Examine changes in the relationship between the British railway companies and the state between 1888 and 1939, and how they were influenced by the actions of the industry's decision-makers, public opinion, traders and politicians
Discuss briefly the states limited involvement in the activities of the British railway industry before 1888
Explore how, as a comparison, other European governments intervened much more readily in the planning, building and operating of their railway networks, and show how such intervention benefitted their countries socially and economically
Demonstrate how and why the UK government increasingly came to enquire, via the Board of Trade, into railway companies safety policies, and why it took action in 1888 to make block working, interlocking signals and points, and continuous brakes mandatory on all British railways
Examine how traders concerns regarding the rates railways charged for the conveyance of goods eventually led to government placing increased controls over this issue.
Show how the unified control of Britains railways during World War One demonstrated to those in government that, perhaps, the rationalisation of over a hundred companies may improve the industry s efficiency, which possibly would lead to a reduction in rates
Present the debates at the time in political circles and in public around what the railways role in society and the economy should be
Analyse the development of the 1921 Railways Act and how this changed the structure of the British railway industry
Demonstrate how long-standing pieces of legislation and the Act limited the railways capacity to set their rates as they wished, denied them the ability to refuse traffic and the restricted the services they could provide
Explain how these factors led to their profitability declining in the inter-war years because they were unable to combat road competition effectively.
Demonstrate how the railways responded managerially and technologically to their declining probability and the restrictions on their operating freedom.
Continue to instruct the students on the appropriate academic skills for essay writing, such as critical analysis, argument, referencing, and research
Demonstrate the complexity and diversity of events in the past, and the range of problems involved in the interpretation of complex, ambiguous, conflicting and often incomplete material
Encourage students to think independently and develop their own viewpoints on a debated subject of study.
Module learning outcomes
By the conclusion of the module the student should be able to:
Demonstrate how and why the relationship between the railway companies and government changed between 1888 and 1939
Show how government policy was progressively dictated by the demands, concerns and interests of the general public and traders, rather than those of the railway companies
Demonstrate how the railways activities were increasingly controlled by government, and how such control influenced their profitability
Engage with the debate on the role of railways within Britain as to whether should they serve the public or their shareholders
Demonstrate research skills by engaging with both primary and secondary source material
Select and organise appropriate information effectively so as to develop coherent opinions and arguments
Consider and solve problems, including complex problems to which there is no single solution
Write work that is sustained offering a measured, convincing and scholarly argument.
% of module mark
Special assessment rules
% of module mark
The tutor will give regular individual feedback throughout the module on work submitted.
The assessment feedback is as per the university’s guidelines with regard to timings.
Reading lists, and the availability of texts/journals electronically, are subject to change: please check with Lifelong Learning/teaching staff before making any purchases prior to the start of the module.
Aldcroft, Derek H. British Railways in Transition, (London, 1968) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Aldcroft, Derek H., British Transport Since 1914: An economic history, (Newton Abbott, 1975) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Alderman, Geoffrey, The Railway Interest, (Leicester, 1973)
Cain, P.J., Railways 1870-1914: The maturity of the private system, in Freeman, Michael J. and
Crompton, Gerald, “A very poor bag of physical assets: the railway compensation issue 1921-47”, Accounting, Business & Financial History, 6 (2006) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Parris, Henry, Railways and Government, (London, 1965) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Scott, Peter, “Path Dependence and Britain's “Coal Wagon Problem”, Explorations in Economic History 30, no.3 (2001). – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Scott, Peter, “British Railways and the Challenge from Road Haulage: 1919–39,” Twentieth Century British History, 13, 2 (2002). – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Crompton, Gerald, W., “Squeezing the Pulpless Orange: Labour and Capital on the Railways in the Inter-War Years”, Business History, 31 (1989) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Crompton, Gerald, “The railway companies and the nationalisation issue, 1920-50”, in Millward, Robert and Singleton, John, The Political Economy of Nationalisation in Britain, 1920-1950, (Cambridge, 2002) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Edwards, Roy, “Divisional Train Control and the Emergence of Dynamic Capabilities: The Experience of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, c1923-c1939”, Management and Organizational History, (2011) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY