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

By Nicholas Crafts, Tim Leunig and Abay Mulatu


This is a revised version of a previous working paper, of the same name, which incorporates corrections to errors in our estimates of TFP growth. This paper examines major privately-owned British railway companies before World War I. Quantitative evidence is presented on return on capital employed, total factor productivity 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

Topics: HC Economic History and Conditions, HE Transportation and Communications, D204 Modern History, DA Great Britain
Publisher: Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online

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