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Institute of Railway Studies and Transport History
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Railway Readings

The purpose of this section of the IRS&TH web site is to provide a glimpse of what the British railway press was saying about various issues in the past. Every month there will be a different selection of excerpts from the railway press from the 1990s to as far back as the 1840s, taken from the collections in the National Railway Museum Library here in York. Sometimes we will group the excerpts according to particular themes, but there will also be space for a more random selection of some interesting, entertaining, or just plain bizarre corners of the railway news of the past. We hope that you will find it interesting and illuminating. It's one way of finding out what has changed, and what has not, over the past century and a half of the railway press. Previous editions are accessible through the archive page.

Next update: 3 March 2003.

IRS&TH: Railway Readings
February 2003
The Railways Act and the Grouping, 1920-1923

During the First World War the British railway companies were placed under government control for the purposes of the war effort. When that direct state control ended in 1921 there was a wide acceptance that a return to the pre-war competitive situation was not compatible with bringing about a more efficient and unified railway system. The Railways Act of 1921 thus grouped the 120 existing railway companies into four large geographically-based units: the Southern Railway, the London Midland & Scottish Railway, the London & North Eastern Railway, and an enlarged Great Western Railway. The Grouping was an enormously complex operation but was carried out rapidly and the new structure came into operation on 1 January 1923. To mark the 60th anniversary of the Grouping, we reproduce here extracts from the Railway Gazette's coverage of the process from 1920 to 1923.


2 July 1920: The Railway Gazette gives a negative reaction to proposals contained in the government's White Paper on the future of the railways

9 July 1920: After a week's further thought, the Railway Gazette offers a more positive analysis of the proposals

4 March 1921: The Railway Gazette comments on Scottish hostility to the government's proposals...

17 June 1921: ...and reports on the change of plan for Scotland's railways that resulted

26 August 1921: The Railways Bill becomes the Railways Act 1921 as it passes into law

19 May 1922: A correspondent suggests possible names for the new railway companies in the letters pages of the Railway Gazette...

30 June 1922: ...and another correspondent comes up with some more

10 November 1922: The Railway Gazette ruminates on the administrative changes that will be brought in by the new companies

24 November 1922: The suspense, and the flood of strange suggestions, end at last as the Railway Gazette announces the new companies' names

22 December 1922: The Railway Gazette reports on the clearing of the final administrative hurdles in the last few days of the old system

2 February 1923: A tribute to one of the old railway companies, absorbed but not forgotten


 [-] 'The future of British railways'
From The Railway Gazette, 2 July 1920, p. 4

The railway policy of the Government has now been declared in the form of a White Paper, and elsewhere in this issue we publish the proposals in full. It would appear that the more the Government has considered the question the more complex it has become, and it has, therefore, been found impossible to issue a reasoned statement of policy which would justify the change. On the other hand, the Ministry of Transport has now been in existence for nearly a year, and has been pressed on all sides for a statement of policy. As the railway chairmen's speeches have shown, lack of knowledge of the future is proving a serious handicap to railway development, and involves the holding up of a large amount of arrears on orders for equipment and improvements. The obvious conclusion is that the situation has not become any simpler the longer the inquiry lasted, with the result that it has been decided to issue a White Paper which, however, is so general in its character that it might well have been issued last year.

The central idea is the amalgamation of the railway systems into groups, of which there are to be six for England and Wales, and another for the whole of Scotland. As far back as 1853 the Select Committee on Railway and Canal Bills recommended that a similar course should be adopted. In their fifth report they refer to the reasons urged, in favour of amalgamation and call attention to the possibility of 'grouping the several companies into a smaller number of great companies, perhaps seven for Great Britain, to which should be assigned a regulated monopoly of the district in which it is situated.'

This is the germ of the new proposals - seven groups for Great Britain, each having a regulated monopoly. We have frequently referred to the question of railway re-organisation, and would direct attention to the issues of the Railway Gazette dated December 6,1918, December 12,1919, and May 7,1920, as summarising our general views on the subject. Years ago the railway companies attempted to obtain statutory sanction to the amalgamation of competitive organisms, such amalgamations having for their object co-ordination and economical management, and it is a somewhat striking commentary upon the changed condition of the times that what the Government then refused to permit should to-day be put forward as the solution of the railway problem.

It is not clear from the White Paper whether the larger railways forming the component parts of the new 'grouped railways' will retain their separate entities as statutory companies and be worked by a managing committee, as in the case of the South Eastern & Chatham system. It is also to be noted that what may be termed extra-territorial lines are left untouched by the system of grouping. We shall still have the North Western lines in South Wales, the Southern group lines in North Cornwall, and Western lines at Chester and Birkenhead and so forth. Presumably these lines are to be left as bartering counters, and it does not require much inside knowledge to justify the belief that there will be considerable trouble in adjusting these and other matters.

It is unlikely that the Government proposals will escape very considerable criticism, and we think it will be found essential to modify the scheme in more than one important respect. In fact, hints have been already thrown out that modifications may be made. Some definite information as to the position of joint lines would also be of advantage. In connection with these lines the railway companies have expended nearly £45,000,000, and as many of these lines, such as the Cheshire Lines Committee and the South Yorkshire Joint Line are owned by companies attached to different groups, a considerable measure of adjustment will be essential. The question of the terms on which the smaller lines, many of them very profitable concerns, are to be absorbed, is also left vague.

While we are unable to agree that the proposed amalgamations are the best final arrangement for the efficient and economic working of British railways, we think it is indisputable that some scheme of company amalgamation, which will lead to the absorption of the smaller companies and leave a few large companies operating under the direct control and inspiration of the State is the best initial step towards a wider scheme of scientific management. It is improbable that any proposals for railway grouping would escape criticism, but the present scheme appears been designed to give critics every opportunity, and much further explanation will be required. As the Western group is to take in all the Welsh lines it will apparently absorb the Cambrian and it would be instructive to know why this line, which is more closely related to the North Western than any other group, should have been treated in this way. The underlying feature seems to be that of geographical distribution, and little regard appears have been paid to the commercial importance of the various groups. The scheme guenerally is like the curate's egg - good in parts. And it is good in just those parts which follow the lines of the amalgamation schemes put forward and rejected. The three 'Great' companies are to become one, as has long been their desire, while some other proposals approximate pretty closely to the schemes of development suggested by the railway companies years ago. The Great Western system stands as it is except that it will be made bigger by the absorption of the local coal carrying railways in South Wales. Similarly, no change is proposed in the matter of the North Eastern system, except that it will absorb the Hull & Barnsley. But, it does not follow that any advantage woul accrue from amalgamating lines of an entirely different character. For example, the North Western and Midland systems are quite big enough to be left as separate entities, the North Western possibly absorbing the North Staffordshire and the Furness systems; whilst an end-on amalgamation between the Midland and Glasgow & South Western Companies would be a more natural form of grouping than that at present proposed. Then again, both the freight and passenger traffic of the Lancashire & Yorkshire are of such a specialised and unique character, and require so much knowledge of local conditions, that it is difficult to see how any economies in management or operation would be effected by relegating it to the position of a division in a larger system of an entirely different character.

According to the White Paper the groups will be determined on the basis of operating economy, and all direct competition between the groups will, as far as possible, be eliminated. But it is difficult to see how strong competition is to be avoided at places like Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Leicester and many others which will be served by more than one of the great railway groups. The pooling of traffic and receipts where competition is causing waste is put forward in this connection, though this would naturally involve considerable expenditure on management and adjustments.

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 [-] 'Second thoughts on the Government's railway proposals'
From The Railway Gazette, 9 July 1920, pp. 50-1

It would be idle to deny that first impressions of the White Paper outlining the Government's proposals as to the future organisation of transport undertakings and their relation to the State were distinctly unsatisfactory.

The circumstances connected with its issue were, to say the least, unfortunate. Many railway officers were in the House of Commons when the Minister of Transport was ‘billed' to announce his scheme for the future administration of the railways. Many more looked forward to their daily newspaper with eager anticipation. All were disappointed. The scheme might have been so much better explained m a speech in the House of Commons, and subsequent discussion would have elucidated information on obscure points. But it was altogether different having to accept the disappointment of a week's delay and then to read in cold, formal sentences the ‘Outline of Proposals as to the Future Organisation of Transport Undertakings in Great Britain and their relation to the State.'

The unsatisfactory features of the scheme seemed to be most imminent, and chief of these was the ultimatum: 'The Government does not propose to give to the companies any financial guarantee.' Could this be possible? The Government had used the railways badly. Throughout the war the railways had committed the unpardonable sin of being too patriotic. Their resources had been at the disposal of the Government to the fullest extent. They had spared neither men, materials nor energy in doing their part in winning the war. They had submitted without protest to the raising of wages by Government action to an extent which most railway officials regard as altogether unjustifiable, without - on the other hand - power being given to raise rates and charges. Now they were being held up to suspicion. All their patriotic actions were being cited as hard business deals, and in newspaper articles - not to say questionable paid advertisements - the railways were being charged with having 'held the Government to ransom.'

On the top of it all the Government scheme appeared with provision for keeping a hand deep in the railway companies' pockets by proposing to establish wages boards to deal with wages and working conditions, yet there was to be no financial guarantee. Small wonder that the chairmen and deputy-chairmen of the five Scottish railway companies unanimously resolved: 'That the scheme for the future of the railways, as outlined in the White Paper, is open to many objections and would afford no protection to the proprietor of the companies, and that any Bill framed on similar lines must be strenuously opposed.' Indeed, rumour has it that very similar views were expressed at a meeting of the Railway Companies Association.

But second thoughts are notorious in differing from first ideas. The White Paper is described as an 'Outline of Proposals.' It is clear that the railways have not been consulted by the Government; they are, therefore, in no way committed to the scheme, which represents a basis for negotiation. Surely by negotiation on the basis of this outline of proposals objectionable features may be removed or modified. That the scheme would embody a grouping of railways was certain. What the groups would be was uncertain. But could there be surprise or disappointment that the railway companies' own pre-war schemes had been adopted by the Government? Three of the 'Greats' had gone to Parliament with a 'Working Union Bill' which, at the time, was regarded as foreshadowing amalgamation. The North Western, Midland and Lancashire & Yorkshire were bound by a pooling agreement. The Great Western already had control of two of the half-dozen Welsh railways, and the Scottish companies had been drawing together. Of course any scheme of the kind may be criticised. In this regard, it is instructive to note that, in reply to a question regarding the proposed amalgamation of the Hull & Barnsley and the North Eastern Railway Companies, Sir Eric Geddes replied that the proposals of the Government outlined in Command Paper 787 did not represent a final or detailed scheme incapable of modification, and that he intended to discuss these proposals with representatives of the railway companies, commerce and labour. The Government pledged themselves in 1918 to consult the Railway Companies Association as to the future of railways before any Bill was Presented Parliament dealing with the matter.

The merit of the Government scheme is that it follows pre-war railway tendencies: ideas that were in being in 1911 when the Departmental Committee on Railway Agreements and Amalgamations (Cd. 5631) reported 'that the natural lines of the development of an improved and more economical railway system lie in the direction of more perfect co-operation between the various railway companies, and we accept the growth of co-operation and the more complete elimination of competition as a process at once inevitable and likely to be beneficial both to the railway companies themselves, and, if properly safeguarded, to the public also.' True, the White Paper is far from clear as to whether the companies in each group are to amalgamate: how amalgamations are to be arranged; whether joint lines and interests are to disappear and so on, but these details - important though they are - may properly be omitted from 'Outline proposals' and be the subject of negotiation. For our part we entirely agree that the amalgamation of complete undertakings as the initial step will avoid many of the difficulties which would arise if undertakings had to be divided.

The Management clause will be regarded by many as astute window-dressing. It questionable whether any useful purpose will be served by adding officials or workmen to the boards of management. Under co-partnership such a change is to be contemplated, but we are strongly of opinion that directors should be shareholders: if the workmen or their trade unions invest in the concern then they might be considered for representation on the board, not otherwise.

The financial clauses are the most important. We have referred to the intimation that the Government does not propose to give any financial guarantee. If that is the last word on the subject, clearly much more must be said in regard to the suggestion that the State is entitled to participate in surplus revenues on the basis of a suitable sliding scale. If the State is to share profits, it must also share losses, and no amount of argument can alter this proposition. The railways should say: 'If you stand by us when revenues fall below an agreed point, we will consider a scheme for sharing profits above that point - not otherwise.' If railways take the ordinary risks due to fluctuation of trade, they must have the good with the bad.

Apart from this aspect of the matter there is much to be said in favour of the Government scheme. 'The Act of Parliament should lay it down that rates and fares shall be fixed at such a level as ... will ... enable railway companies to earn a net revenue substantially equivalent, on some pre-war basis to be settled in the Act, to the combined net revenue of all the companies absorbed in the group. With due care and economy it should be possible for group companies to improve on their pre-war return.' We may add that if [p.51>] capital is to be attracted tot he railway industry, it is essential that railways should earn more than formerly and pay more to their shareholders. Dividends have to be adjusted to present-day currency values. But surely the enactment that rates and fares shall be fixed at a certain level is all to the good. The basis is all-important - and it is a matter for negotiation. This is bound up with the rate-fixing machinery, which is to be 'flexible' to enable 'appropriate charges to be levied' and the railway companies are to rely upon this machinery for the maintenance of the financial position of the groups 'at the level agreed.' Exactly how 'financial equilibrium' is to be secured to each group we do not know, but it is satisfactory that the 'proposals' should contemplate this state of affairs and that the Rates Advisory Committee should be charged with the duty of effecting it.

We have referred to the proposed wages boards. Central boards are objectionable. The North of Scotland has little or nothing in common with the South of England. The conciliation board machinery should be adapted to the new groups and the central boards should disappear with other war-time emergency legislation. The proposals in regard to light railways, docks and canals do not call for second thoughts, except to point out that there are other railway 'side-shows' that have not been mentioned in the proposals - e.g., hotels, steamboats, &c. Suffice it to say that our second thoughts on the White Paper are that there is sufficient in the proposals to justify favourable consideration, and earnest, careful negotiation should result in the evolution of a thoroughly acceptable scheme.

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 [-] 'Scottish Railway Group: strenuous protest'
From The Railway Gazette, 4 March 1921, p . 367

A large deputation, representing Scottish Chambers of Commerce, local authorities, iron and steel industries and agriculture, had a meeting in a committee room of the House of Commons on March 2 with Scottish Members of Parliament on the subject of the Transport Ministry's proposed grouping of Scottish railways. The spokesmen for the deputation strongly condemned the proposal to group the Scottish railways into a separate unit, and maintained instead that the Caledonian, the Glasgow & South Western, and the Highland Railways should be grouped with the London & North Western group, and the North British and the Great North of Scotland with the eastern English group. Generally it was shown that the standardisation of wages and hours of work had affected the Scottish railways more than the English, that a financial isolation might mean ruin to the Scottish companies, and that the true way was to follow the natural lines of traffic from north to south. Regarding necessary increase of rates and fares, it was pointed out that if the Scottish railways were formed into a separate group the increase would have to be 15 per cent., while by grouping with the English companies the increase over all would be only 2 per cent. Possibilities of ruin to the extent of some Scottish railways having to default on their debenture stocks were mentioned, and generally traders, local authorities, the iron and steel industries and agriculture were in favour of the combined Scottish and English scheme. It was mentioned that Sir E. Geddes, the Minister of Transport, had declined to receive a deputation from the Scottish local authorities on the subject, although he had previously received one from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce. He had, however, agreed to meet the local authorities if, after an interview with the Scottish Members of Parliament, that should seem necessary. The chairman of the Scottish M.P.s, Sir H. Mackinder, promised to see Sir Eric Geddes on the point, and before the meeting closed it was announced that the Minister would see the representatives of the local authorities on the following day. The chairman also promised that the Scottish members would take all the arguments on both sides into consideration, and would do their best for Scotland in the matter.

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 [-] 'Scottish railway grouping'
From The Railway Gazette, 17 June 1921, p. 920

On the introduction of the Railways Bill we made the following comment in our issue of May 13 on the proposals of the Bill for grouping the Scottish railways:

'In the matter of the Scottish railways, it would appear that the drafters of the Bill have. been cynically humorous. In the original outline of the scheme there was to have been one Scottish group. The Scottish companies, their shareholders and the traders have agitated that the Scottish lines should be grouped with the English. The reply to this agitation has merely resulted in the Scottish railways being formed into two groups, the West Scottish, comprising the Caledonian, Glasgow & South Western and Highland, and the East Scottish, comprising the North British and the Great North of Scotland. Reading between the lines, however, it would appear that the way is made easy for an amendment on third reading, which would enable the scheme of grouping proposed by the Railway Companies' Association to be adopted.'

The change has come about, but rather earlier than we anticipated. On Tuesday, at the third day's proceedings of Standing Committee B, to which the Bill has been referred, the Minister of Transport invited the Committee to accept longitudinal grouping of the Scottish railways on the distinct understanding that when they came to the financial clauses Scottish members would support the view that fusion must be on the basis of the intrinsic value of the undertaking, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, and not on any fictitious pre-war basis.

Sir Eric Geddes added that in framing the Bill it was thought better to leave Scotland in a group by itself, as being the most convenient from the point of view of operation and management but apparently the vast majority, of the railway companies took a different view. There was no insuperable obstacle or disadvantage to fusion with England, and in view of the representations made to him by Scottish M.P.'s, he therefore invited the Committee to accept longitudinal grouping.

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 [-] 'The Railways Act, 1921'
From The Railway Gazette, 26 August 1921, p. 336

The Royal Assent was given last Friday, soon after 5 p.m., to the Railways Bill, the Lords' amendments to the measure having been considered and agreed to earlier in the same afternoon. Two divisions were taken, but resulted in both instances in favour of the proposed amendments. The first was on a proposal to delete from Clause 19 the subsection which provided that members of the Rates Tribunal should not be allowed to hold shares in railway companies or industrial or other companies concerned in carrying traffic in Great Britain. The subsection was originally inserted to deprive any suspicious person who might be disappointed with a decision of the tribunal, of any chance of mud-slinging. But its practical effect would have been to exclude from the tribunal any competent men of business, as nearly every business concern is interested in the carriage of traffic. By 96 to 61 it was decided that the subsection should be omitted. A Lords' amendment to exclude the Festiniog Railway from the Western group was confirmed by 132 votes to 35. This alteration removes the anomaly of a solitary narrow-gauge light railway being included in the grouping scheme. On the whole the Lords' amendments have made no change in the main principles of the Bill, the great majority being either drafting amendments or for the better placing of the necessary provisions. In its final form the Act is a great improvement on the measure as originally introduced.

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 [-] 'Railway group names'
From The Railway Gazette, 19 May 1922, p. 800

To the Editor of the Railway Gazette.

This is an interesting and important subject, and I am very glad the name of the 'Great Western Railway Company' is being retained as representing the whole of the Western Group.

As regards the North Western Group, the, Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway has already been absorbed into the London & North Western Railway, and the arrangements of this company with the Midland Railway are properly a fusion and not an absorption. The other companies in the group are of far less importance than these two, so it seems fitting that the name should be supplied by the 'North Western' and 'Midland,' the word 'Midland' taking the place of 'London' to form the official title of 'Midland & North Western Railway Company,' the Working title being M. & N.W.R. and the shortened title for general conversation, stock and share lists and the like, the 'North Western.'

The Eastern Group is rather differently constituted, the component parts being companies of a more or less equal standing and importance. I consider it is the most difficult to find a title for. It is and will be known to the end of this year as 'The Eastern Group of Railways,' and I consider an excellent title for it hereafter will be officially 'Eastern Joint Railways' (plural with the word 'Company' omitted), working title E.J.R., and shortly as the 'Eastern.' The word 'Group' can only apply to several individual companies and must necessarily cease when those companies are amalgamated.

The first thing that ought to suggest itself in finding a suitable and descriptive title for the Southern Group, when amalgamated, is that, before all else, the word 'London' must commence the title on account of the large number of termini in London possessed by the London & South Western Railway, South Eastern & Chatham Railway, and the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway in combination and the preponderating part that London plays in this system. Even less than in the Eastern Group, no single company excels any other to any extent, so the word 'Southern' following 'London' would denote that the railways were south of London, which would be absolutely true and correct; so 1 would name the group officially 'London and Southern Railways' (plural with the word 'Company' omitted), working title L. & S.R., and shortly as the 'Southern.'


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 [-] 'Railway group names'
From The Railway Gazette, 30 June 1922, p. 800

To the Editor of the Railway Gazette.

I propose the following nomenclature for the new railway groups:

Eastern Transportation Service ... ... (E.T.S.)
Western Transportation Service ... ... (W.T.S.)
Southern Transportation Service ... ... (S.T.S.)
South Western Transportation Service ... ... (S.W.T.S.)

The words 'Transportation Service' more accurately describe the nature of the undertaking to which they refer than the word 'Railway,' their meaning being wide enough to include transport by rail, road and water, and all the services incidental thereto which are performed by railway companies to-day. The adoption of the term 'Transportation Service' would also reduce by one the number of words in the English language with double meanings.

The inclusion of the word 'Great,' 'Joint,' 'Anglo,' 'British,' or 'London' in any of the titles would appear to be unnecessary, as the first two are practically meaningless, and the others quite superfluous. I submit that the only words which describe, as far as is consistent with brevity, the geographical positions of the various systems are those enumerated above. The word 'North' in either of the Anglo-Scottish groups would be a misnomer, as both of these groups have main lines and important termini within 50 miles of the south coast.

I am not overlooking the fact that the Great Western Railway Company would have to obtain Parliamentary powers to change the name of that undertaking, but a change seems desirable, as, when compared with the Eastern and North Western and Midland Groups, the Great Western is not great, and it must be admitted that practically the whole of the territory served by this system is in the south-west of Great Britain.


[Several of our correspondents appear to overlook the fact that the word 'group' is merely a term for temporary use. The railways in the four groups are to be amalgamated or absorbed so that eventually there will be four railway companies. The word company will have to form part of whatever titles are selected; 'Eastern Transportation Service Company' would be somewhat cumbrous. We cannot imagine the Great Western Railway Company (which has been Great Western since its incorporation in 1835) changing its name. For the other three companies we suggest for consideration the titles of Great Southern, Midland and North Western, and either North Eastern or Great Northern for the 'North Eastern, Eastern and East Scottish' group. - ED. R.G.]

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 [-] 'Railway organisation under grouping'
From The Railway Gazette, 10 November 1922, p. 569

On more than one occasion we have discussed the methods of railway organisation that are likely to be introduced as a consequence of the merging of railways under the grouping scheme, and have indicated our belief that, while great changes will be made, these will not be effected at once. In our view, it is probable that the principal feature of future railway organisation will be the arrangement of a number of divisional areas, each controlled and administered by an officer having extensive powers. To some extent this system follows the American example, but it is probably more true to say that it comprises a development of the South African unit system. One great change from the traditional arrangement is likely to be the complete merging of 'Traffic' and 'Goods' activities, leaving a Commercial section to deal with the purely commercial side of the railway business, and to act as an Intelligence Department. From this it would seem to follow that there would be an advantage in localising district. control - in other words, by appointing one District Manager for a town and the surrounding district with full responsibility for the operating and commercial activities. At the present time, each company serving a large town has its separate stationmaster and goods agent, and as, under the new conditions, it will probably, be desirable for there to be a resident controlling head, the appointment of local managers would appear useful. There would, of course, be no district managers as at present, the local managers reporting directly to their divisional chief upon all matters within their jurisdiction. This system, if logically developed, would seem to afford a real avenue of economy, while giving to the younger generation suitable opportunities of advancement.

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 [-] 'Names of the four grouped companies'
From The Railway Gazette, 24 November 1922, p. 641

At the special railway meetings, of which full reports are published elsewhere in this issue, the names of two of the four new companies were officially intimated. That of the London & North Eastern Railway Company, which has been chosen by the railways comprising the North Eastern, Eastern and East Scottish Group, was given in the November 3 issue of the Railway Gazette, while the new title of the company which comprises the Southern Group of railways, of which various rumours have been circulated, is now known to be the Southern Railway Company - an admirably terse and completely descriptive name. Of the other two groups, the Western Group will continue to be known as the Great Western Railway Company - this name having been provided for in the Act, wherein it is laid down that 'the amalgamation scheme (with respect to the Western Group) shall provide for constituting the Great Western Railway Company the amalgamated company.' With regard to the North Western, Midland and West Scottish Group, in connection with which two companies have not settled terms, no official indication has yet been given of the prospective title. It has been stated that the new name would be the London, Midland & Northern Railway Company, but we learn on inquiry that the name finally decided upon for the new company is the London, Midland & Scottish Railway Company. Thus, from the 'appointed day,' the main railway companies of Great Britain will be four, one the Great Western, bearing a name that already stands high among British railways, while the other three, the London, Midland & Scottish, the London & North Eastern and the Southern, start life anew, with the fruitful experience of the past and the opportunity of the present to assist them to make their names as well known as those of the constituent companies, now - unhappily, for some reasons - condemned to early extinction.

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 [-] 'The group amalgamations'
From The Railway Gazette, 22 December 1922, p. 816

Last week we reported the proceedings before the Amalgamation Tribunal upon the Southern amalgamation and preliminary absorptions, and the amalgamation of the North Eastern, Eastern and East Scottish group. In a brief editorial reference, we promised to return to the subject this week, when it was expected that certain outstanding questions would have been dealt with, and the preliminary amalgamation scheme of the North Western, Midland and West Scottish group confirmed by the Tribunal. The proceedings upon the latter scheme are reported elsewhere in this issue. The three schemes have certain features in common and may fittingly be considered together.

The North Eastern and the Southern amalgamations have now been approved in a final form, and with the concurrence of the Minister of Transport, the two new amalgamated companies will come into existence on January 1, 1923. The companies win be known as the London & North Eastern Railway Company, and the Southern Railway Company, respectively, and together they will represent a total capital, including the Southern absorptions, of nearly £500,000,000. No absorptions have yet taken place in the North Eastern group, although it is understood that negotiations are proceeding, while in the Southern group, the South Western has absorbed seven subsidiary companies, and the Brighton, one, the Hayling Company. The South Eastern will shortly submit to the Minister of Transport an absorption scheme comprising the three undertakings in its area, and this will leave only three subsidiary lines in the Southern group to be dealt with by the Tribunal. It is possible that absorption schemes in both groups to be considered next year will be ante-dated to come into operation from January 1, 1923.

Both Southern and North Eastern schemes were drafted, or have been amended, to conform in general outline, and the same framework has been adopted by the ‘North Western' scheme, although this is only a preliminary amalgamation. It is obviously desirable, on grounds of uniformity and convenience, that the four final schemes should be broadly similar in their main features. The new company formed in the ‘North Western' group consists of the London & North Western, Midland, Furness, Glasgow & South Western and the Highland Railways, and the title proposed is the London, Midland & Scottish Railway. The original capital of the company totals £335,297,385. The North Staffordshire and the Caledonian companies at present remain outside, although the former has agreed terms of amalgamation.

The Amalgamation Tribunal was not enamoured of the name of the new company and reserved its decision, but it has since been agreed to let the name stand as proposed. It is much to be hoped, however, in the interests of economy and simplicity, that these names win ultimately be as short and simple as possible: the Southern Company has set an example in this respect. In any case, the public will certainly shorten them in practice.

Before the preliminary amalgamation takes effect, four subsidiary companies are to be absorbed, one by the Midland, and three by the North Western, while others are now being negotiated. It seems probable that comparatively few will be left for settlement by the Tribunal.

Last, week, on the North Eastern and the Southern schemes, several matters were left in suspense. The Tribunal had agreed to state a case to the Court of Appeal in regard to the Reading annuities of the South Eastern Railway, but the parties have now agreed upon a settlement which will render appeal unnecessary. The Railway Clerks' Association asked the Court of Appeal to order the Tribunal to state a case upon the question of admission of new entrants to the existing superannuation funds now to be controlled by the two amalgamated companies, and the newly-formed company, in the North Western group, but failed to obtain a ruling in their favour. The schemes therefore stand unaltered in this respect. Various clauses in the North Eastern scheme, conferring powers upon the amalgamated company to issue bearer warrants, upon which the Tribunal reserved its decision during the hearing, have now been deleted from the scheme.

Thus, two of the four amalgamated companies to be brought into existence by the Railways Act have been formed, a third, the 'North Western' group is well advanced and the Great Western, which has not to constitute a new company, awaits only the completion of its absorptions before its final amalgamation scheme s settled. A third absorption scheme, comprising nine subsidiary companies, has now been submitted by the Great Western Company to the Minister of Transport, and it is probable that only two or three undertakings at most will be left for settlement by the Tribunal in this area. On the whole, considering the outlook at the commencement of the amalgamations, just twelve months ago, it, will probably be agreed that good progress has been made so far with the very difficult task imposed by the Railways Act on British railways.

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 [-] 'Sir William Forbes on railway grouping'
From The Railway Gazette, 2 February 1923, p. 177

At a dinner of stationmasters and agents, London Brighton & South Coast Railway, Sir William Forbes, General Manager, said he by no means regarded the occasion as a funeral feast. He did not believe that any grouping of the Southern systems could wipe out the traditions of the Brighton Railway. Notwithstanding all that the evangelists of standardisation and centralisation might do, the Brighton system would retain its distinctive characteristics. As to his personal connection with the new Southern Group, he realised that after half a century of strenuous work. in the railway world, he could not undertake the heavy responsibility in such a large combination; but he came of an old railway stock - his father was a manager at 32 years of age and his uncle, James Forbes, was one of the railway kings of the Victorian era - and he hoped to continue his association with the old Brighton line, the staff of which he regarded as a family party. Touching on this domestic side, he might confide to his friends that he believed the link would be cemented by his infant son, who, although only two years and ten months old, aspired to be an engine-driver. His greatest delight was to play with a beautiful working model of an engine on the Brighton Railway.

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Compiled by Dr Ralph Harrington, Institute of Railway Studies & Transport History, York.

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