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Victorian Britain - Infrastructure


Roj47

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The recent flooding in Southern England has again raised the issue of how the Victorian drainage systems are insufficient for what is experienced today.

Rail networks are struggling with current demand and wear and tear. This again will only deteriorate.

Should you love in the UK, chances are you have at least seen a programme called “What the Victorians Did For Us” and all their marvellous achievements that we still use and live with today.

It appears that we should expect better service, facilities and so on as technology etc…. has progressed significantly since Victoria was Queen.

For me, one very large problem is the implementation of health and safety as well as the minimum wage. I am not disagreeing with their implementation as both are certainly required for a modern culture, but it does raise a problem.

Victorian Britain was able to acquire a large workforce of unskilled labour at relatively cheap rates. Hours long and pay rate poor, whilst nit having to factor in prices of health and safety, management as we see today. The list could easily be extended.

I guess I have two questions.

1. Is it possible for England (or other developed countries) to upgrade their infrastructure/ services to a quality on par for our needs as the Victorians had in their time?

2. Is there a future for England’s (or other developed countries) infrastructure or are things only set to deteriorate further?

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They tell us to save water but only about 30% reaches the taps due to leaks in the old pipes. If they started tomorrow it would take 10 years to fix the current waiting list for road repairs. The Manchester-Liverpool train arrived quicker in 1870 and so on. Lets have chain gangs and the unemployed working on these things as soon as possible please, we are paying their room and board anyway so we might as well have them doing something for it.

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They tell us to save water but only about 30% reaches the taps due to leaks in the old pipes. If they started tomorrow it would take 10 years to fix the current waiting list for road repairs. The Manchester-Liverpool train arrived quicker in 1870 and so on. Lets have chain gangs and the unemployed working on these things as soon as possible please, we are paying their room and board anyway so we might as well have them doing something for it.

I totally agree withyou, but the money has to come from somewhere for these people (and convicts if used). Punishment be means of working would not suffice as Human Rights would be called.

Minimum wage at £5.35/ hr Britain

Week's work of 38 hours

Cost prior to NI etc... for one person £203.30/ wk or on a 48 week year £9,800.00

Average wage £30,000. That means minimum wage is 33% of the national average.

I doubt I am able to apply the same logic to Victorian pay, but I can almost guarantee it would be a lot less than 33%.

Could the British economy sustain the cost to do the work?

Is there the workforce?

What would happen to work brought in to do the job once the work ends?

I am sad to believe that I can not see things improve for Britain. China starting from scratch are in a better position long term than Britain IMO.

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I totally agree withyou, but the money has to come from somewhere for these people (and convicts if used). Punishment be means of working would not suffice as Human Rights would be called.

Minimum wage at £5.35/ hr Britain

Week's work of 38 hours

Cost prior to NI etc... for one person £203.30/ wk or on a 48 week year £9,800.00

Average wage £30,000. That means minimum wage is 33% of the national average.

I doubt I am able to apply the same logic to Victorian pay, but I can almost guarantee it would be a lot less than 33%.

Could the British economy sustain the cost to do the work?

Is there the workforce?

What would happen to work brought in to do the job once the work ends?

I am sad to believe that I can not see things improve for Britain. China starting from scratch are in a better position long term than Britain IMO.

I am not saying pay the workforce on the infrastructure repairs any more than what they currently receive. The 90,000 in jails and god knows how many in youth detention centres cost more than the average weekly salary to keep anyway, they should be paying us for bed and board ie made to work AFTER release to pay back their costs if they cannot afford it. The 4 million reliant on benefits are given more than the equivalent of the minimum wage anyway dependent upon their circumstances ( kids, rent paid, council tax paid etc) the additional costs will be mainly materials, keep it in house and it will be good for our dying manufaturing industry and create new, real jobs. If these people are found able to work they have the choice of not being involved in repairing the infrastructure by getting off their arses and getting a 'real' job. Actually prisoners are already being used on the railways but strangely they are being paid real wages on top of their expensive stay at Her Majesty's Pleasure, a "chain gang" was working on the high speed stretch in Cumbria, where the Virgin train derailed a few months back, prior to their release.

It is always better and more cost effective to start from a green field but thats not really an option in the UK, however we have the advantage of having some infreastucture in place that can be repaired/replaced while maintaining the economy ie the country still works while this is being done. Anyway lets apply to the EU for grants, they are handing money like its gone out of fashion to the new members, surely a net contributor like the UK is due money to bring its infrastructure into the 21st century and if they refuse hold back contributions and spend it on ourselves , let the french farmers sell what they produce on the world market for a change.

It seems the government will only be happy when the underdeveloped world overtakes us, as you say its easier for them to make great progress than it is for us, lets fix what needs fixing at home before worrying about abroad, old people are dying on dirty hospital trollies. Hopefully Brown will not play "world statesman" and sugardaddy like Blair did and worry about those who are footing the bill first. Maybe a few less nuclear submarines, eurofighters, aircraft carriers and foreign wars would allow funds for more rolling stock so your average commuter does not have to travel to work in conditions deemed illegal for animal transportation.

Edited by Moon Monkey
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They tell us to save water but only about 30% reaches the taps due to leaks in the old pipes. If they started tomorrow it would take 10 years to fix the current waiting list for road repairs. The Manchester-Liverpool train arrived quicker in 1870 and so on. Lets have chain gangs and the unemployed working on these things as soon as possible please, we are paying their room and board anyway so we might as well have them doing something for it.

The biggest problem there is that Thames Water was privatized to a (German) company that seemingly cares little about upkeep.

The problem with the rail is that it was privatized to companies who care little or none for the upkeep of the net.

And, well your last proposal, you mean you should privatize the gains while socializing the losses? Great system, If that happens I'll move my business to Britain.

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The biggest problem there is that Thames Water was privatized to a (German) company that seemingly cares little about upkeep.

Not anymore. It's now the Kemble consortium, led by Australia's Macquarie Bank, that owns Thames Water...and cares little about the upkeep. The revenge of the convicts? Maybe it's climate change? Look at the floods in China the past week.

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Not anymore. It's now the Kemble consortium, led by Australia's Macquarie Bank, that owns Thames Water...and cares little about the upkeep. The revenge of the convicts? Maybe it's climate change? Look at the floods in China the past week.

Looks like the Germans already privatized their gains.

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Hmm.... I think the infrastructure (certainly as far as water is concerned) IS being improved, and indeed this work has been going on for a long time. The problem is, you only ever hear about failures in the mainstream media. When was the last time you saw a news story about a piece of sewer being upgraded, or a new pumping station commissioned ? So we all end up with the impression that the system is on the verge of collapse, and no renovation/upgrade work has been carried out ANYWHERE since year dot.

I read an article in the local newspaper last week about a cluster of villages in Leicestershire that had NOT been flooded in the recent rains, despite suffering badly from flooding in previous years. Apparantly a newly-built dam had resolved the problem. ( I wish I could remember the name of the dam or villages)

Meow Purr.

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And, well your last proposal, you mean you should privatize the gains while socializing the losses? Great system, If that happens I'll move my business to Britain.

It simply means layabouts and scroungers having to do something for their handouts, I cannot see the reasoning against, of course they can have time off to attend job interviews and the first half hour of every morning, when they meet at the local job centre, can be spent searching for real jobs, it doesn't take as long as that. Don't turn up, don't get your handout for that day I actually envisage savings as many of these layabouts cannot be bothered climbing out of their pits before lunch time so would lose that days handout. The infrastructure is either left to rack and ruin or heavily subsidised already so the gain to the country would be massive for little extra costs, if some private companies benefit so be it but they would have no excuses when franchise/contract renewal time comes around. The county councils employ a lot of people paid through council tax, these "professionals" can supervise while the new workforce cuts grass, tidys old peoples gardens , painting, cleaning and picks up litter. We could even have our garbage collected every week, imagine that.

Edited by Moon Monkey
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I guess I have two questions.

1. Is it possible for England (or other developed countries) to upgrade their infrastructure/ services to a quality on par for our needs as the Victorians had in their time?

2. Is there a future for England’s (or other developed countries) infrastructure or are things only set to deteriorate further?

Your point 2 seems an odd question as we need working infrastructure in order to do everything else so it'll always be repaired and upgraded, not just break down and leave us screwed.

As for your first point, the Victorians did not have the infrastructure in the first place so they were able to build it from scratch. Given we already have that infrastructure that we need to fix, it's not an equal comparison. We would never be able to return to the Victorian labour levels in modern day for the Health and Safety reasons you mentioned (and quite rightly - huge amounts of people were badly injured / killed in Victorian times), but usually we do have the technology not to need to as much (for example giant tunnelling machines instead of hundred of men with shovels).

Not that every bit of Victorian civil engineering needs replacing of course, a lot is still working fine (all hail the mighty Bazalgette and Brunel :D )

The Manchester-Liverpool train arrived quicker in 1870 and so on.

That's not true since they did upgrade the tracks well enough to get the trains tilting and travelling at top speed.

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That's not true since they did upgrade the tracks well enough to get the trains tilting and travelling at top speed.

Hahahaaha...on the Manchester-Liverpool line ? Hahaahaha...sorry, you obviously never rode it...hahaha...tilting trains....hahahaah... :D

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Hahahaaha...on the Manchester-Liverpool line ? Hahaahaha...sorry, you obviously never rode it...hahaha...tilting trains....hahahaah... :D

Don't be nasty Moon Monkey... we DO have 'tilting trains', although the train operating companies tend to refer to them as 'derailments' :P

Meow Purr.

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It simply means layabouts and scroungers having to do something for their handouts, I cannot see the reasoning against, of course they can have time off to attend job interviews and the first half hour of every morning, when they meet at the local job centre, can be spent searching for real jobs, it doesn't take as long as that. Don't turn up, don't get your handout for that day I actually envisage savings as many of these layabouts cannot be bothered climbing out of their pits before lunch time so would lose that days handout. The infrastructure is either left to rack and ruin or heavily subsidised already so the gain to the country would be massive for little extra costs, if some private companies benefit so be it but they would have no excuses when franchise/contract renewal time comes around. The county councils employ a lot of people paid through council tax, these "professionals" can supervise while the new workforce cuts grass, tidys old peoples gardens , painting, cleaning and picks up litter. We could even have our garbage collected every week, imagine that.

Has been tried, most famously in Germany where they created something called the 1 Euro job. People on long-term unemployment and on social aid could be drafted to do community work and would get 1 Euro per hour of work additionally to their benefits.

The result was a very mixed bag, while most of the people drafted were very happy to have a purpose in life, the communes decided to source out more and more tasks to these 1 Euro jobbers, creating more unemployed who lost their jobs to the "cheaper" competitors.

End result, less tax revenue, more expenses.

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Has been tried, most famously in Germany where they created something called the 1 Euro job. People on long-term unemployment and on social aid could be drafted to do community work and would get 1 Euro per hour of work additionally to their benefits.

The result was a very mixed bag, while most of the people drafted were very happy to have a purpose in life, the communes decided to source out more and more tasks to these 1 Euro jobbers, creating more unemployed who lost their jobs to the "cheaper" competitors.

End result, less tax revenue, more expenses.

But why give them anything extra, if these people could be bothered working off their own backs to get more than a basic living allowance handout then they would get a real job, which would mean employers would not have to employ foreigners in jobs uneducated english people used to do but now cannot be bothered doing, which would mean less money leaving the UK and less handouts.... a double winner for the economy.

Edited by Moon Monkey
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Hmm.... I think the infrastructure (certainly as far as water is concerned) IS being improved, and indeed this work has been going on for a long time. The problem is, you only ever hear about failures in the mainstream media. When was the last time you saw a news story about a piece of sewer being upgraded, or a new pumping station commissioned ?

Meow Purr.

Fair point, and one I have used myself on other posts :blush: I travel from Middlesbrough-Newcastle, Middlesbrough-York each week, and over the last few years the only workings I have seen are strengthening Bridges. Roads are really in need of repair, especially the A1 to the Borders.

The Water Board have argued for years that they are loosing so much water through leakages, but have not posted results as far as I know.

Don't turn up, don't get your handout for that day I actually envisage savings as many of these layabouts cannot be bothered climbing out of their pits before lunch time so would lose that days handout.

It is for another debate, but my partner (single mother) has kept in touch with some of her friends before we moved in together. I feel frustrated that a good chunk of them do not work, but are able to holiday abroad for 2 weeks every year, and have smart clothes. Admittedly I have the house partner and I want, but sometimes I wonder about having no work, living in a council house with enough money to spend all my time with the family AND treat them to holidays..... Roll on retirement. Apparently that will be worthwhile :)

Your point 2 seems an odd question as we need working infrastructure in order to do everything else so it'll always be repaired and upgraded, not just break down and leave us screwed.

As for your first point, the Victorians did not have the infrastructure in the first place so they were able to build it from scratch. Given we already have that infrastructure that we need to fix, it's not an equal comparison. We would never be able to return to the Victorian labour levels in modern day for the Health and Safety reasons you mentioned (and quite rightly - huge amounts of people were badly injured / killed in Victorian times), but usually we do have the technology not to need to as much (for example giant tunnelling machines instead of hundred of men with shovels).

Concerning my point 2. I did not go to the level of insufficient, but more the concern of deterioration. Take an old car. It gets you from A to B. Slow, and uncomfortable, but does the job intended. In 5 years time do you buy a newer car for £2k or spend £500 getting the vehicle through the MOT? Spend the smallest amount to continue the purpose for what it was intended is my concern for the infrastructure.

Admittedly London region will always excel as it is most important, but is it still deteriorating?

On point 1, I open the question and hope on opinions and experience to sway my negative opinion of where I sit and live. Unrealistic question, tieing in with above is. Would it be more detrimental to completely do from scratch major motorways/ rail-lines next to existing before completely scrapping the original?

Don't get me wrong. I genuinely hope my opinion is a wrong one.

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But why give them anything extra, if these people could be bothered working off their own backs to get more than a basic living allowance handout then then would get a real job, which would mean employers would not have to employ foreigners in jobs uneducated english people used to do but now cannot be bothered doing.

Because we know what happens if you don't, look at the former East block, working morale was something like: "If I do something I will receive little pay, if I do nothing I will also get little pay. Lets have a vodka tovarish ....

Work is based on motivation, and 40 Euros a week is a motivation to do your job, it is the difference between dragging your feet and keeping a job.

Besides, we still have not resolved our main problem, if we don't give them anything extra they are even cheaper.

Now, the other problem could be solved the Danish way: The employment agency finds you a job and you can say no twice, no matter how over or under qualified you are for the job. The third time you say no to a job your benefits get scrapped to the bare minimal survival level. Seems to work there quite well, they have one of the lowest unemployment figures in Europe. But we have to admit that it is also because people get re-trained for new jobs at government expense. If you are a carpenter and there is no foreseeable need for a carpenter they train you to do another type of job.

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Don't be nasty Moon Monkey... we DO have 'tilting trains', although the train operating companies tend to refer to them as 'derailments' :P

Meow Purr.

Tilting trains? To the right or to the left? Holy infrastructure! Maybe I'll take tomorrow's sardine squash train with new relish, or maybe a little lemon pepper.

Growl Bark!

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Now, the other problem could be solved the Danish way: The employment agency finds you a job and you can say no twice, no matter how over or under qualified you are for the job. The third time you say no to a job your benefits get scrapped to the bare minimal survival level. Seems to work there quite well, they have one of the lowest unemployment figures in Europe. But we have to admit that it is also because people get re-trained for new jobs at government expense. If you are a carpenter and there is no foreseeable need for a carpenter they train you to do another type of job.

The bare minimum is what they should get for doing nothing anyway, nothing is what they should get for refusing a job they are given, as would be the case if they refused working on the infrastructure scheme or got themselves a job.

A couple of examples from my experience:

When my wife first came to the UK with me my brother was unemployed, as he had 3 kids he received quite a handout. He had two cars, one of which was a newish merc and a 4 bed house with the mortgage being paid. He and his wife both smoked, drank, had full sky tv and, like in your experience, enjoyed foreign holidays. That was 10 years ago, my brother got back into work, but my wife never got her head round that.

My friends brother has never worked. He is now 35. At the age 17 he realised that by drinking all day he got himself on incapacity benefit as a alcoholic and got rewarded with double the jobseekers allowance. His girlfriend of 15 years plays exactly the same game however even though they live together they claim they don't so get two houses. They have two kids, one "lives with him" one "lives with her". They rent out the spare house to any ne'er-do-well willing to pay cash with no questions asked. These people have the living standard of someone earning 60,000 a year.

Go into any pub/bookies at any time of the day and have a close look at where the state handouts go and what the "jobseekers" are doing.

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Hahahaaha...on the Manchester-Liverpool line ? Hahaahaha...sorry, you obviously never rode it...hahaha...tilting trains....hahahaah... :D

Ah, sorry, for some reason I read that as Manchester/Liverpool to London line. Yeah, Manchester to Liverpool it's self is not quite so futuristic :blush:

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Ah, sorry, for some reason I read that as Manchester/Liverpool to London line. Yeah, Manchester to Liverpool it's self is not quite so futuristic :blush:

No, its where old indian rolling stock comes to die...its like the elephant graveyard for trains. The canal links are good though, we should go back to the good old days, when the north west infrastructure was last invested in, of shire horses toeing barges, good for the environment anyway

Edited by Moon Monkey
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Go into any pub/bookies at any time of the day and have a close look at where the state handouts go and what the "jobseekers" are doing.

Bare minimum survival means you can either choose to eat or to drink... not both.

And sincerely, I have nothing against people getting what you call "handouts" (most of them had part of their salary taken away to get that while they worked) for a time. The good old Victorian slums are not the solution either, just breeds higher criminality.

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Would it be more detrimental to completely do from scratch major motorways/ rail-lines next to existing before completely scrapping the original?

If you literally mean building another road / rail line doing the same route as the original then that would be unrealistic. All the holes blasted through hills to make tunnels or gaps etc have been created already, don't need replacing and would be vastly expensive to re-create. Similarly there are many routes that could not be replicated (a road travelling through hills or a rail line now running through an area that is now packed with houses).

A bridge could perhaps be more economical to build new if the old one was in terrible condition. I guess it depends on what you mean by infrastructure and also where you draw the line between repair and replace (e.g. repairing water pipes - Victorian lead pipes are completely replaced by modern plastic tubing, but they're put back in the same holes that were designed and originally dug by the Victorians).

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No, its where old indian rolling stock comes to die...its like the elephant graveyard for trains. The canal links are good though, we should go back to the good old days, when the north west infrastructure was last invested in, of shire horses toeing barges, good for the environment anyway

Yeah, but it would be difficult for the poor shire horses to walk around all those nice new canal-side flats ;)

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Yeah, but it would be difficult for the poor shire horses to walk around all those nice new canal-side flats ;)

They would have to pick up all the horse crap as well or be hit with 100 quid fines. Actually, now i think about it, fill all the canals with cement and tarmac them...hey presto loads of new roads.

The victorians had the right idea pertaining to basic subsidy and handouts.....workhouses ! Please sir can I have some more .......money to go and play the fruities and buy some super strength cider ?

Edited by Moon Monkey
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They would have to pick up all the horse crap as well or be hit with 100 quid fines. Actually, now i think about it, fill all the canals with cement and tarmac them...hey presto loads of new roads.

in Athens they had that brilliant idea too ... until the city flooded with every moderate rain. Now they are tearing the roads up again.

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