1st Edition

From Rail to Road and Back Again? A Century of Transport Competition and Interdependency

Edited By Ralf Roth, Colin Divall Copyright 2015

    The coming of the railways signalled the transformation of European society, allowing the quick and cheap mass transportation of people and goods on a previously unimaginable scale. By the early decades of the twentieth century, however, the domination of rail transport was threatened by increased motorised road transport which would quickly surpass and eclipse the trains, only itself to be challenged in the twenty-first century by a renewal of interest in railways. Yet, as the studies in this volume make clear, to view the relationship between road and rail as a simple competition between two rival forms of transportation, is a mistake. Rail transport did not vanish in the twentieth century any more than road transport vanished in the nineteenth with the appearance of the railways. Instead a mutual interdependence has always existed, balancing the strengths and weaknesses of each system. It is that interdependence that forms the major theme of this collection. Divided into two main sections, the first part of the book offers a series of chapters examining how railway companies reacted to increasing competition from road transport, and exploring the degree to which railways depended on road transportation at different times and places. Part two focuses on road mobility, interpreting it as the innovative success story of the twentieth century. Taken together, these essays provide a fascinating reappraisal of the complex and shifting nature of European transportation over the last one hundred years.

    Introduction; I: Rails and Roads Between Competition and Interdependency; 1: Rails and Roads Between Competition and Interdependency; 2: Shaping British Freight Transport in the Interwar Period; 3: Conceiving Distribution in the United Kingdom; 4: Railway Containers in the United Kingdom and Europe during the 1920s and 1930s; 5: The Sea Container Revolution and Road-Rail Competition in Britain; 6: Trucking in Germany; 7: Road-Rail Competition in France in the 1930s:; 8: Containerisation in the United States During the Interwar Period; II: Mobility on Roads; 9: Creative Destruction? A Schumpeterian View of Innovation in Car Transportation; 10: Inventing the American Road; 11: The Development of the European Highway Network; 12: Motorways and the Modernisation of Britain's Road Network, 1937–70; 13: The Metamorphosis of Public Transport Services in the Paris Region; 14: Rails in the Car Kingdom; 15: The City and the Autobahn 1926–56


    Ralf Roth is Professor of Modern History at the Historisches Seminar, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt, Germany. Colin Divall is Professor of Railway Studies at the University of York.

    ’This set of essays should provoke much quiet contemplation of the rail-road issues of the 20th century.’ Railway and Canal History Society