Talk:Construction of the Severn Valley Railway

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What was the final construction cost of the Severn Valley Railway?

This note summarises information from "The Severn Valley Railway" by John Marshall (1989). Copyright of the original author and publisher is acknowledged. A limited amount of text shown in italics is reproduced here verbatim for the purposes of critical review and commentary only and should not be quoted directly for other purposes.

By February 1858 Peto, Brassey and Betts had prepared three quotations for the construction costs (in addition to the cost of the land). The costings, which included £22,500 for stations, were:

  • £469,740 for a double track railway
  • £389,690 to build all works for double track but with a single line of rails
  • £363,690 to build tunnels, some bridges and two-thirds of the line for single track, with viaducts and bridges over streams built for single track but with double track foundations.

Marshall writes:

On 20 February 1858 the directors decided on the third choice and the tender was accepted, subject to the sanction of the shareholders, for completion of a single line and stations by the end of 1859. At the shareholders' meeting on 26 February, chaired by Col Forester, the secretary, Mr C. Reed, reported that the subscribed capital of the company had been reduced to £480,000 and borrowing power to £160,000, a total of £640,000. The subscribed capital was held by residents on the line, by shareholders in lines joining the SVRSevern Valley Railway, and by the general public. The board has ascertained that the cost of land, parliamentary matters, engineering and office expenses would be covered by £70,000. The tender of the contractors assumed that they would accept payment to the extent of £240,000 in shares at par. Borrowing powers of the company would raise £160,000 leaving the general body of shareholders to pay only £13,000, making a total of £530,000, or £13,000 a mile."

The £640k would presumably cover costs already incurred to that point plus future costs to begin operations including as locomotives and rolling stock, therefore the construction cost would be less than that. However it is not clear how Marshall arrives at £530k; £70k for land etc. plus £363k for the contractors' third option is only £433k.

On 10 March the board accepted the tender of Fuller & Whithall, £2,150, for negotiating purchase of land at £86,000 plus £14,000 to Mr Whitmore. FowlerHenry Fowler, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Midland Railway 1909-1923, and of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway 1923-1933 attended the meeting on 21 April and proposed to accept £16,000 for all past and future services until the completion of the main line. This was accepted. The contract for the works was sealed on 26 May. The bill for extension of time passed through Parliament without amendment. The Act, on 23 July 1858 c 135, extended the period for completion to 23 July 1861. ... All was now set for going ahead with construction of the SVRSevern Valley Railway. It was to be single track but it was agreed to pay an extra £26,000 for which the contractors would build earthworks.

The Board's £70k estimate for land etc. as reported to shareholders therefore appears to have rapidly become an actual cost of at least £102,150, plus a further £16,00 for John FowlerHenry Fowler, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Midland Railway 1909-1923, and of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway 1923-1933. The extra £20k agreed later brought the estimated cost for the Contractors up to £389k, their second option.

In accordance with the contract, payment was made to the contractors for the full amount of work completed each month. A total of thirty five payments were made, amounting to a total of £325,398 9s 7d. Of this £240,000 was in the form of shares in the SVRSevern Valley Railway Co and the remainder was in cash. Payments were as follows:
Payments to Peto, Brassey & Betts by John FowlerHenry Fowler, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Midland Railway 1909-1923, and of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway 1923-1933 for construction of the SVRSevern Valley Railway
(Table of payments)

Although Marshall states the total payment was £325,398, the 35 payments listed in the table which follows, together with the final certificate balance, total £424,898 9s 7d. The reason for the difference (£99,500) is not clear unless it was a typo. However given that the original quotation was £389k and that there were considerable difficulties and delays in construction, the costs would be expected to increase rather than fall and therefore figure of £425k derived from the table would look more likely. Together with the £102k of land etc. and £16k for John FowlerHenry Fowler, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Midland Railway 1909-1923, and of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway 1923-1933, that would put the total cost at around £543k. --Robin (talk) 17:07, 10 February 2021 (UTC)

Additional information

Services began on 1 February 1862. Marshall also notes "At the half-yearly meeting on 15 March (1862) it was stated that the total receipts of the company amounted to £523,366 and the total expenditure £521,098 leaving a balance of £2,298." It doesn't say at what date those figures were calculated in order to be reported at the meeting, but it could well have been 31 December 1861, at which point 34 payments had been made to the Contractors. The 35th payment and the final certificate payment totalling £35,198 were made some months later, which would increase the total from £521k to £556k. Those 'total expenditure' figures presumably include sundry company start up and operating costs as well as construction costs, which I think adds weight to the actual construction cost being in the £540k to £550k range.--Robin (talk) 15:25, 11 February 2021 (UTC)

Contemporary newspaper report

From the Early history of the SVR on the British Newspaper Archive thread on SVRSevern Valley Railway-Online Forum.

A contemporary newspaper report in the Salopian Journal on the opening of the railway included a paragraph As originally laid out, the cost of the line with its branches was estimated at £600,000; but owing to the very heavy landslips which have taken place the original estimate has doubtless been greatly exceeded, especially when it was considered that chiefly in consequence of these slips the opening has had to be postponed from the 1st of May, 1861, to the present time. The original £600,000 estimate from 1853 had of course been reduced to £480,000 in 1855 by abandoning the proposing Horsehay and Madeley branches and making various changes to the route. There was thus no reason for the Salopian Journal to think that the cost would have exceeded the original estimate of £600,000, but present day newspapers have no monopoly on sloppy journalism it seems. --Robin (talk) 16:09, 11 February 2021 (UTC)