Were British Railway Companies Well Managed in the Early Twentieth Century?

25 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2008

See all articles by Nicholas Crafts

Nicholas Crafts

University of Warwick; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Timothy Leunig

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economic History

Abay Mulatu

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economic History

Abstract

This paper examines major privately owned British railway companies before the First World War. Quantitative evidence is presented on return on capital employed (ROCE), total factor productivity (TFP) growth, cost inefficiency, and speed of passenger services. There were discrepancies in performance across companies but ROCE and TFP typically fell during our period. Cost inefficiency rose before 1900 but then was brought under control as a profits collapse loomed. Without the discipline of either strong competition or effective regulation, managerial failure was common. This sector is an important qualification to the conventional wisdom that late Victorian Britain did not fail.

Suggested Citation

Crafts, Nicholas and Leunig, Timothy and Mulatu, Abay, Were British Railway Companies Well Managed in the Early Twentieth Century?. Economic History Review, Vol. 61, Issue 4, pp. 842-866, November 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1276712 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0289.2008.00424.x

Nicholas Crafts (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Timothy Leunig

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economic History ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Abay Mulatu

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economic History ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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