British Railways in Transition: The Economic Problems of by Derek Howard Aldcroft

By Derek Howard Aldcroft

British railways

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Hence the railways were the main beneficiaries of the rising demand for transport facilities, and throughout the period x87o-xgx4 the traffic they carried expanded almost every year. Although it was in this period that diminishing returns began to set in, most companies still managed to earn a reasonable if not spectacular return on their capital, and the railways continued to be a fairly attractive outlet for investors' funds. Inter-war experience was quite different. Then the railways were struggling to attain their former prosperity, but in most years the net revenue they earned fell short, sometimes by a substantial margin, of the pre-war standard.

Kirkaldy and Evans, op. cit. p. 145). Cf. W. Acworth, The Elements of Railway Economics (I gos). DEVELOPMENT OF THE SYSTEM BEFORE 1914 23 (d) The Enterprise and Efficiency ofBritish Railways1 A full scale study of the operating efficiency of Britain's railways in the period up to 1914 still remains to be written. However it is possible to say a few words about this aspect from the fragmentary data available. It is known that, both in terms of profitability and labour productivity, British railways were experiencing diminishing returns throughout most of the period covered in this Chapter.

However during the period of hostilities the Government had probably underpaid the railways for their services by [17 million or more. See D. H. Aldcroft, 'The Decontrol of British Shipping and Railways after the First World War', Journal of Transport History, 5 (1961) p. 91 and footnote 28 for sources cited. BRITISH RAILWAYS IN WAR AND PEACE 33 investment. But it is possible to postulate, on the basis of a straight line depreciation method of assessment, that a certain amount of replacement investment will be needed each year in order to maintain the assets in working order in the long run.

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