1902 Encyclopedia > Railway, Railways (Railroad) > Length of Railways in United Kingdom. Cost Per Mile. Cost of Working Stock.

Railway, Railways
(Part 5)


Length of Railways in United Kingdom. Cost Per Mile. Cost of Working Stock.

The length of railways open for traffic at the end of the year 1854, twenty-five years after the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, was 8053 miles (of which nearly one-fourth was single line of way), costing about £35,500 per mile. In 1874 that mileage was doubled (16,449 miles, nearly one-half only single line), costing about £37,000 per mile. According to the latest published return the length of railways open for traffic at the end of 1883 amounted to 18,681 miles, and the proportion of single line had decreased, being under 46 per cent. Whilst the mileage open was increased at the rate of 420 miles a year during the earlier period (1854-74), it was only increased by 248 miles a year during the later period (1874-83). But many miles of way in multiple have been laid for the working of traffic concentrated on main line—127 miles of triple line and 285 of quadruple. The largest share of multiple way belongs to the London and North-Western Railway Company, which owns 28 miles of triple way and no less than 114 of quadruple. The principal section of this railway, 80 miles in length, between London and Rugby, is entirely in quadruple,—two lines for goods and two for passenger traffic. Table I. shows the distribution of the 18,681 miles of railway open at the end of 1883:—

Distribution of Railway in 1883 (image)

The railways here represented were owned by 281 companies (206 in England and Wales, 31 in Scotland, and 44 in Ireland). But the whole property is worked by 123 companies. [Footnote 226-1]

The longest mileage of railway worked by one company is that of the Great Western Railway, which at the end of 1883 was 2268 miles. Next to this ranks the London and North-Western (1793), then the North-Eastern (1381), the North-British (1006), and the Caledonian (877). The three longest mileages in Ireland owned each by one company are those of the Great Northern (503), the Great Southern and Western (478), and the Midland Great Western (425). The four largest English companies, taken together, work nearly 7000 miles of railway,—more than half of the whole length of railways in England and Wales. The two leading lines in Scotland, taken together, work nearly 1900, or two-thirds of the whole length of railways in Scotland. In Ireland the three leading lines, taken together, work 1400,—more than half of the whole length of railways in Ireland.

The capital raised for the construction of railways at the end of the year 1883 amounted to about £785,000,000, representing an expenditure of £42,000 per mile open. Some small portion of this cost belongs to lines in course of construction. The money has been raised in the following proportion:—

Money raised for railway investment (image)

In 1857 the ordinary stock was 57 per cent., as against 34.7 per cent. in 1883; and the guaranteed and preferential stock together were but one-third of the ordinary share capital, while in 1883 they equalled it. The English railway system, so far as capital is concerned, has become adjusted to the rule of having rather less than 40 per cent. of the capital in "open stock." In 1845-46 the dividends of railways appear to have reached a maximum. The precipitate influx of new lines during the four years from 1846 to 1850, contests before parliament, competition in various forms, and other causes then came in to depress dividends, and reduced the average proportion of net receipts in 1849 to 2.83 per cent. of the total capital and loans raised at that time. In 1857 the percentage of net receipts had risen again to 4.06 per cent. of the total capital and loans; and notwithstanding the accumulation of preference capital and loans, both taking precedence of ordinary capital, the available dividend on the latter increased from 1.88 per cent. to 3.6 per cent. Since that time the average dividend paid on ordinary capital has maintained its level at least, and it amounted for 1883 to 4.68 per cent. The average cost per mile open at the end of 1883, calculated on the amount of capital raised, with that for 1887 added for comparison, was as follows (Table II.):—

Average cost per mile of railway in 1883 (image)

The marked increase in capital expenditure per mile is due to permanent improvements, station accommodation, reconstruction, and multiplication of lines. Of the great cost of English railways, independently of the permanent improvements already noticed, part has been incurred in parliamentary warfare, while much of it is due to great and costly termini, and to the character of the earlier works of construction in England, where great expenditure was incurred for the sake of securing long levels and very easy gradients, until Joseph Locke made a new departure, and constructed the Grand Junction Railway on economic principles by following in great part the contour of the surface. For this line and the London and Birmingham line, for which Robert Stephenson was the engineer, Acts were passed in the same year (1883). The latter line was expensively laid out with tunnels, viaducts, and heavy cuttings and embankments, and cost in round numbers £53,600 per mile, as against £23,200 per mile for Locke’s line. The cheaper line abounded in inclines of from 1 in 85 to 1 in 265, whilst the more expensive line was ruled by gradients not steeper than 1 in 330. Locke reckoned upon the sufficiency of the engine-power to take the trains up the inclines, and the famous Crewe engine was the outgrowth of the situation. The London and South-Western Railway, which cost £26,800 per mile, was laid out by Locke to a ruling gradient of 1 in 250. There are other instances of economical construction by the same engineer in the original Caledonian and Scottish Central Railways—now amalgamated—the former of which was made with long gradients of 1 in 75, 1 in 80, 1 in 100, and other steep slopes. Besides these there are other cheaply made railways in Scotland; but there is only one Scottish railway of the monumental class,—the Edinburgh and Glasgow, nearly dead level, with enormously expensive works. On the Metropolitan Railway system, 22 miles in length, upwards of £11,000,000 have been paid up, or about £500,000 per mile. The enormous cost of this line, as well as of the Metropolitan District system (18 miles long, costing £74,000 per mile) and the North London system (12 miles long, costing £325,000 per mile), is sufficiently explained by the place and conditions. The original London and Blackwall Railway, built, like the North London, for the most part on arches, cost £311,912 per mile. The original Birkenhead, Cheshire, and Lancashire Junction Railway, now vested in the neighbouring railway companies, cost upwards of £75,000 per mile, owing partly to the protracted contests in which it had been involved with the neighbouring railways, and partly to the costly works of construction joining the railway to the docks at Birkenhead. Of railways in England, the original Carlisle and Silloth Railway, 13 miles long, has the honour of standing at the foot of the list, having cost £6474 per mile. Of the Scottish lines the Caledonian system stands at the head of the list, costing £45,500 per mile. The North British system cost £33,000 per mile. At the foot of the list stood the original East of Fife line, 7 miles long, with a cost of £4351 per mile. But the cheapest lines of considerable length are the Forth and Clyde line, costing £5525 per mile, and the Peebles line, costing £5545 per mile. Both these lines have been taken into the North British system. In Ireland the Dublin and Kingstown Railway, 8 miles long, a suburban railway, cost £53,000 per mile. The original Limerick and Foynes line, costing £5282 per mile, is probably the cheapest piece of railway in the United Kingdom.

The proportions of expenditure on capital account cannot in the absence of data be exactly determined. The following may be accepted as an approximate analysis of the average cost of the railways, as it stood in 1871:—

Average cost of railway in 1871 (image)

From this estimate it would appear that the net cost of construction and equipment was £21,000 per mile, or about 58 per cent. of the entire cost. The capital cost of the working stock is given by the London and North-Western Railway Company. Excluding a considerable number of engines and carrying stock which had been constructed as duplicate stock—charged to revenue, no doubt—at 31st December 1884 the quantities and costs were as follows:—

Cost of working stock (1) (image)

It is to be explained with reference to these low rates of cost that the original cost of the early working stock stands unaltered in the books of the company, whilst the whole of the original working stock has been replaced at the charge of revenue by engines and vehicles of modern design and larger capacity. Divided by the number of miles (1793) open at 31st December 1884, the total charge for working stock is at the rate of £4680 per mile open. For new working stock manufactured by the same company during the eighteen months ending 31st December 1884 the following average sums were charged to capital:—

Cost of working stock (2) (image)


226-1 It would appear that less progress has been made in Ireland than in Great Britain in amalgamation and concentration of management.

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