Roads and Road Transport History Association

The Roads and Road Transport History Association, let’s call it RRTHA for short, is something I’ve been involved with for a few years now. It is an association of people interested in researching historical and contemporary developments in all things road transport. I’ve met some wonderful people through the Association all with a particular passion – or a few – who are welcoming, supportive and non-judgemental, characteristics all too lacking in much of day-to-day life.

We meet twice a year for a conference and are always eager to give researchers an opportunity to speak at the conference or publish in our quarterly journal so do visit if you’d like to get involved. The other thing that RRTHA does is publish books. At our meeting in Coventry a few weeks ago I purchased the Companion to Road Passenger Transport. A work of over a decade, involving contributions from 157 people to create a compendium of 850 names/articles involved in the development of road passenger transport in the last two hundred years in Great Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It’s a really good introduction for students and people interested in getting more involved in research, with lots of texts referenced and an extensive range of subjects to learn more about. It’s also got a summary in French and German.

Autumn Conference, 2016

This was held at Coventry Transport Museum on Saturday 29th October. I decided to travel on the day and was super impressed to get from my door to the museum’s in about 2.5hours. We had a number of speakers: Roger Torode talked about writing his book on the privatisation of London’s buses, Rod Ashley spoke about nostalgia and motoring (particularly interesting was the dilemma of utility value v. pleasure and ideas surrounding social responsibility), Martin Higginson spoke about bus liveries and heritage branding of companies and Richard Wallace shared lots of information on buses in East Kent. A day well spent.

Roger’s talk was particularly interesting to me and I noted the following:

  • Very intrigued by the formation of 8 bus districts in the late 1970s (with very beautiful logos which I can’t find on the internet, further proof that it is not the source of all knowledge!).
  • The militaristic nature of London Transport pre-privatisation with huge hierarchical separation, poor performance, unreliability and a low expectation culture; unions held a lot of sway which made scheduling buses incredibly difficult. How to incentivise good performance in the public sector?
  • Lack of political consensus surrounding the issue of transport in the UK context. How do we work toward political consensus on such an importance issue?
  • Red was kept as a unifying colour for buses, in part to make privatisation of the buses(11 different companies in 1988) less obvious, and therefore more palatable to the public
  • Tendering works in the London context but only because the service is still within a publicly owned and coordinated network, i.e. regulated; it favours big companies due to short contracts and has delivered a more reliable service overall

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