Fire and steam

One of the earliest railway Acts was passed in 1801 for the horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway between Wandsworth and Croydon. The number gradually increased, including pioneering lines such as the Stockton and Darlington in 1821 and the Liverpool and Manchester in 1826 which were to use steam locomotives.

Railway mania

The large profits generated by these early lines led to the "railway mania" of 1844-6. So many parliamentary committees were required to examine railway Bills that temporary wooden rooms had to be constructed outside Westminster to house them.

In 1846, more than 700 railway Bills were introduced, many sought by private individuals and companies, and 8,590 miles of railway were authorised in 1845-7.

The mania was followed by a slump, and then gradual recovery until a second railway boom in 1864-7. By 1910 Great Britain had 20,000 miles of railway.

Underground

Parliament also authorised in 1853-54 the first underground line in London, now the Metropolitan Line between Paddington and Farringdon, after lobbying from Charles Pearson, later to become City Solicitor, and John Hargrave Stevens, an architect and surveyor.

In 1864, faced with 259 proposals for underground lines in and around London, the two Houses of Parliament appointed a joint committee, which advised against many of them and recommended the creation of what became the Circle Line.

Related information

Find out more about Private Bills and Acts

Did you know?

In 1846 Parliament considered more than 700 railway Bills