18 APRIL 1952, Page 1


• creating a good impression than with getting to the root of a .very difficult question of costs -and prices.

• Beyond the immediate instruction to do nothing for an • indefinite period one sees nothing but genuine difficulties and complications—the undoubted rise in railway costs, the fact that Londoners have already had to take the punishment that provincial travellers have been at least temporarily spared, the threat that yet another subsidy may be brought in by the back door, the difficulty of denationalising road transport if rail transport were to be given a new form of Government assis- tance, and the assumption by the Government of a respon- sibility that was formerly taken by the Transport Commission. • Did Ministers weigh all these difficulties before taking action ? If they did, well and good. But the announcement late on Wednesday that any concessions granted outside London after the forthcoming re-examination of the increases will also be extended to the London area looks more like afterthought than forethought. And it is difficult to see how the Central Trans- port Consultative Committee, to which the question of the provincial increases is now to be referred, can really settle the question. It is doubtful whether anything short of a most exhaustive official enquiry into British transport can possibly sort out all these warring factors. Perhaps the Government have that in mind too. If they have it is desirable that they should say so quickly. While we wait the railways are losing money. And if there is to be a fundamental inquiry it cannot begin with a series of awkward expedients. Quite certainly to apply the first check to fares is to begin at the wrong end. It is best to begin at the roots of the cost structure, where so much trouble starts and where it may even be possible to effect a fundamental improvement. But that takes time and fore- thought—not snap decisions.