiety to take immediate delivery of traffic. Lloyd overlooks, that outside any UK factory, would be a queue of lorries waiting to load or unload, and woe betide the driver who arrives at break time! He made no provision for time waiting access to premises, to load, unload, sheet and rope, deal with documentation and pull out onto a public road). It depended on whether industry was willing to invest to expedite loading, often performed unaided by the lorry driver. Had UK industry been willing to modernise, BR productivity would have been likewise improved as wagons in private sidings and BR delivery lorries were loaded or unloaded quicker.

The Lloyd plan specified that ‘sources and destinations that are rail served will be incorporated into the converted system’. What he was - perhaps unwittingly saying, without a by-your-leave, was that he would sequestrate and convert privately owned sidings into roads. This meant that collieries would have to replace their locos and wagons which are used to stockpile unsold coal, with  road vehicles, and provide bunkers to hold coal waiting for lorries, which expect to arrive, load and depart in seconds. It will come as a shock, when power stations and coal merchants slash coal intake for six months of the year, and then call for above average quantities in the winter.

A suggestion that large consumers may run their own transport is made. It would not take the capital and operating costs of their new lorries out of the equation. The task of synchronising lorry provision, whoever is the owner, between the different collieries over a wide area, which suddenly, and with little warning take, on the role of current supplier to the CEA, on a day-to-day basis, will open many eyes, and create more empty mileage.



In an endeavour to prove that road safety was as good - or better than rail safety - Lloyd took the whole population of UK as being at risk of accident on roads and related it to total road fatalities, whilst relating rail fatalities to the total of passengers and railway staff. In fact the whole population was just as likely to get killed walking or driving over level crossings or using footpaths across railways or as trespassers crossing elsewhere - the incidence of which was, and is, unknown (see Chapter 7). Hence, railways could also count the whole population, making the scale of rail fatalities even lower than appears, further widening the gap to road. Moreover, he overlooks, that part of the population are house bound, in hospital, in prison, live on remote unmotorised islands, are abroad, etc.


Conversion task

‘The alignment of the first London-Yorkshire motorway provoked 126 objections’. Seeing problems with securing wayleaves for this motorway, he argues for exploiting existing wayleaves of BR. What he fails to comprehend is that those wayleaves for railways are just that. Conversion to another purpose, indeed any significant change in rail user terms provokes public inquiries. Anyone who has ever lived near a road heavily used by lorries, would gladly exchange their location for one next to a railway.

Brigadier Lloyd claimed: ‘Conversion will be far simpler than ordinary new construction on virgin land. The railway permanent-way has a ready-made formation compacted by trains. It is no more than re-surfacing an existing road’. Anyone who believes that a skimming of tarmac on the formation would support the weight and withstand the wear of a heavy lorry is completely out of touch with reality. Not one complete route of railway formation has ever been reported as being so converted for such a purpose. Such conversions as there have been - mostly short lengths and needing widening - involved excavation, new drainage, etc. No engineer should have advanced such a proposal without field studies and test borings.

He claimed that on converted roads, due to strict limits on wheel load [perhaps 9,000 lbs], and tyre pressure of the authorised vehicles, conversion would be easy and cheap. However, elsewhere he plans to permit conventional vehicles to use the converted roads, so the roads would need to be constructed to conventional strengths.

Lloyd referred to a critic who ‘sought to appal others with the difficulties and cost of re -decking 30,000 bridges. An [unnamed] contracting engineer commented that Stephenson, Brunel, etc. remained undaunted at the prospect of 30,000 bridges to build’. It is almost too obvious to point out - except to the conversion league - that:

1.   They did not foresee the prospect of building so many bridges. Wherever possible, they created level crossings rather than costly bridges.

2.   The 30,000 were built over a period of 70 years by hundreds of railway companies.

3.   They built these bridges before there was any railway traffic, i.e. they did not face the problem of diverting traffic in order to build them.

He gave little thought to what would happen to millions of commuters, not to mention Intercity routes. ‘There will be localised dislocation of traffic wherever conversion is in progress, but that need not be serious! Work will start at the coast and proceed inland, the roadhead advancing from station to station as the conversion progresses’. (This idea was fed to him at the ICE meeting- see Chapter 4). This would include passengers and commuters, mixed with coal traffic. They would find it prudent to wear wellingtons as they tramped between platforms and bus through work in progress! He envisaged temporary links between the existing roads and the converted system, but made no financial allowance for them. There would be thousands of such temporary roadheads to create. He said ‘the whole operation lends itself to pre-planning’ as though it may be merely useful to pre-plan, when it was absolutely vital.

He claimed ‘BR staff will readily switch from rail to road engineering; it is far less complex and specialised’. apparently without training, as he didn’t mention it. We have discovered, to our cost, how true this is, now that road engineers have become involved in the converse task!). He said that 1,255 local authorities with highway responsibilities would pitch in and convert an average 16 miles each. He had not consulted them – as my enquiries revealed – see Chapter 13.


Management of the system

His plan envisaged that ‘BR would remain as proprietors and controllers of the new network - not local authorities.’ He advanced no reason for this proposal. BR had no experience of managing, maintaining nor policing long distance roads. In the task of converting railways to roads, he had not originally envisaged work being done by BR, but by contractors and local authorities. Quite clearly, logic demanded that the new trunk roads be under the MoT or County Councils as was the prevailing practice. There can only be one reason. If his master plan failed, he would have a handy whipping boy in the form of those whom he assumed had made railways financially unviable. Given that BR was already a useful whipping boy for many industrial failures, that would be a logical course for him to pursue! BR was to ensure all users, including one-off use by conventional vehicles, were highly competent and their vehicles of the highest road-worthy standards. Perhaps realising that this task would have caused delays whoever was running the system, he came up with a face-saving solution:

It is possible that by the time conversion has taken place, the entire motor vehicle driving fraternity - professional and amateur - will have become so responsible, law-abiding and considerate of one another that the converted railway system will scarcely need organising in the accepted meaning of the word. The reservation of these new fast roads would be observed voluntarily without need of enforcement. Under ideal conditions, without gates or barriers, appropriate vehicles will pass freely from one road system to the other. That is a picture for a remote period when the standard of living perhaps may have doubled, with the number of cars doubled.  There are now six times as many cars - and drivers are, if anything, less considerate than ever.



A mysterious concept was for ‘BR to be able to restore equity of competition by varying its contracts with the tied operators and its scale of toll charges with others’. How and why operators should have contracts with BR to use this road system, and what represented equity is not explained, nor who will decide if the contracts or tolls are fair.

No provision was made for disruption to his 100 yard headway round-the-clock-and-over-the-four-seasons by road maintenance and renewal. Speeds could not be maintained at 60 mph when cars are admitted. Inevitably, some drive slower. This will create jams.

His theories conveniently ignore manpower, machinery, vehicles and other costs arising from managing, maintaining and operating the system. He fails even to throw in figures of the same inexactitude as those forming the basis of his capacity or conversion costs, etc. The book and his whole plan were based on random figures without scientific basis, which masqueraded as comparative statistics. ‘If’, ‘perhaps’, ‘possibly’ occur in his book with such frequency that one assumes this book was not widely sold. (It was sent free to the author - see Preface - who glanced at it, and found it valueless for his purpose. Had he read it at the time, it would have been dumped, and would not have been exposed for the fantasy that it is). He coined a new word in his book: ‘carpmanship’ for all who dared to disagree with him. Anyone arguing against his grand design was carping. That this could be applied to his criticisms of BR escaped him. 

Harold Watkinson, a noted anti-rail MoT, did not agree with Lloyd. He said that con­version would cost 4 times the cost of a motorway of identical length, (The Times, 15.10.58)


Fleet sizes

The approach used by Brigadier Lloyd to estimate the numbers of vehicles that would be required to move existing rail traffic defies belief. There is no logic or value in estimating the number required on the basis with which he began - i.e. perpetual motion - nor in the selecting an arbitrary percentage increase on it, (see Chapter 3). Alternative data was publicly available that would have enabled a more credible figure to be assessed.

Taking first, his estimate of the number of lorries required. In his paper in the Royal Engineers Journal, he stated that 22,400m ton miles of rail freight could be transported by 4,250 lorries of 10-ton capacity travelling at 60 mph. This was then turned into “a practical fleet of 85,000 lorries, based on the same pessimistic 5% load factor as with buses”.

In his paper to the Institution of Civil Engineers, he replaced it by 6,866 lorries of 20 ton capacity, operating in ‘eight-hour shifts, round the clock, and over the four seasons’ without explaining why he had changed. The doubling of vehicle capacity, whilst the speed remained at 60 mph, would, at best, even assuming his earlier figure was right, only halve the fleet to 42,250, if all were always fully loaded.

In his book, he changed the fleet size to 1,480, which he then said would be doubled ‘at the worst’. He had reverted to 20 ton vehicles still at 60 mph, and the volume of rail freight he used was the same. His second guestimate of 6,867 20-ton lorries involved 3.2m ton miles per vehicle pa. This equates to 10,256 ton-miles per vehicle per day, with all vehicles loaded to 100% capacity, and gives 512 miles per day, which at 60 mph requires 8.5 hours. The 24 hour day would have to become a 25½  hour day!

The number of lorries required could have been more logically derived by examining data on work performed by existing road transport. (The Transport of Goods by Road, published by the MoT). At the time the biggest lorry on public roads was a 5 ton u.l.w., with an average capacity of 13.7 tons. There were 12,170 such vehicles out of the total lorry fleet of 1.27m. The average ton miles claimed to be performed by these larger vehicles equated to 1,051 per day. They were recorded as being fully loaded on 74% occasions, although for some traffics it was said to be based on volume not weight. Allowing 46% increase in this workload, to compensate for higher capacity lorries envisaged, brings ton miles per day to 1,534 and allowing for a doubling of vehicle speed brings it to 3,068. On this basis, 40,683 lorries would be required. This does not reflect that instead of 74% vehicles fully loaded, as the whole of the coal and mineral traffic on rail cannot secure a return load, the incidence of full loads would be less, and hence, the fleet larger. Moreover, some of the other rail traffic was in consignments of less than one ton, whilst some was in the range one to ten tons. The effect would be to increase the vehicles from 40,683 to 70-80,000. That does not mean that this figure would apply, merely that is a minimum, as DoT published data is unreliable, (see Chapter 11).

Turning to buses, Lloyd postulated in the Royal Engineers Journal that 1,250 of 30-seat capacity would convey BR’s existing 22,000m passenger miles employing perpetual motion. He then went on to multiply it by 20 to arrive at what he said was a practical fleet of 25,000 buses. He told the Civil Engineers that 3,434 bus/trailer combinations carrying 60 passengers were required. A doubling of capacity would, at best, have led to a halving of his initial guestimate. His book quotes 6,450 of 60 seats still at 60 mph. A more logical method would be to base fleets on the utilisation achieved by existing fleets. The MoT publication Passenger Transport In Great Britain shows, in 1955, 80,000 PSVs carried 50,000 passenger miles. On that basis, 33,400 extra PSVs would be required to cater for displaced rail traffic. Allowing for new buses being twice as big would cut it to 16,700. Against this, commuter flows would produce a lower average load than existing bus services. On the other hand, the higher speed postulated should reduce the number. A better guestimate than the Lloyd figures would be at least 15,000.

The effect on the headway of there being, say 87,000 vehicles on the converted network, instead of Lloyd’s 10,300 buses and lorries would be to reduce his theoretical headway from 100 yards to about 12 yards, considerably below the braking distance for vehicles travelling at 60 mph, which is about 60 yards. One consequence would be to completely destroy any chance of cross traffic at level crossings of any kind, and even of pedestrians using public footpaths across the existing infrastructure. Clearly, it would have been totally impractical to move the BR traffic by road vehicles, even of larger and faster types, much less provide space for traffic to transfer from existing roads. Whilst there has been a decline in freight traffic, passenger traffic has grown on main routes, and at speeds which the most ardent conversionist could not envisage on a converted system.


Top of Page

[1] This is an unsound theory as the author explained, in October 1982, to a councillor, who knew more of what [all] passengers wanted than BR managers, “because he travelled by rai”. The author’s journeys were then over 1m miles and he conversed regularly with passengers, (see Blueprints for Bankruptcy, pages 171-2, 174, 181), and read letters of complaint. The author could drive and maintain a car, but it didn’t qualify him to run General Motors.

[2] (See Britains Railways - The Reality).