Quicker communications

The dawn of the railways marked a new age of quicker, cheaper communications. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway had established the idea that mail could be carried by train, and other railways quickly followed suit.

Trains and mail

Parliament soon became involved, passing legislation which required the railways to carry mail, as directed by the Postmaster General. Railway companies were even compelled to provide carriages exclusively for carrying mail and sorting letters while in transit: all the railways could negotiate was a fair price for the arrangement.

By 1842, 1,400 miles of railway, operated by 40 different companies, were carrying mail. Later, use of the rail network for mail was encouraged at night, relieving congestion in the day and making better use of the railway's assets.

Trains and telegraphs

The railways also worked closely with early communications by telegraph, a method of communicating by wire which predated the telephone.

The London and Birmingham Railway first accepted telegraph wires beside its line between Euston and Camden Town in 1837. The Great Western Railway followed in 1839 with an experimental line between Paddington and Hanwell.

By the 1850s three large telegraphs were competing with each other. Parliament considered this wasteful and in 1868 a Bill, which empowered the Post Office to acquire the private companies and establish the first nationalised industry, passed into law.

Related information

Current parliamentary business on the topics of telecommunications and postal services