- Underground Electric Railways Company
The Underground Electric Railways Company of London Limited (UERL) was the
holding companyfor three of the new deep-level "tube" underground railwaylines constructed in Londonin the first decade of the 20th century. It was established in 1902 by American financier Charles Yerkeswho had been profitably involved in the development of the public transportsystem of Chicago.
The first such deep-level railway, the
City & South London Railway(C&SLR) had opened in 1890 and its success had resulted in a spate of proposals to Parliament for other deep-level routes under the capital. However, by 1901 few of these railway companies had actually made a start on construction due to financing problems. In 1901 and 1902, Yerkes purchased the struggling Metropolitan District Railway (MDR) - now the District Line- and four of these embryonic companies and proceeded quickly to begin construction work.
The three lines built were:
*Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway (CCE&HR), now part of the
*Baker Street & Waterloo Railway (BS&WR), now part of the
*Great Northern, Piccadilly & Brompton Railway (GNP&BR), now part of the
Piccadilly Line, formed from the:
**Great Northern & Strand Railway (GN&SR)
**Brompton & Piccadilly Circus Railway (B&PCR)
**Part of a deep-level line planned by the MDR but not built
The BS&WR and GNP&BR both opened in 1906 and the CCE&HR opened in 1907. Informally, the UER lines became known as the "Yerkes tube".
Although the four railway lines were in common ownership under the UERL and shared directors, technology and, in the case of the three new lines, architectural style; they were not initially one company. Lower than expected passenger numbers for the new tube lines led to lower revenues and made it difficult for the operators to pay back the capital borrowed for their construction and to pay dividends to shareholders.Wolmar 2004, p. 171] Badsey-Eliis 2005, pp. 282-283] In an effort to improve their collective situations, the UERL, the C&SLR, the Central London Railway (CLR) and the Great Northern & City Railway began, from 1907, to introduce fare agreements. From 1908, they began to present themselves through common branding as the "Underground". Also from 1907, a number of fare agreements were established with bus operators to develop coordinated services.
In 1909, the UERL announced a parliamentary bill for the formal merger of the BS&WR, the CCE&HR and the GNP&BR into a single company, the London Electric Railway Company (LER).LondonGazette
accessdate=2007-11-03] This bill received
Royal Assentand was enacted on 26 July 1910as the "London Electric Railway Amalgamation Act, 1910". LondonGazette
accessdate=2007-11-03] The MDR was not merged with the tube lines and remained a separate company. On
1 January 1913, the LER purchased the C&SLR and the CLR, thereby bringing all but three of London's underground lines at that time into common ownership under the Underground Group brand.Wolmar 2004, p. 205]
Road passenger services
1 January 1912, The LER purchased the London General Omnibus Company(LGOC), the capital's largest bus operator. The large profits generated by the LGOC were used to cross subsidise the weaker returns of the underground railway companies.Wolmar 2004, p. 204]
Following its purchase of the LGOC, the Group held the dominant position in road passenger services. It consolidated this further by additional acquisitions. In 1913, the
London and Suburban Traction Company(LSTC), jointly owned by LER and British Electric Tractiontook over the London United Tramwaysand Metropolitan Electric Tramwayscompanies. Six months later LSTC acquired the other privately operated tram company in London, South Metropolitan Electric Tramways.
Move to public ownership
In the years after
World War I, the management of the various rail companies in the group was consolidated and integrated further. The lines were extended outwards from the centre of the city - the BS&WR north to Watfordthe CLR west to Ealing, the CCE&HR north to Edgwareand the C&SLR south to Morden. New rolling stock was introduced with greater capacity and busy stations were rebuit with escalators to replace lifts. Despite this, the UERL's railway companies still struggled to make profits.
During the early years of the 1920s, the Group's bus and tram operations started to suffer from competition from small unregulated bus operations poaching their passengers and the general financial strength of the organisation came under pressure.
In an effort to protect the Group's income, its Managing Director/Chairman, Lord Ashfield, lobbied the government for regulation of transport services in the London area. During the 1920s, a series of legislative initiatives were made in this direction, with Ashfield and Labour
London County Councillor (later MP) Herbert Morrison, at the forefront of debates as to the level of regulation and public control under which transport services should be brought. Ashfield aimed for regulation that would give the existing Group protection from competition and allow it to take substantive control of the LCC's tramsystem; Morrison preferred full public ownership.Wolmar 2004, pp. 259-262] Eventually, after several years of false starts, a bill was announced at the end of 1930 for the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board, a public corporation which would take control of the Underground Group, the Metropolitan Railway as well as all buses and trams within an area designated as the London Transport Passenger Area.LondonGazette
accessdate=2007-09-20] The Board was a compromise - public ownership but not full nationalisation - and came into existence on
1 July 1933. From this date, the LER and the other companies in the group were liquidated.Wolmar 2004, p. 266]
Equipment and rolling stock
The MDR had begun
electrificationworks in 1900 to replace steam locomotiveoperation and the electrical equipment used on the tube lines was on the same general principle as that already adopted for the MDR: third and fourth rail. Eventually, the system would become standard for the whole of the London Underground.
Like its chief director, the engineer-in-chief and general manager of the company was an American,
James Russell Chapman, and much of the equipment used on the lines was imported from the United States. Specially-designed passenger rolling stock was required and because of the original American influence, these have been termed "cars" on the London Underground rather the more usual British term "carriages".
Lifts were supplied by the
Otis Elevator Companyof New York. The first railway escalatorcame into use on 4 October 1911at Earl's Court between the Piccadilly and District Lines.
The lines shared a
power stationat Lots Road in Chelsea, which later served the London Underground as a whole until the beginning of the 21st century, when its increasingly obsolete equipment lead to its closure.
Leslie Green- Architectof stations on the Underground Electric Railways Company's lines
title=London's Lost Tube Schemes
author = Wolmar, Christian
title = The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How It Changed the City Forever
publisher = Atlantic Books
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