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‘Food Miles’: Britain’s Transition from Rail to Road-based Food Distribution, 1919-1975

Spain, T J (2016) ‘Food Miles’: Britain’s Transition from Rail to Road-based Food Distribution, 1919-1975. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Britain’s railways were essential for the development of the British economy throughout the nineteenth century; however, by 1919 their seemingly unassailable position as goods carriers was about to be eroded by the lorry. The railway strike of September 1919 had presented traders with an opportunity to observe the capabilities of road haulage, but there is no study which focuses on the process of modal shift in goods distribution from the trader’s perspective. This thesis therefore marks an important departure from the existing literature by placing goods transport into its working context. The importance of food as an everyday essential commodity adds a further dimension to the status of goods transport within Britain’s supply chain, particularly when the fragility of food products means that minimising the impact of distance, time and spoilage before consumption is vital in ensuring effective and practical logistical solutions. These are considered in a series of four case studies on specific food commodities and retail distribution, which also hypothesise that the modal shift from rail to road reflected the changing character of transport demand between 1919 and 1975. Consequently, this thesis explores the notion that the centre of governance over the supply chain transferred between food producers, manufacturers, government and chain retailer, thereby driving changes in transport technology and practice. This thesis uses archival material to provide a qualitative study into the food industry’s relationship with transport where the case studies incorporate supply chain analyses to permit an exploration of how changes in structure might have influenced the modal shift from rail to road distribution. It subsequently discusses how and when the emergence of mass-consumerism, as well as the intensification of the chain retailer’s quest for competitive advantage, effected a permanent change in the balance of food logistics in Britain before 1975.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.729537
Depositing User: Mr T J Spain
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2017 11:56
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:23
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/18843

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