Were British railway companies well managed in the early twentieth century?

Nocholas Crafts, Timothy Leunig, Abay Mulatu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)842-866
Number of pages25
JournalEconomic History Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics


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