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How Successfully Can Large Scale Public Service Providers Innovate? Case Studies from The London Passenger Transport Board

Wednesday 5 October 2016, 12.00PM to 1.00pm

Speaker(s): James Fowler, The York Management School


The LPTB was created in 1933 as an 'arms length' central government body delivering suburban transport within London and the outer metropolitan area in period of rapid technological and societal change. Though partially sheltered from market forces by its scale and government financial support, it nevertheless had a statutory as well as a market driven imperative to respond to the dynamic of an altering market. Despite the constraints of finance, regulation and wartime during its 15 year existence, the LPTB experimented with a variety of technological innovations which can be critically compared and contrasted. The most successful of these projects was arguably the tram to trolleybus conversion scheme, though most projects were inhibited by path dependency. However, in terms of service innovations and labour relations the Board was far more cautious. In summary, the experience of the LPTB 1933-48 offers a subtly graded variety of evidence to the contention that large scale public service utilities display institutional inertia, suggesting that the Board's approach to infrastructural investment and re-equipment was dynamic, but their approach to human resources was not.


James Fowler is part time PhD Student at the York Management School. He teaches War Studies, International Relations and Command, Leadership and Management modules full time to the Armed Forces. His thesis concerns the evolution of London Transport between 1905-48 from a mass of private sector companies into a single nationalised industry. These developments are critically examined through the lens of the ongoing tension between the ideals of public service administration and the realities of politics

Location: LMB/102b