GRR

Revival 2018 to celebrate 70th anniversary of British Transport

21st August 2018
James Charman

The Goodwood Revival will this year celebrate the 70th anniversary of two icons of British Transport in the form of a daily morning track parade.

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Both the Austin FX3 ‘London Taxi’ and British Railways date back to 1948, and will be honoured at the Revival as swathes of ‘Cabbies’ and various forms of commercial vehicles take to the 2.37-mile Goodwood Motor Circuit.

Taxis in London can be dated as far back as 1654 and the approval of “An Ordinance for the Regulation of Hackney-Coachmen in London and the places adjacent” by Parliament. The first hackey-carriages licences date from 1662, and over the next three centuries, London’s relationship with the taxicab grew and grew.

Fast-forward nearly 300 years and Austin found themselves at the forefront of London’s taxi scene following the huge success of its High Lot and Low Loader. Towards the end of the 1940s, Austin were working towards a successor to the Low Loader, of which the FX3 was the third prototype of the project.

The first FX3, fitted with a 2.2-litre OHV petrol engine, was registered in the summer of 1948, with the official announcement coming at the Commercial Motor Exhibition ahead of full production in 1949.

Fitted with an open luggage platform in place of a front passenger seat, the FX3 could turn on a sixpence – a key requirement of taxis in London, supposedly in order to navigate the tight entrance at the Savoy – and would go on to be a regular staple in London long after its successor, the FX4, was released then years later in 1958.

While Austin were working on the FX3, Parliament was at work again, this time preparing itself for the commencement of the Transport Act, which would see the nationalisation of canals, sea and shipping ports, bus companies and, despite immense opposition, the road haulage network.

Arguably the most well known outcome of the Transport Act, however, was the formation of British Railways. In 1923, the railway network was grouped into ‘The Big Four’, with separate companies dominating their own regions. These were the Great Western Railway, the London and North Eastern Railway, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and Southern Railway.

The Transport Act saw all four companies nationalised to form British Railways, under control of the British Transport Commission. The legacy of the Big Four continued on, however, as British Railways was split into six regions, each initially based on the areas operated by the Big Four.

The early 1950s saw the railways making a working profit, and as such helped Britain catch up with the rest of Europe in terms of dieselisation and electrification. By 1968, the age of steam was over with the entire network being replaced by diesel and electric traction (save for one stretch of line between Aberystwyth and Devil’s Bridge on the Vale of Rheidol Railway, a narrow gauge tourist line).

The costs of Modernisation were partly to blame for the worsening financial status of the railway in the late ‘50s, and in 1963, following a report from Dr Richard Beeching, nearly 5,000 miles of track and over 2,000 stations were closed. While seen as a villain in the eyes of many, the actions of Beeching spurred on the preservation movement in the UK, led by the Talyllyn Railway in Wales and the Bluebell Railway in West Sussex, resulting in Britain having one of largest number of preserved railways anywhere in the world.

In spirit of these two anniversaries, each morning the Goodwood Motor Circuit will play host to a stunning parade of commercial vehicles, including buses, coaches, lorries, vans and, of course, a large collection of Austin High Lots, Low Loaders and FX3s.

Tickets for the 2018 Goodwood Revival are on sale now, for more information visit ticketing.goodwood.com.

Taxi image courtesy of Coys.

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