London Underground
Rule Books

The origin of standardized British main line rulebooks is covered elsewhere on this website (click link here).

The early London Underground railways operated in close conjunction with several main line railways and it is little surprise that the rulebooks they used were heavily influenced by main line practice. It is significant that when main line railways adopted a common standard rulebook in late Victorian times, the Underground did the same and a common rulebook continued in use until as late as 1969.

When electric traction appeared on the Underground the initial reaction was to produce an entirely new set of rules; this was based on American practice since that is whence the technology originated. This was short-lived since even the tube lines soon inter-ran with main line railways. In consequence even the electric lines adopted the standard main line rule book (with copious amendments and special provisions).

This web piece is about the special circumstances of an underground railway and how and why its own special rules developed.

Any comments, or additional information, will be especially welcome.

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In more recent times the historic set of Underground rules has not been found entirely satisfactory and this has taken development into new and uncertain territory. A feeling emerged that a rulebook was not detailed enough to guide staff behaviour and the outcome was a working reference manual. This approach had its own complications (not the least of which was size) and in due course a rule book (or rather a set of rule books) was reintroduced. The pendulum having now swung fully the other way the new books are surprising in how much detail they lack.

This solution has also presented practical problems and the situation is again under review!

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