London’s Transport Advertising

Railway businesses, in particular, have always been short of money.

To improve revenues, railways turned to more intensive exploitation of their passengers and unused space by deploying bookstalls and advertising hoardings.

At first private contractors were employed to exploit advertising hoardings, paying the railways a proportion of takings for the privilege, or concession, granted. Soon bus and tram operators followed suit.

The massive British Transport Commission was created when transport was nationalized in 1948. This body got rid of many of the contractors in favour of selling adverts direct, thus forming British Transport Advertising and, later, London Transport Advertising. The former concentrated on British railways and docks and the many bus companies that were nationally owned; the latter focused on London Transport's bus and rail operations.

From 1994, control of the advertising rights on London's Underground passed back into private hands. Main Line rail rights are mainly with JC Decaux (who took over Titan Outdoor [successors to British Transport Advertising Ltd] and London Underground is with CBS Outdoor [previously Viacom, and prior to that TDI].

Advertising continues to provide a lucrative source of income for the transport business. The London Underground advertising rights are reputed to be worth over £100m a year and may be the world's largest advertising contract.


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