It has never been easy to raise money to build and let alone run the London Underground. The travails of Robert Kiley and Ken Livingstone are same as those of their predecessors, who relied on dishonesty, deviousness and most recent, unemployment so as to see to it that that London gets the underground that it needed desperately.
The problems started before the building of the system. In the 1850s Charles Pearson, City of London solicitor, came up with a plan to establish an “Arcade Railway” underneath the Farringdon Road that would connect the Great Northern railway with Farringdon and in the process decongest the capital’s streets. The Great Northern saw how advantaged its passengers would be and agreed to subscribe euro 170,000. However, one of the officers of the Great Northern misappropriated the money and used it on furnishing magnificent houses and purchasing of articles of vertu. Leopold became among the last criminals who were transported to Australia for life but that was not helpful in any way to Pearson’s plan.
The scheme was brought back to life a decade later in the form of the Metropolitan Railway that would connect Paddington, Euston and Kings Cross to the Farringdon terminus. The Times condemned the plan saying that even if it were to be accomplished, it would never pay. The writer went on saying that “the whole idea has been gradually associated with the plans for flying machines, warfare by balloons, tunnels under the channel and other bold but hazardous propositions of the same kind.” Engineering firms contributed most of the capital hoping that they would benefit by gaining contracts to build the proposed railway.
The next financial challenge that affected the Underground involved the Bakerloo Line which an Act of 1893 had authorized to link Baker Street and waterloo. Once again the directors found it hard to raise the capital and were therefore relieved in 1897 when Whitaker Wright approached them on behalf of the London and Globe Finance Corporation. Wright became the first in the line of other colorful characters who financed the construction of the London Underground.
The construction ceased until a more flamboyant character in the name of Charles Tyson came onboard. Tyson was born in Philadelphia and set himself up as a banker. The method in which he used to sell the municipal bonds made him brush up with the law and get a two-year prison time for “technical embezzlement.” He moved to Chicago where he used his talents to the financing and construction of the “Loop” railway.
The Underground was further rescued by the fear for unemployment. In the year 1962 the Conservative government became afraid that unemployment would increase and thus authorized necessary funding. It new that segments in the tunnel would be ordered from North-East England, a black spot for unemployment.
As Ken Livingstone and Robert Kiley continue to struggle with under investment, it can be seen that their predecessors had the same difficulties.