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The commercial and technical evolution of the ferry industry 1948-1987

The commercial and technical evolution of the ferry industry 1948-1987

Moses, William (2010) The commercial and technical evolution of the ferry industry 1948-1987. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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The thesis sets out the political, economic and social forces and the parallel institutional and technical factors that shaped the development of the ferry sector between 1948 and 1987. It provides as full an account as the available record permits of an important shipping industry sector that previously has received little serious historical consideration.

Most of the ferry industry, dominated by its railway industry parent and ravaged by war losses, came into public ownership in 1948 as a consequence of railway nationalisation followed by a decade of under-investment. The period ended with a loss of supremacy for the railway-owned shipping sector, privatisation, increased
competition, the 1987 Herald of Free Enterprise disaster – in no small part exacerbated by the drive through vehicle deck which had done so much to facilitate the ease of passenger car and freight movement - and the certainty of the Channel Tunnel, which spelt the end of sea transport primacy on its most important routes. The era saw ferries transformed in terms of design and capability from being largely tied to rail-connected passenger traffic, there came the innovation of roll-on, roll-off and the hovercraft, with ports undergoing change scarcely less extensive.

The thesis examines the basic structural changes that affected the industry, specifically the process that resulted in the establishment of privately-owned firms in
situ, the bureaucratic problems that beset British Railways and which hampered its formulation of a coherent response to the varied challenges it faced in the Fifties and Sixties. It shows how the growth in private motor car ownership proved a catalyst for change in a conservative industry and explores the way in which the introduction of newcomers and the hovercraft drove the development of competition, transforming the ferry business but ultimately leading to the government decision to construct a fixed link between the United Kingdom and France.

The thesis concludes that the drive and entrepreneurial flair of three private ferry operators, Townsend, Bustard and Thoresen, was largely responsible for the transformation of the industry and argues that the new and growing market created by motor transport would not have been exploited at such a rate or with the same degree of forethought and innovation without their involvement.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: ferry industry, innovation
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Pre-2014 Departments: Greenwich Maritime Institute
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2017 09:32

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