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Shoebridge, Alfred Arthur (1894–1970)

by Michael Di Francesco

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Alfred Arthur Shoebridge (1894-1970), public servant, was born on 14 January 1894 at Marulan, New South Wales, son of Australian-born parents Alfred Allen Shoebridge, railway porter, and his wife Rose, née Moore. Educated at Nelligen Public School, young Alfred was appointed a junior clerk in the New South Wales Department of Public Works on 15 May 1911. He began to study economics and commerce part time at the University of Sydney in 1914 before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 24 August. Posted to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, he served at Gallipoli from April 1915 until he was admitted to hospital in October suffering from dysentery. In 1916-20 he worked in the A.I.F. Kit Store, London, and rose to warrant officer, class one. He was discharged from the army on 5 June 1920 in Sydney.

Returning to the Department of Public Works, Shoebridge advanced rapidly to inspecting accountant and assistant chief accountant. At the Methodist Church, Lindfield, on 24 October 1925 he married Annie Hicks (d.1957). He transferred to the office of the commissioner for road transport (and tramways) as accountant in 1930. Two years later he was promoted to head the road transport branch. In September 1944 he was appointed assistant-commissioner. During World War II he was a member of the Commonwealth's War Road Transport Committee and chairman of the State's Automotive Industry War Advisory Committee. On 22 May 1950 he became commissioner for road transport and tramways (commissioner for government transport from May 1952).

The two decades following the war were marked by commuters' increasing reliance on private motor vehicles at the expense of mass transit systems. Shoebridge faced public outcries over increasing costs of tram and bus travel, worsening traffic congestion in the city and delays to services. His strategy was to accept the shifting balance between public and private transport and to arrest the decline of the former by rationalizing services and implementing efficiencies. As a means to this end, he gave the 'highest priority' to replacing Sydney's trams with buses.

Shoebridge decided on the gradual introduction of one-man, single-deck buses from 1952. In the ensuing industrial unrest, which saw the dismissal of six hundred striking bus drivers in November 1955, he succeeded in imposing his measures, but only with the support of a committee of inquiry hastily convened by the Cahill Labor government. While the cost of public transport fell slightly, deep-seated revenue problems remained. On 13 January 1959 Shoebridge retired as commissioner and as chairman of the Sydney Harbour Transport Board, a post he had held since 1952.

On 9 September 1959 at the office of the government statist, Melbourne, Shoebridge married Gladys Reece Jones, née Lomax, a widow. President of the Roseville Golf Club and of the New South Wales branch of the Professional Golfers' Association of Australia, he also presided over the Roseville Returned Servicemen's Memorial Club. He died on 13 December 1970 at Killara and was cremated with Methodist forms; his wife survived him, as did the son and daughter of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • Report of the Commissioner for Road Transport and Tramways, Parliamentary Papers (New South Wales), 1944, 1945, 1947, 1950
  • Report of the Commissioner for Government Transport, Parliamentary Papers (New South Wales), 1952-57, 1959
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25, 26 Oct 1956, 14 Jan 1959, 15 Dec 1970.

Citation details

Michael Di Francesco, 'Shoebridge, Alfred Arthur (1894–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/shoebridge-alfred-arthur-11686/text20885, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 18 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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