Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Railways Act 1921
The Railways Act of 1921, the so-called Grouping Act was enacted by the Government to stem the losses being made by a large section of the one hundred and twenty railway companies, move the railways away from internal competition, and retain some of the benefits which the country had derived from a government-controlled railway during the Great War (1914-1918).
The British railway system had been built up by more than one hundred railway companies, large and small, and often, particularly locally, in competition with each other. The parallel railways of the East Midlands, and the “war” between the South Eastern Railway and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway at Hastings were particular examples of the wastage caused by such local competition.
During the Great War (1914-1918) the railways had been under state control, which continued until 1921. Complete nationalisation had been considered, and this 1921 Act is sometimes considered as a precursor to that, but was rejected: nationalisation was subsequently carried out after World War II under the Transport Act 1947.
After consideration of the “Railways Bill” (the precursor to the Act) it was decided that the Scottish companies (originally destined to be a separate group) were to be included with the Midland/North Western and Eastern groups respectively, in order that the three main Anglo-Scottish trunk routes should each be owned by one company for its full length: the West Coast Main Line and the Midland Main Line by the former group; and the East Coast Main Line by the latter.
The opening paragraph of the Railways Act, 1921 states:
- With a view to the reorganization and more efficient and economical working of the railway system of Great Britain railways shall be formed into groups in accordance with the provisions of this Act, and the principal railway companies in each group shall be amalgamated, and other companies absorbed in manner provided by this Act."
The Act was to take effect from 1st January 1923. By that date most of the mergers had taken place: some from the previous year. The Railway Magazine in its issue of February 1923, dubbed the new companies as “The Big Four” of the New Railway Era".
The Big Four were:
- London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS)
- Great Western Railway (GWR)
- London and North Eastern Railway (LNER)
- Southern Railway (SR)
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