Road traffic; key events
Page last modified 20/9/2020
See also Road and Vehicle Technology
See also Road Traffic Regulations
Click here for image showing impact of motor car on rural roads.
Click here for recommended motoring clothes, 1902
Live traffic conditions, GB, http://www.theaa.com/traffic-news/index.jsp
Live traffic conditions, GB, http://www.trafficengland.com/
London Ringway Plan, https://www.roads.org.uk/ringways
SABRE – British Roads Association, useful links here, https://www.sabre-roads.org.uk/society/links.php
Transport Statistics, UK, https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport/about/statistics
Road bridges and tunnels
Stagecoaches and buses
“If I had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” Henry Ford
Land Speed Records – see Appendix 1 below
Endurance records – see Appendix 2 below
Pre railways coaches and overall road travel times – see Appendix 3 below
Buses and coaches – see Appendix 5 below
Road bridges and tunnels – see Appendix 6 below
5/7/2017, Volvo announced that it would stop making petrol and diesel only cars within two years, thereafter only manufacturing only electric or hybrid cars, There were rising concerns over vehicle pollution, exacerbated by the Volkswagen emissions scandal, and the Mayor of London, Siddiq Khan, predicted that within eight years, all diesel and petrol cars could face a £24 charge to enter London.
9/2006, The ‘smart motorway’ concept was introduced in the UK when the hard shoulder was turned into a traffic lane at peak periods on a 10 mile stretch of the M.42 near Birmingham at peak periods, Journey times dropped by 25% and the scheme was extended to sections of major motorways including the M.1, M.6, M.25, M 62 and M.4. However by 2020 a series of accidents involving vehicles running into the back of broken down cars had raised questions bout their safety.
7/4/2005, MG Rover, the UK’s last volume car maker, went into receivership after a planned alliance with Chinese car manufacturer Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation fell through.
25/3/1999, A fire in the Mont Blanc road tunnel killed 39 people. The tunnel was closed for nearly three years.
30/1/1997. An underground protest came to an end as the last protestor, known as Swampy, emerged from a tunnel under the proposed A.30.
29/2/1996, Bailiffs began evicting the Newbury by-pass protestors who had been protesting that the route ran through environmentally-sensitive areas. Contractors had been due to start work on 10/1/1996.
18/1/1996, A service in Coventry Cathedral marking the centenary of the motor car was disrupted by a naked woman claiming to be Lady Godiva protesting about the thousands of deaths caused by motor vehicles.
31/1/1994 German car manufacturer BMW announced the purchase of Rover from British Aerospace for US$ 800 million.
2/12/1993. A planned merger between Renault of France and Volvo of Sweden fell through.
7/1/1993. Ford unveiled its new family car, the Mondeo.
26/8/1989, The Mini celebrated its 30th birthday. In 1959 just 20,000 were made; in 1970 the figure was 381,000, after the car had won several rallies and been adopted by public figures such as John Lennon, Peter Sellers, Twiggy and Marianne Faithfull.
14/8/1988, Enzo Ferrari, racing car designer and builder, died at his home in Modena aged 90.
9/3/1987, The Chrysler Motor Corporation announced its purchase of the ailing American Motors Corporation.
29/10/1986. The final section of the M.25 London Orbital Motorway was opened.
8/9/1986, In Sunderland, the Japanese car maker Nissan opened a factory.
8/10/1980. British Leyland launched its successful Mini Metro.
12/3/1980, The Ford Motor Company was acquitted of three reckless-homicide charges, after a Ford Pinto was involved in an accident in which its petrol tank caught fire.
1979, In the USA, the first recumbent bicycle was patented by Richard Forrestal and David Gordon Wilson.
30/9/1974. A report by the Royal Society for the prevention of accidents showed that the 50 mph speed limit imposed on Britain’s roads during the 1973 fuel crisis had reduced road accident casualties by over 6,000.
20/8/1973, On TV, an account was shown of how the local community was resisting the new 6-lane Archway Road, north London.
24/5/1972. Spaghetti Junction opened in Birmingham. It was expected to handle 40,000 vehicles a day when opened, but in 2002, 140,000 vehicles used the junction every day. This was part of the Midlands Link, opened this day, a seven mile stretch opened by Peter Walker, Secretary of State for the Environment. There was now continuous motorway from London to Carlisle.
17/2/1972, The German Volkswagen Beetle outsold the US Ford Model T, with over 15 million cars sold.
3/8/1970, Miriam Hargreave, of Wakefield, Yorkshire, passed her driving test at the record 44th attempt, after 212 lessons.
1968, US auto production this year was 8.8 million. Nearly 2 million buses and trucks were also produced.
3/9/1967. Sweden switched over from driving on the left to driving on the right. All traffic was banned from Sweden’s roads between 1.am. and 6.am. that day. This reduced accidents since neighbouring Norway and Denmark already drove on the right. An earlier referendum, in 1955, had rejected the switchover but the Swedish Government finally approved the change in 1963.
1963, The Buchanan Report ‘Traffic in Towns’ was issued. It recommended more road building to deal with the increasing volume of urban traffic.
22/8/1963, Lord Nuffield, founder of Morris Motors, died, aged 84.
4/2/1963. In the UK, a learner-driver was fined for driving on after the instructor had jumped out of the car for fear of his life.
18/11/1962. As blizzards and snowstorms hit Britain, the House of Lords expressed concern at Britain’s 7,000 road deaths a year.
3/9/1962. The Trans-Canada Highway, 4,800 miles from St John’s Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia, was opened.
6/3/1961, Mini cabs began operating in Britain.
3/1/1961. The millionth Morris Minor car came off the assembly lines in Britain.
15/8/1960. Britain’s first motorway service station opened to the public, on the M.1 at Newport Pagnell. Motorist Graham Miller was the first to buy food there. The services had opened in 1959 but only for lorry drivers.
19/6/1960, Jaguar took over the Daimler motor company.
1959, In Japan, annual car production stood at 79,000, up from just 110 in 1947.
1959, Total US car casualties now stood at 1.25 million; more than the US casualties from all of its wars to date.
2/11/1959. The London to Birmingham motorway opened. The first stretch of the M1 opened on 1/11/1959. Sightseers flocked to look at it.
18/8/1959, The British Motor Corporation’s Mini car was launched. At £500 including Purchase Tax, it was short on luxuries, but affordable with a nippy engine and its small size made it was convenient for town driving.
17/3/1959, The UK Government announced plans for a major expansion of the road network.
30/1/1959, Britain’s first drive-in bank opened.
5/12/1958. The UK’s first stretch of motorway, 6 ½ miles of the M6 at Preston, was opened by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. It took two years to build at a cost of £3,750,000.
31/10/1957, Toyota began exporting vehicles to the USA, beginning with the Toyota Crown and the Toyota Land Cruiser.
12/7/1954, US Vice President Richard Nixon announced the construction of a network of Interstate Highways which would enable drivers to cross the USA without encountering a single crossroads or traffic light. They would also be useful as part of a defensive network, and to provide rapid exits from cities in the event of war.
16/4/1954, Stock car racing for the first time in Britain, behind the Old Kent Road stadium in London.
24/11/1951, British motor manufacturers Austin and Morris announced a merger.
30/1/1951. German motorcar engineer Ferdinand Porsche died.
1950, Annual US auto production was 6.7 million. There were also more than 13 million used car sales in the US this year.
26/3/1950, In the UK, petrol rationing, in force since 1939, ended,
1949, US annual auto production reached 5.1 million, regaining the peak 1929 level.
12/10/1948. First Morris Minor came off the production line at Cowley, Oxfordshire. The car was designed by Alex Issigonis.
28/9/1948. First British Grand Prix held at Silverstone.
30/4/1948. First Land Rover exhibited at the Amsterdam Motor Show.
29/8/1947, James Hunt, British motor racing champion, was born in Belmont, Surrey.
21/8/1947, Ettore Bugatti, Italian-born French car designer, died aged 65.
1946, Vespa motorcycle scooters went on sale in Italy.
13/12/1944, For London, a series of concentric ring roads and green belts were proposed. Two of these correspond to the North Circular and M.25.
1942, The concept of car-sharing was introduced in the USA, in response to oil shortages caused by World War Two. The idea lost popularity after the War as fuel prices fell, but regained momentum in the 1970s after the oil price rises following the Arab-Israeli wars.
1941, Annual US auto production was 3.3 million.
6/6/1941, Louis Chevrolet, American car designer, died.
23/5/1941, Herbert Austin, British motor mechanic and manufacturer of the Austin car, died near Bromsgrove.
4/4/1941, Andre Michelin, French industrialist who built the first factories that mass-produced tyres, died in Paris.
23/11/1940, The Willys-Overland company launched its new General Purpose vehicle, known as a jeep (GP)., for the US army.
16/9/1939, In Britain, car headlight masks were introduced to assist the Blackout, Road accidents rose to a record in 1940, when 8,609 people were killed.
26/5/1938, The first Volkswagen came off the assembly line at the factory at Wolfsburg, Germany.
7/2/1938, Harvey Firestone, tyre manufacturer, died in Miami, Florida.
1937, In the UK, the Trunk Roads Act (1936) became law. Under this Act, the maintenance of 4,500 miles of trunk road became the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport, whilst all other local roads remained under the control of local councils and county highway authorities. Britain now had 11.5 motor vehicles (excluding motor bikes) per mile of road.
14/10/1937, The first Motor Show opened at Earls Court, London.
26/2/1936 The Volkswagen car factory in Saxony was opened by Adolf Hitler. The Volkswagen or ‘people’s car’ was designed by Ferdinand Porsche of Auto Union.
3/7/1935. Death of the French engineer Andre Citroen.
29/4/1935. ‘Cats eye’ reflectors were used on British roads for the first time.
4/4/1934, The first ‘cat’s eye’ studs were laid in the road at an accident black spot, a crossroads near Bradford, Yorkshire, UK.
8/3/1934. The new Volkswagen was unveiled at the Motor Show in Germany, priced at £61.
1933, The Nissan car company was founded in Japan.
22/4/1933, Sir Frederick Henry Royce, English car manufacturer of Rolls Royce cars, died.
1929, US automobile production peaked at just over 5 million, just before the Great Depression. It would not exceed 5 million again for another 20 years.
14/4/1929. The Monte Carlo Grand Prix was run for the first time, 76 laps round the narrow streets and harbour of Monte Carlo.
29/11/1928, In Britain the Government was concerned at the rising toll of road accidents. In 1927 there were 133,943 accidents and 5,329 deaths on Britain’s roads. The number of private cars was just 200,000 in 1920 but forecast to reach one million by 1930. However anyone aged 17 could drive with no more than a self-certification of physical fitness. The speed limit of 20 mph was widely ignored. Motoring had been the preserve of the wealthy but the Austin Seven car, introduced in 1921, cost just £225, within the reach of many people.
1/8/1928, The Morris Minor car was launched.
29/5/1928. In the USA, the Chrysler and Dodge motor companies merged.
2/12/1927, Ford’s Model A car went on sale as the successor to the Model T.
12/11/1927. The first London to Brighton veteran car rally, sponsored by the Daily Sketch. It was won by John Bryce, from amongst 51 competitors.
10/11/1927. General Motors announced the largest dividend in history, US$ 62million.
19/10/1927, Francis Birtles left London on the first overland trip to Australia by car. He arrived in Sydney on 15/7/1928.
13/10/1927, Britain’s first veteran car rally took place. It was organised by the Daily Sketch, and took place in London, with 43 entrants.
12/12/1925. The world’s first motel opened in San Luis Obispo, California, starting a trend for overnight stops by motorists in individual accommodation.
4/8/1925, Noel Westwood and GL Davies left Perth to complete the first circumnavigation of Australia by car. The returned to Perth on 30/12/1925.
12/7/1925, The first veteran car rally was held, in Munich.
6/6/1925. Walter P Chrysler founded the Chrysler Motor Company in Detroit.
30/5/1925. King George V opened the Great West Road at Brentford, London. It was seen as a model for post-War development.
25/3/1925. The new fast London-Southend road was opened.
28/3/1924, Total was founded as the Compagnie Française des Pétroles (CFP), the "French Petroleum Company". Petroleum was seen as vital in the case of a new war with Germany.
1923, US annual car production reached 3,780,538, up from 543,679 in 1914.
26/3/1923. The world’s first inter-urban motorway opened, in Italy. It was formally opened by the King of Italy on 21/9/1924. It ran from Milan to Varese and the Lombardy Lakes.
10/9/1921. Completion of the first motorway (autobahn) in Germany. The 6 ¼ mile (10 km) route ran from Grunwald, Berlin, to the suburb of Wannsee, was exclusively for motor vehicles, and had controlled limited access. It had been planned in September 1909 and was nearly complete when the outbreak of World War One delayed its completion. Intended to double as a motor racing track, it has a loop at either end where competitors could turn round without stopping. It had 2 carriageways 26 feet wide and a 26 feet wide grassed central reservation, and ten concrete flyovers spanned it. Known as the Avus Autobahn, it is still in use today as route 115.
26/4/1921. The first police motorcycle patrols began in London.
18/1/1919, Bentley Motors Limited was founded by W.O. Bentley in Cricklewood, North London
1915, The Ford Motor Company produced over 500,000 Model T cars this year. The second largest US car manufacturer, Willys-Overland, produced 91,780 cars, up from 18,200 in 1910.
14/8/1913, In Britain, street deaths involving motor buses had risen 500% since 1907.
28/3/1913. The first Morris Oxford car left the factory at Cowley, near Oxford.
1912, In Britain, the AA opened the first of its roadside boxes.
1912, The Ford Motor Company, which accounted for over 22% of total US car sales, was producing 310,000 cars a year. The assembly line techniques introduced at the Ford Motor Factory in 1913 reduced the man-hours required to build a car from 12.5 hours to 1.5 hours.
11-16/11/1912. First International Motor Show, at Olympia.
31/5/1912. The first motor car museum was opened in London, at 175 Oxford Street. The oldest exhibits were an 1861 Crompton steam car and an 1894 Bremer petrol car. In March 1914 the museum moved to the Crystal Palace. However when the First World War broke out the space was needed for storage; some cars were returned to their owners but others were left on open waste ground near Charing Cross Station and allowed to disintegrate.
27/10/1911, After a bank robbery in Paris, the three criminals involved made the first ever getaway in a motor car.
30/5/1911, The Indianapolis motor race was first held.
16/2/1911, The first Monte Carlo car rally started.
4/2/1911, Rolls Royce adopted the Sprit of Ecstasy statuette on their cars, made in Derby, England.
21/1/1911. The first Monte Carlo Rally began. It was won, seven days later, by Henri Rougier from France.
12/7/1910, Charles Stewart Rolls, aviator and co-founder of Rolls Royce, died at an air crash in Bournemouth.
1909 Annual car production in the USA now reached 127,500.
1908, The first Bugatti car was produced by Ettore Bugatti (1881-1947). However te first famlous Bigatti, Type 35, was not produced until 1924.
1908, Annual car production in the USA now reached 63,500; there were at least 24 different companies producing motor cars.
16/9/1908. Buick and Oldsmobile merged to form General Motors.
12/8/1908, The Model T Ford began rolling off the production line. Priced at US$ 825, the cost was kept low by mass production using standardised parts. Instead of one man assembling an entire car, each worker preformed just one task as the car moved along a conveyor belt. By this production line method, the time to assemble a car was cut from 14 hours to 2. To motivate his workforce, Henry Ford raised wages from US$ 2.34 for a 9 hour day to US$ 5 for an 8 hour day. Productivity improvements meant Ford could reduce the car’s price to US$ 300. Over 15 million Model Ts were built and by the time production ceased in 1927 half the cars in the US were Fords.
1907, In the USA, 43,000 cars were produced this year, up from 25,000 in 1905.
15/7/1907, London’s first electric buses began operating, between Victoria and Liverpool Street. Unfortunately the electric bus industry was riddled with swindlers promising false returns to investors, and petrol and diesel buses took over.
6/7/1907. Brooklands motor racing track, near Weybridge, Surrey, opened. It closed in 1939.
28/5/1907. The first Isle of Man TT motorcycle race was held. The average speed of the winner was 38 mph.
22/2/1907, The first taxi cabs with meters began operating in Britain.
20/11/1906. Charles Rolls and Henry Royce formed the car company Rolls Royce Ltd.
8/8/1906 Churchill and others protested at the excessive noise made by motor traffic.
1/2/1906, The UK Government dropped plans for a fast motor road between London and Brighton.
1905, In the USA, 25,000 cars were produced this year, up from 2,500 in 1899. In 1907 43,000 cars were produced in the USA.
19/12/1905. London County Council set up a motorised ambulance service for traffic accident victims.
16/12/1905, The first civilian motor ambulance was delivered to the South West Ambulance Station of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. Built to order by James and Browne of 395 Oxford Street London for £465, it was used to transport scarlet fever patients from their homes to isolation hospitals, from 11/2/1906.
18/10/1905, Kingsway and Aldwych, London, opened.
29/6/1905. The inaugural meeting of the Automobile Association took place at the Trocadero Restaurant in London, attended by 50 motorists. By 1914 the AA had 83,000 members, and over 8 million by the 1990s.
2/6/1905, The Royal Mail horse drawn parcel post coach from London to Brighton was replaced by a faster motor coach service.
9/6/1904, First meeting of the Ladies Automobile Club.
16/6/1903. The Ford Motor Company was founded.
12/4/1903, The world’s first municipal motor bus service began, between Eastbourne railway station and Meads, Sussex.
10/2/1903, Two new roads in London were named; Kingsway, after King George VII, and Aldwych.
6/2/1903, In the UK, a Royal Commission was set up to find a solution to London’s traffic jams. Options included new electric tramways, but these would take up valuable road space, or new tube lines, following the success of the ‘twopenny tube’ opened in 1900 from Shepherds Bush to Bank (now the Central Line).
16/1/1903, The first saloon car, the Duryea, appeared at the Stanley Motor Show.
17/10/1902, The first Cadillac car, made in Detroit, was sold in the USA.
29/6/1902. The French car maker Marcel Renault won the first Paris to Vienna motor race.
3/4/1902, The patent for Tarmac road surfacing was filed by Edgar Purnell Hooley of Nottingham,England. John Loudon Macadam, Scottish engineer and General Surveyor of Roads in England from 1827, first tried to improve road surfaces by using crushed stone. This was a major improvement on dirt roads, which could soon become impassable after heavy rain. However they too were problematical in bad weather, and the stones could puncture the tyres of the new automobiles. In 1901 Edgar Hooley, County Surveyor of Nottinghamshire, noticved that a stretch of road at Denby, Derbyshire, was rut-free. He found that a barrel of tar had fallen off a dray, and that waste slag from a nearby blast furnace has been used to cover the tar. Hooley patented the idea but failed to develop it financially. The patent was bought by Sir Alfred Hickman, a steelworks owner in Wolverhampton.
4/3/1902, In the US, the AAA (American Automobile Association) was founded.
21/8/1901. In Detroit, USA, the Cadillac motor company was founded.
1899, 2,500 automobiles were produced in the US, up from 1,000 in 1898. In 1905, 25,000 cars were produced in the US.
1898, The Royal Automibile Club was founded in London.
20/2/1898, Enzio Ferrari, Italian car manufacturer, was born in Modena.
12/2/1898. Henry Lindfield of Brighton became the first British motorist to be killed in a car crash. As a result of a steering failure he had a leg amputated, and died of shock.
1897, Prince Oldenburg of Russia took delivery from Jentaud of France the first caravan designed for towing. The two-wheel caravan was towed by a steam tractor.
19/8/1897, The first taxi cabs began operating in the UK. They were restricted to the City and West End of London.
10/8/1897. The Royal Automobile Club was founded, under the name of The Automobile Club of Great Britain.
2/11/1896, General Accident issued the first motor insurance policies in Britain.
17/8/1896. The first pedestrian was killed by a motor vehicle in Britain. A car doing 4 mph killed Mrs Bridget Driscoll of Croydon. She froze in panic as the car approached.
4/6/1896. Henry Ford took his Ford automobile for a trial run around the streets of Detroit.
9/5/1896. The first Horseless Carriage Show opened to the motor trade, with ten models on show at London’s Imperial Institute.
1895, The Czech car company Skoda was founded, originally as a bicycle manufacturer.
2/11/1895, The first issue of Autocar, a motoring magazine, was published in Britain.
1/11/1895, The first motoring association, the American Motor League, was founded in Chicago, Illinois.
15/10/1895, The first UK motor show, at the Agricultural Showground, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Also this day the last turnpike toll was levied on the last remaining stretch of turnpike road in the UK; the Anglesey section of Telford’s Shrewsbury to Holyhead road (see 1864).
11/6/1895, The first pneumatic-tyred car appeared on French roads. This was Edoaurd Michelin’s Peugeot, which was a competitor in the Paris-Bordeaux motor race. This car only came ninth, because it needed 22 inner tube changes, but gave a very smooth ride.
11/12/1894. The first motor show opened in Paris, with nine exhibitors. It closed on 25/12/1894.
1/12/1894, The first motoring journal, La Locomotion Automobile, was published in Paris. According to this publication, cars were unlikely to replace horse drawn traffic and would improve things in cities.
22/7/1894. The first automobile race took place, between Paris and Rouen.
6/11/1893. Edsel Ford, US car executive, only child of Henry Ford, was born in Detroit.
23/2/1893, The diesel engine was patented by Rudolf Deisel.
16/3/1888, In France, Emile Roger made the first recorded purchase of a motor car, a Benz.
20/4/1887. The world’s first motor race took place, along the banks of the River Seine from the centre of Paris to Neuilly. There was only one entrant, Georges Bouton, who completed the course in his steam quadricycle to become the winner.
4/3/1887, The first Daimler cars appeared on the rioad.
1886, British cyclists formed the Road Improvement Association, to campaign for better road surfaces. Cycling was growing rapidly in popularity, and membership of the Cyclists Touring Club, the largest cyclists association, reached 60,499 in 1889.
1/5/1883, The new road system at Hyde Park Corner, London, opened.
29/6/1882, Death of Joseph Hansom, inventor of the famous London Hansom Cab in 1834. Later they were introduced to New York.
23/12/1879, An unprecedented traffic jam occurred in New York. Horse drawn carts and coaches created a jam that lasted 5 hours.
10/10/1877. Motoring pioneer William Morris, 1st Viscount Sheffield, Lord Nuffield, was born in Worcester.
27/8/1877, Charles Stewart Rolls, partner of Rolls Royce, was born in London.
3/9/1875, Ferdinand Porsche, motor car engineer, was born.
1869, Holborn Viaduct road bridge, London, opened, after six years construction.
8/11/1866. The Birmingham car manufacturer Herbert Austin was born in Little Missenden.
12/3/1866, Giovanni Agnelli, founded of the FIAT (Fabrica Italiano Automobili Torino) was born. He founded the FIAT company in 1899.
1865, Concrete roads were first trialled in Scotland.
1864, A House of Commons Select Committee began considering the process of eliminating turnpikes on British roads. Ireland had been entirely toll free since 1858, and almost all tolls in south Wales had been discontinued by now, but 854 toll trusts still existed across England and Scotland. Welsh turnpike abolition began after the Rebecca Riots https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebecca_Riots of 1839-43, when many impoverished farmers (dressed as women for disguise, hence the name) protested against turnpike tolls. By 1874 there were just 184 remaining, and by 1876 only 71 were still operating. By 1890 just 2 toll trusts were left, the last one (Anglesey) ceasing operations on 15/10/1895. The Turnpikes had bene hard-hit by the railways, and their receipts fell by a third between 1837 and 1850, leaving many barely solvent.
27/3/1863. Sir Frederick Henry Royce, co-founder of the Rolls Royce Motor Company, was born in Alwalton, near Peterborough, the son of a miller.
15/12/1861, Edgar Charles Duryea, US car manufacturer, was born near Canton, Illinois (died 28/9/1938 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).
19/10/1860. The first company to manufacture internal combustion engines was formed in Florence, Italy. The engines were designed by Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci.
1/7/1860, Charles Goodyear, American inventor of the vulcanised rubber tyre, died a pauper.
1846, Farringdon Road, London, was opened. It was planned as early as 1830, to cut through a slum area. It was known as Victoria Street until 1863.
1839, Wood-block paved roads were first laid, in England. The wood was treated with creosote then the blocks were bonded together with pitch; the blocks were laid on a concrete foundation.
26/11/1836. John McAdam, the road engineer who gave his name to a new type of road surface, tarmac, died, aged 80. He was the son of a banker in Ayr, and developed the idea of a raised road surface of broken stone with a drain either side. See 3/4/1902.
1835, The Highways Act gave Britain’s 15,000 parishes the power to levy a rate for road maintenance.
2/9/1834. Thomas Telford, born 9/8/1757, died. He was known as the ‘Colossus of Roads’ for his engineering works. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
23/12/1834. The English architect Joseph Hansom patented his safety cab, known as the Hansom Cab.
4/10/1821, The Scottish civil engineer John Rennie, bridge designer, died in London.
1819, A Select Committee of the House of Commons considered John Mac Adams’s report on road surfaces. His major innovation was, not to go for a firm base but to seal the top surface of the road. A packhorse on an unimproved road could carry a maximum of 100 kg, but on an improved road it could draw a wheeled load of 500 – 600 kg. However on inland waterways a horse could draw 30 tons on a river or up to 50 tons on a canal.
17/2/1818, Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun patented the Draisine , forerunner of the bicycle.
1817, The first stretch of ‘macadamised’ road was laid, in London.
1815, Mount Tambora erupted in April 1815, spreading a plume of dust and ash around the world and causing harvest failures. There was no longer enough oats to feed horses, which were being slaughtered so people had enough to eat. To replace horse transport, Karl Drais invented a laufmaschine (running machine), two wheels on a board straddled by the rider with a tiller for steering. Drais managed to cover 40 miles in 4 hourson his machine, comparable to the speed of a trotting horse. In fact the weather improved and there was a bumper harvest in 1817. However the design of Drais’ machine was improved, with pedals being added in the 1860s, and a chain and brakes by the 1880s,giving the recognisable modern bicycle.
1810, John Mac Adam began experiments in different types of road surface. See 1819.
27/3/1809, Baron Georges Hausmann, who planned the long boulevards of Paris, was born.
26/10/1803. Birth of Joseph Hansom, inventor of the famous London Hansom Cab in 1834. Later they were introduced to New York.
4/4/1800, In Aylesbury the highwayman known as Galloping Dick was executed.
1775, The state of British roads was so bad that the Horsehay Iron Company of Shropshire found it more practical to send its products to Chester, just 30 miles away overland, by a circuitous water route down the River Severn, around Wales, and up the River Dee,
1769, In France the Ministry of War authorised the Commandant of Artllery to make a steam truck for carrying cannon, as designed by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot. The first such ‘voiture en petit’ was tested in 1770; it could carry 4 people at 2.5 mph, although it had to stop for the boiler to be refilled every 15 minutes, A full-sized version was built in 1771, which could carry up to 5 tons. However the French Government then lost onterest in these ‘fardier a vapeur’ and the project was dropped.
9/8/1757, Thomas Telford, road, canal, and bridge engineer, was born at Westerkirk, near Langholm, the son of a shepherd.
21/9/1756, John Mac Adam, Scottish surveyor who pioneered the use of tar-macadam for road surfacing, was born in Ayr.
3/1756, The Gentleman’s Magazine recorded that the Mile End Road, just a mile east of Aldgate, London, was so deep in mud that a light coach, pulled by four horses, could scarcely exceed walking pace.
1745, The absence of good roads in the north of Scotland became a major handicap in dealing with the Jacobite Rebellion there.
7/4/1739. The infamous robber Dick Turpin was hanged at York for murder, sheep-stealing, smuggling, and holding up stage coaches. He was buried in York as ‘John Palmer’. He had been part of the infamous ‘Gregory Gang’ of robbers and rapists in 1735. However as a horse-borne highwayman he enjoyed a reputation better than the ‘footpad’ men who tended to disable their victims before fleeing on foot. Horse-borne robbers had no need of this and were even cortteous to their victims.
6/11/1724. The highwayman Jack Sheppard was hanged at Tyburn in front of a crowd of 200,000.
15/8/1717, Britain’s first road engineer, John Metcalfe, was born in Knaresborough, Yorkshire.
1716, In France, the Corps des Ingenieurs des Ponts et Chausees was set up; they founded a technical school in 1747. The political purpose of this agency was to help unify France.
1564, The horsedrawn coach was introduced into England, from Holland.
1663, Britain’s first turnpike gates were put up, at Wadesmill, Hertfordshire.
1555, England passed the Highways Act, requiring each parish to appoint two ‘Surveyors of Highways’, to keep the roads in repair by compulsory unpaid labour, under the direction of (also unpaid) surveyors. Unsuprisingly, English roads remained in a poor state.
1346, Under King Edward III, the first levy for the repair of roads was made, for roads in London.
1269, The first toll roads in England.
1285, In England it was decreed that all trees and shrubs within 200 feet of roads between market towns be cut down, to prevent the concealment of robbers.
3200 BCE, Wheeled transport first used, in Sumeria, also central Europe.
Appendix 1 – Land Speed Records
15/10/1997, Andy Green drove the land vehicle, Thrust SSC, at faster than sound, in the Nevada Desert. He achieved 763.035 mph, and produced a sonic boom.
25/9/1997, The British Thrust supersonic car set a new world land speed record of 714.1 mph in Nevada.
18/12/1979. Stanley Barrett became the first man to break the sound barrier on land, driving in California at 739.5 mph.
23/10/1970, American Gary Gabelich achieved a world land speed record of 631.367 mph in a rocket engine powered car on Bonneville salt flats in Utah.
15/11/1965, In the USA, Craig Breedlove set a new land speed record of 613 mph at Bonneville salt flats.
17/7/1964. Donald Campbell set a world land speed record of 403mph. He was driving a car called Bluebird, on the salt flats at Lake Eyre, South Australia.
16/9/1947. John Cobb broke the world land speed record at 394.2 mph.
23/8/1939. John Cobb, British motorist, set a new speed record of 368.85 mph at Bonneville salt flats, Utah, USA.
19/11/1937, George Eyston set a new world land speed record of 311 mph.
3/9/1935. Sir Malcolm Campbell set a new world land speed record, in Utah, of 301.337 mph.
7/3/1933. Malcolm Campbell set a new land speed record of 276 mph.
5/3/1933. Sir Malcolm Campbell set a new world land speed record of 272mph in ‘Bluebird’.
24/2/1932, Malcolm Campbell set a new world land speed record of 253.96 mph at Daytona Beach.
5/2/1931, In the UK, Campbell broke the land speed record in Bluebird. The new record was now 245 mph.
11/3/1929. Major H O D Seagrave reached 231.36 mph in his racing car at Daytona Beach.
19/2/1928. A new world land speed record of 206.35 mph was set by Malcolm Campbell in the US.
29/3/1927. A new land speed record of 203.841 mph was set by Major Harry Seagrave at the Daytona Beach racetrack, Florida.
4/2/1927. Malcolm Campbell set a new world land speed record of 174.224 mph in his car, Bluebird, on Pendine Sands.
7/8/1926. The first motor racing Grand Prix in Britain was held at Brooklands, with the winning car averaging 71.61 mph. The race was over 110 laps, or 287 miles.
1925, Malcolm Campbell set a new land speed record of 150.86 mph.
26/5/1923, The annual Le Mans 24-hour race for sports cars was first held, on the Sarthe circuit. The winners, Andre Lagache and Rene Leonard, averaged 57.2 mph.
22/12/1913, British racing driver L.G. Hornsted set a new land speed record in excess of 120 mph at the Brooklands racing circuit in southern England.
17/6/1907, Brooklands, the world’s first motor racing circuit, opened at Weybridge, Surrey. The circuit is 3.75 miles long.
26/6/1906. The first Grand Prix took place at Le Mans. The race was over 12 laps of a 65-mile triangular circuit at Le Mans. The race was won by Hungarian Ference Szisz, driving a Renault at an average speed of 63 mph.
2/1/1906. New French Darraq racing car set a speed record of 108 mph.
4/5/1904. Charles Rolls and Henry Royce agreed to join forces in the motor trade. Charles Rolls had set a new land speed record of 93 mph in Phoenix Park in Dublin in 1904, and now agreed to sell cars produced by Royce. Rolls had won the Thousand-Mile Trial of 1900, which had popularised motoring in Britain. Henry Royce was an electrical engineer from Manchester who produced his first car on 1/4/1904, a ten horsepower model praised for its excellent running.
12/1/1904. Henry Ford set a new car speed record of 91.37 mph. The record was set on frozen Lake St Clair near Detroit.
13/4/1902. A new record car speed of 74 mph was set in Paris.
4/3/1899, Count Gaston de Chasseloup Laubat raised the world land speed record to 57.6 mph (92.96 kph), see 18/12/1898.
18/12/1898, At Acheres, near Paris, Count Gaston de Chasseloup Laubat set a land speed record of 39.23 mph (63.13 kph) in a Jentaud electric car.
Appendix 2 – Endurance Records
10/8/1907, The world’s longest and hardest motor race, from Beijing to Paris, ended with victory by Prince Borghese of Italy, who completed the 8,000 mile course in 62 days. He faced desert, swamps, mountains, a bushfire, and a Belgian policeman who stopped him for speeding.
25/5/1907. The first 24-hour motor race, the Endurance Derby, was held in Philadelphia. The winning car covered a distance of 791 miles.
23/5/1903, A Packard car left San Francisco for New York, completing the first successful transcontinental drive across the United States. The journey took 52 days, owing to the poor state of the roads, which limited car usage at the time.
1/9/1902. The AA (Automobile Association) organised a motor car trial to demonstrate the reliability of the new machines. 63 cars drove from Crystal Palace, south London, to Folkestone and back. Most completed the 139 mile route successfully, and the AA logged the performance of each car.
19/10/1897, Henry Sturmey, co-inventor of Sturmey-Archer bicycle gears, completed the first car trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats. It took him ten days, driving a Daimler.
Appendix 3 – Pre railways coaches and overall road travel times
1849, Coaching traffic ceased in Guildford. In the early 1800s the town had 28 coach services with around 200 passengers ran daily from the town. The last mail coach left Guildford in 1842. Some coaching companies joined the railway companies, becoming delivery agents for the ‘last mile’ from the stations.
1830, At the peak of the stage coach era (just before the dawn of the railways), William Chaplin of London, the largest operator, was running 3,000 coaches; they had 30,000 employees and 150,000 horses.
2/8/1774, The first mail coach left London for Bristol. The journey took over 24 hours.
1754,The number of coaches rose dramatically over this period. In 1740 there was once coach a week between London and Birmingham. In 1783 there were 30 coaches a week, and in 1829 there were 30 per day on this route. In 1852 a rail passenger could travel from Exeter to Newcastle on Tyne in two days, staying overnight at Manchester.
1736, London’s roads were so bad that, in wet weather, it took over 2 hours to drive a coach from St James Palace to Kensington.
1658, Coaches travelled at about 3 mph, on often atrocious roads. Time taken depended as much on the weather and terrain as the actual distance; some routes being much muddier, or dustier, and slower than others. Chalk ridges offered easier travel than clay country.
1640, In England, the stagecoach industry began to develop, with coaching inns to accommodate travellers.
Typical travel times, various years. For this list, first place alphabetically always listed first
Brighton – London
1812, 6 hours (18 coaches a day on tbis route)
Bristol – London
1782, 17 hours (via Bath)
1774, 24 hours.
1750, 3 days
Dover – London
1658, 2.75 days
Edinburgh – London, 650 kilometres
(1970, 1 hour by plane)
(1890, 9 hours by steam train)
1832, 42.5 hours
1825, 43 hours,
1784, 60 hours
1776, 4 days
1754, 11 days (10 in summer, 12 in winter)
Exeter – London
1836, 17 hours
1797, 25 hours
1658, 4 days (40 shillings)
Holyhead – London,
1836, 27 hours
Liverpool – London
1825, 27 hours
1781, 2 days
1766, 2.5 days
1757, 3 days
London – Manchester
1836, 18 hours
1754, 4.5 days. The fare was £2 5s (£2.25) for a seat inside the coach; half price for an outside seat. That was about £200 (£100 outside) in 2000 prices.
London – Newcastle on Tyne
1836, 45 hours
1788, 60 hours
1780, 3 days
1712, 6 days
London – Oxford,
1828, 6 hours
1754, 2 days
London – Salisbury
1812, 12 hours
1658, 2 days (20 shillings)
London – Shrewsbury
1812, 16 hours
1764, 2 days
1753, 4 days
London – York
1774, 2 days
1754, 4 days
1658, 7 days
7/10/1868, A non-stop stage coach covered the 2,600 miles from St Louis to Los Angeles in a record 20 days.
Appendix 5 – Buses and coaches
20/6/1990, London’s Routemaster buses were to be phased out, according to an announcement today. Spare parts for them were increasingly hard to obtain.
26/10/1986, Buses in all the UK, except Northern Ireland and London, were deregulated.
6/10/1980, In Britain, the Transport Act ended the monopoly on long distance coach travel.
8/5/1962. Trolley buses ran for the last time in London.
14/8/1928. The world’s first coach service to have sleeping bunks began, between London and Liverpool.
2/10/1925, London’s iconic red double-decker buses went into service. See 9/4/1909.
11/1/1913, The last horse drawn omnibus in Paris ran.
25/10/1911. The last horse bus ran in London, from London Bridge station to Moorgate Street.
20/6/1911, Britain’s first trolley bus ran, in Leeds.
9/4/1909, The first closed-top double-decker buses ran in Britain, in Widnes. In London there were police restrictions against roofed-in upper decks and such buses did not run there until 2/10/1925.
27/8/1900, The first long-distance bus service in England began, between London and Leeds, taking 2 days.
9/10/1899. The first petrol driven motor bus began operating in London.
25/9/1897. Britain’s first motor bus service began, in Bradford, Yorkshire.
7/1/1857. The London Central Omnibus Company began running a London bus service. See 30/8/1860.
4/7/1829. The first bus service in Britain began. See 18/3/1662. George Shilibeer operated a horse drawn service between Marylebone and the Bank, via the City Road. The fare was 1s for the full distance or 6d for any intermediate distance.
2/8/1784. The first specially constructed mail coach ran in Britain, from Bristol. to London.
18/3/1662. The world’s first bus service began, in Paris. Eight seater horse drawn vehicles ran every 8 minutes, and were at first used by the aristocracy, who left their carriages at the terminus, for the novelty factor. However by the summer of 1662 the nobility had returned to their carriages and the less wealthy walked to save the fare. The bus service managed to stay going till the 1680s. Bus services did not restart anywhere until a Parisian service began in 1819. The word ‘omnibus’ was coined in Nantes in 1823, as people of all sorts were using the service there. See 4/7/1829.
Appendix 6 – Road bridges and tunnels (London area)
4/9/2017, Queen Elizabeth II opened the third Forth Bridge,exactly 53 years after the second (road) bridge was opened by her. The cost of the new bridge was £1.35bn, as against £11.5m (£210m in 2017 prices) for the 2nd bridge. The original road bridge will now be for cyclists and buses only.
20/12/2016, The Eurasia Road Tunnel, under the Bosporus, Istanbul, Turkey, opened to traffic.
14/12/2004, The world’s tallest bridge, at Millau, France, over the River Tarn, was opened by President Jacques Chirac.
5/6/1996, The second Severn Road Crossing (Prince of Wales Bridge) opened near Bristol.
15/10/1995, The road bridge between Skye and the Scottish mainland opened.
30/10/1991. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Queen Elizabeth Bridge over the Thames at Dartford.
17/7/1981, Queen Elizabeth II formally opened the Humber Bridge, then the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world. It had opened to traffic on 24/6/1981.
24/6/1981. The Humber Bridge opened to traffic, and the Humber Ferry, the diesel powered Faringford, made its last crossing between Hull and New Holland. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Bridge on 17/7/1981. Work on the Bridge had begun in 1973, but there had been plans for a bridge, or even a tunnel, for several decades before. When opened it was the world’s longest single-span suspension bridge, at 1,410 metres, or 4,636 feet.
5/9/1980. The world’s longest road tunnel opened in Switzerland. The Simplon Tunnel ran for 10.14 miles, 16.32 kilometres, under the St Gotthard range.
11/7/1980. The Britannia road bridge across the Menai Straits was opened.
23/5/1974. The Avonmouth M.5 Bridge was opened.
16/3/1973. The new London Bridge was opened by the Queen. In 23/9/1968 the foundation stone of the old London Bridge had been laid at Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
27/7/1972, Work began on the Humber Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge with a central span of 4,626 feet. Queen Elizabeth II opened it on 17/7/1981.
2/7/1971. The Erskine Bridge over the Clyde was opened.
24/6/1971. In Liverpool, the first tube of the second Mersey Tunnel opened.
2/8/1967, The second Blackwall road tunnel, London, opened (first tunnel opened 22/5/1897).
4/8/1967, The Tagus Road Bridge at Lisbon opened
8/9/1966. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Severn Bridge. The career of ferryman Enoch Williams, who had carried passengers and cars across the Severn estuary since starting his business on the first day of the general Strike 1926, ended.
18/8/1966. The Queen Mother opened the Tay Road Bridge.
16/7/1965 The seven-mile Mont Blanc road tunnel opened, linking France with Italy. This road tunnel had first been proposed by French engineer Lepiney back in 1870. The tunnel took 6 years to build.
21/11/1964, The Verrazano Narrows suspension bridge, across the entrance to New York Harbour, opened to traffic.
4//9/1964. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Forth Road Bridge. It was 6,156 feet long, with a centre span of 3,300 feet. Construction began 21/11/1958.
18/11/1963. The Dartford Tunnel was opened. Initial construction works had begin in 1936, when a pilot tunnel was dug (completed 1938). However further works were delayed due to World War Two, and further tunnel works only resumed in 1959.
3/7/1963, The Clyde Road Tunnel, Glasgow, opened; construction began in 1957.
21/7/1961, Runcorn Bridge, on the River Mersey, opened. It was then the longest steel arch bridge in the UK.
13/8/1959, Work began on the Verrazano Narrows cable suspension bridge in New York City.
30/5/1959. Auckland’s Harbour Bridge on New Zealand’s North Island officially opened.
21/11/1958, Work began on the Forth Road Suspension Bridge, then the longest suspension bridge in the UK. It was completed in 1964.
11/12/1945. The new Waterloo Bridge, London, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, fully opened. Half its width had been in use since 1942.
11/8/1942. In London, the new Waterloo Bridge opened to traffic.
27/5/1937. The world’s longest suspension bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, was opened. The centre span was 4,200 feet long and with the approaches the bridge was over 8 miles long. The project cost US$ 77.2 million.
18/7/1934. King George V opened the Mersey Tunnel. It was 2.13 miles long and had a diameter of 44 feet, allowing for 4 traffic lanes. See 18/12/1925.
1933, Chiswick Bridge, London, opened.
17/12/1933, Just for this day, the public were allowed to walk through the newly completed Mersey Tunnel.
19/7/1932. King George opened London’s Lambeth Bridge.
19/3/1932. Sydney Harbour Bridge was officially opened. At 1,650 feet, it was the world’s longest single-span bridge.
18/8/1930. The two halves of Sydney Bridge met in the middle, seven years after building work began. The 503 metre bridge used 38,390 tons of high tensile steel. Completion was scheduled for March 1932.
10/10/1928. The King and Queen opened the new Tyne road bridge.
13/11/1927, The Holland Tunnel, linking New York City to New Jersey, was opened.
18/12/1925. Work began on the Mersey Road Tunnel, Liverpool. It opened on 18/7/1934.
6/6/1921. Southwark Bridge opened by the King.
3/12/1917, The Quebec Bridge over the St Lawrence River opened. 87 lives were lost during its construction.
21/5/1916, Keadby swing road bridge, Lincolnshire, opened over the River Trent. It was necessary to serve the growing traffic between Immingham Docks (opened 1912) and the developing coalfields of South Yorkshire.
31/12/1909, New York’s Manhattan Bridge opened; it cost US$ 31 million to build.
30/3/1909, New York’s Queensboro Bridge opened; it cost US$ 17 million to build.
12/6/1908. London's Rotherhithe Tunnel opened. It runs between Rotherhithe and Stepney.
26/5/1906. The rebuilt Vauxhall Bridge over the Thames was reopened.
4/8/1902, The Greenwich foot tunnel under the Thames opened. It replaced a ferry that had existed here since 1676.
22/5/1897. The Prince of Wales opened the Blackwall Tunnel in London.
30/6/1894. London’s Tower Bridge was officially opened to traffic. Sir Horace Jones and J Wolfe Barry designed it.
21/7/1890, Lord Rosebery opened Battersea Bridge.
1889, Fulham road bridge, London, opened.
18/6/1887, Hammersmith Bridge, London, was opened.
24/5/1883. Brooklyn Bridge, New York, was opened. At over a mile long, with a central span of 1595 feet, this was then the longest suspension bridge in the world, and was the first bridge in New York City. It was designed by John Augustus Roebling.
23/8/1873, The Albert Bridge across the Thames was opened.
3/1/1870, Work began on the Brooklyn – New York bridge over the East River.
1869, Kew road bridge, London, opened.
6/11/1869, Blackfriars Bridge, London, opened.
8/12/1864, Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge over the River Avon in Bristol was opened.
1863, Kingston road bridge, London, opened.
1862, Lambeth Bridge, London, opened. The earliest mention of a ferry here is in 1513; this ferry ceased operations when the first Westminister Bridge opened in 1750. The current Lambeth Bridge opened in 1932.
24/5/1862. London’s Westminster Bridge was opened.
1849, Barnes road bridge, London, opened.
1848, Richmond road bridge, London, opened.
1/8/1831. King William IV opened New London Bridge, designed by John Rennie. It lasted 140 years before being dismantled, sold to an American, and rebuilt in Arizona.
1827, Hammersmith Bridge, the first suspension bridge in London, opened. It was replced by the current structure on 1883.
1825, The suspension bridge over the Menai Straits, Wales, designed by Thomas Telford, opened.
15/6/1825, The Duke of York laid the foundation stone of London Bridge.
15/3/1824, Construction work began on John Rennie’s London Bridge.
22/6/1817. London’s Waterloo Bridge, built by John Rennie, was opened. It was originally called Strand Bridge but was renamed on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. It was replaced in 1945.
1816, Vauxhall Bridge in London opened; it was initially known as The Regent’s Bridge. It was thre first iron bridge over the Thames in central London. Vauxhall Rridge Road was also built in 1816,
1791, The River Trent was first bridged at Gainsborough.
1/1/1781. The first wholly iron bridge in the world was opened at Ironbridge, Shropshire, consisting of a 100 foot span across the Severn. In 1755 an iron bridge had been planned across the Rhone at Lyons but owing to the high cost only one span was made of iron; the others of wood.
1776, Battersea road bridge, London, opened.
1771, A small wooden footbridge opened across the Thames at Battersea. It could only carry light cart and coach traffic.
1769, Blackfriars road bridge, London, opened.
1759, The road bridge at Kew, W London, was built of wood, It was replaced by a stone bridge in 1789; the present bridge dates from 1903.
1753, The Thames Bridge at Hampton Court opened. It was made of wood; the current concrete bridge opened in 1933.
16/11/1750, Westminister Bridge, London, opened. It replaced the old ferry which operated here until this time.
1729, Putney road bridge was constructed.
1507, In Paris the Pont Notre Dame opened; the first stone bridge in France.
1219, William de Coventry was Appointed Master of Kingston Bridge (S W London). This is one of the oldest bridges over the Thames in the London area.
1218, In Switzerland the Twarenbrick (Transverse Bridge) over the Schwollen Canyon is the first suspension bridge in Europe.
1179, The ‘Old’ London Bridge was designed by clergyman Peter de Colechurch. It soon became crowded with houses and was demolished and replaced in 1824.
924, The first record of a bridge over the Trent at Nottingham.
630, Buddhist scholar Hsuan Tsang provided the first written record of an iron chain link suspension bridge, over the River Indus.
600 BCE, Greek historian Herodotus described a bridge over the Euphrates. It was 600 feet long and comprised wooden beams supported on stone pillars.