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A Century of Transport - Changing Towns and Cities
The need to rebuild bombed sites after the Second World War was accompanied by huge reconstruction schemes, especially in Birmingham and Coventry. Birmingham's city centre was torn apart for the Inner Ring Road to cope with increasing car use, leading to quips that the City Engineer, Sir Herbert Manzoni, had done more damage to the city centre than the Luftwaffe.
Excellent work was done to sweep away substandard housing in the inner areas, often described today as 'slums' - unfairly because many occupiers slaved to keep them presentable. Sadly, old communities were destroyed in the process as the displaced residents were scattered to new estates around the city rather than kept together, what has been the long-term social cost of that policy? Many of the new dwellings were high rise flats, apparently offering a much better quality of life but all too often this promise has not worked out, like much of the rebuilt city centre. There is little doubt, however, that the '50s planners meant well but maybe they attempted too much.
The 1950s did more than change the face of the cities - the faces of the people began to change too. Reconstruction and buoyant car production meant full employment and industries with uncompetitive pay and/or unsocial hours could not easily compete for staff. The transport industry found itself increasingly in this category and actively sought staff from Ireland and then from further afield, from the West Indies and the Indian sub-continent. Other nationalities were also to be found in the early postwar mix, notably middle Europeans such as Poles who no longer had homes to go back to after the Second World War, and Hungarians fleeing Soviet repression.
©Copyright 2019 Malcolm Keeley for the Transport Museum, Chapel Lane, Wythall, Worcestershire B47 6JA, England.
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