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Time is money: a re-assessment of the passenger social savings from Victorian British railways

  • Tim Leunig

This paper reassesses and extends Hawke’s passenger railway social savings for England and Wales. Better estimates of coach costs and evidence that third class passengers would otherwise have walked reduce Hawke’s social savings by two-thirds. We calculate railway speeds, and the amount and value of time saved by railways. Initially small, time savings was three times fare savings by 1912, when total railway passenger social savings exceeded 13% of GDP. The transition from railways saving money to saving time came when railway technology stopped simply fulfilling existing demand more cheaply (travel for the affluent) and became a new good (travel for the masses).

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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 22551.

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Length: 63 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22551
Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7955 7084
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  1. Nicholas Crafts, 2005. "Regional Gdp In Britain, 1871-1911: Some Estimates," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 52(1), pages 54-64, 02.
  2. William D. Nordhaus, 2004. "Schumpeterian Profits in the American Economy: Theory and Measurement," NBER Working Papers 10433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Crafts, Nicholas & Mulatu, Abay, 2004. "What Explains the Location of Industry in Britain, 1871-1931," CEPR Discussion Papers 4356, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Fogel, Robert William, 1979. "Notes on the Social Saving Controversy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(01), pages 1-54, March.
  5. Baker, William J., 1971. "Railways and Economic Growth in England and Wales 1840-1870. By G. R. Hawke. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970. Pp. xiv, 421. $19.25," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(03), pages 718-719, September.
  6. Bogart, Dan, 2005. "Turnpike trusts and the transportation revolution in 18th century England," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 479-508, October.
  7. Summerhill, William R., 2005. "Big Social Savings in a Small Laggard Economy: Railroad-Led Growth in Brazil," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(01), pages 72-102, March.
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