Saturday 13 June 2009

Hurry On Down

We are all very worried about our transport costs, personal, public, and those supplying our food and essentials. But historically, even if oil prices do move up a good deal, they are very much cheaper than in the past. When you look at the historical dramas on TV and see all the coaches, horses, and the rest, much of it is flights of fancy, for the vast majority of people it was all a lot simpler. Basically, you walked, unless you were possessed of a good income.

If you look on the four in hand coach used for Stage or for private purposes, necessarily four horsepower and run down the potential costs they are very high. A two horse rig would be for lighter and shorter distance work, and six horses is really at State Coach levels or magnate display purposes.

So restate say 1830 prices at 2009 levels, by calculations that relate to labour costs rather than price comparisons of identifiable consumer products.

Cost of coach new: £250,000 or more.
Cost of horses: £15,000 each, good quality horses cost a lot more than others.
Annual forage cost: £5000 at least for four horses.
Annual maintenance: £50,000, given the rate of contemporary wear and tear.
Labour costs for driver, guard, postillion, ostlers, and boys, plus stabling and incidentals, then probably up to £300,000 a year or over.

For that you would get 0-6 mph in five minutes. You might need a full service (that is change of horses) at every 15-25 miles

Commercial Operation Seat Prices for London-Bath (100 miles)
Inside - £1500; Outside rear - £1000; Outside top - £750
Partial refund for winter outside passengers freezing to death on journey

Now for freight an example is a ten ton log going from a woodland to the boatyard for the shipwrights to make a mast would need a team of 16 heavy horses, plus a full complement of drivers, minders, and labourers and ten miles a day would be good going. Try working the cost of that out in modern money.

A single horse and cart would cost much less than a stage coach, less that half, and need less support labour etc., but carry only as much as an average size van.

So why complain about motoring and transport costs today? Because the future; all too soon, may become much more like the past. At least we will all have free compost deposits in the streets.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget the canals. Before we so short-sightedly let them decay, we had a network that could ship goods round the country with minimal environmental impact (if rather slowly).

    A friend of mine suggested back in the 90's that the Milennium Fund should be used to buy up canal-side land and re-create an integrated towpath/supply network, restoring the canals to commercial function.

    But we got the Dome instead.