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Public service or private profit? British railway policy 1825-2020

Casson, M. (2021) Public service or private profit? British railway policy 1825-2020. Journal of the railway and canal historical society, 40 (4). pp. 198-214. ISSN 0033-8834

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Abstract/Summary

This paper considers the relation between public service and private profit on the UK railway system from the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway down to the present day. It argues that there is a trade-off between these objectives, and that this trade-off has varied over time. Before 1870 the pursuit of private profit drove the railway system, constrained only by state regulation. From 1870-14 political demands for public service drove the system and the need for profit was merely a constraint. Following the Grouping of 1922-3, economic depression meant that profit and public service became closely aligned. Nationalisation in 1948 prioritised public service, but unfortunately at a time when the public was taking to the roads instead. Privatisation in 1994 brought back the principle of profit-seeking constrained by regulation, but implemented regulation in a radically different way.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Economics
ID Code:102224
Publisher:Railway and canal historical society

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