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Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Dynamics of Cab Fares from Waterloo Station in 1864

Recently, I received through the post a map of the London and South Western Railway that I suspect was published around 1863 or 1864 as part of a publically sold timetable. The map itself is very interesting. However, on one reverse of the item was a list of all the ‘CAB FARES FROM WATERLOO STATION.’ From the industry’s birth the railways of Britain always established relationships with road transportation companies so that passengers could continue their journeys after leaving the station. Therefore, indulge me for this post while I deviate away from railways and analyse the fares that cabs charged between Waterloo and places in London.

The document (Shown) listed approximately 150 different destinations that cabs could take passengers to from Waterloo. Five fare prices were listed: six pence, one shilling, one shilling six pence and two shillings. Only a journey to the West India Docks cost two shillings six pence. Using this data, I thought I would investigate the cost of journeys per mile and determine which trips were the best value. I used the ‘get directions’ function of Google Maps to measure the distance of each journey. Of course, many roads have changed since 1864 and this means that my results are not as accurate as if I had a map of London from that year. Yet, given London is a very old city and many roads have not changed, I considered that this wasn’t a bad way to find the distances out. At the same time as measuring the journey’s distances, I noted in which direction they were going to reveal if this affected the fare prices.

After sampling 100 journeys, the results clearly showed that the fare structure for journeys of different distances was as follows:

Less than 1 mile (9 recoded): 6s
Between 1 and 1.9 miles (41 recorded): 1s
Between 2 and 2.9 miles (38 recorded): 1s 6d
Between 3 and 3.9 miles (11 recorded): 2d
Above 4 miles (1 recorded): 2s 6d

However, of the 100 fares to destinations surveyed, nine journeys had rates that existed outside this price structure. Some of these anomalous returns may just have been because of the distances provided by Google Maps. For example, the Corn Exchange on Mark Lane, two miles from Waterloo on Google Maps, cost 1s to get to. Also, the fare to get to the London Hospital, which was three miles away, was 1s 6d. Therefore, if these journeys had been just 0.1 of a mile shorter the fare quoted would have been correct for the distance.

Nevertheless, five out of the 100 fares seem to make no sense. The 1.7 mile journey from Waterloo to St John Church, Horsleydown, cost 1s 6d when it should have been 1s. Furthermore, the 2.6 mile journey to Cambridge Terrace cost 2s, when the correct price was 1s 6d. I cannot proffer an explanation for these fares, so their cause will have to remain a mystery.

From my research I have also determined that the longer an individual’s journey, the better value it was. This is illustrated by comparing the best and worst value journeys in the sample. If we exclude the anomalous results, the best value journey was to Shoreditch Station, which was 2.9 miles from Waterloo and cost 1s 6d. This meant travellers on this route paid 6.24d per mile. The most expensive cab rides were those that cost 1s for a 1 mile trip. These went to Freemason’s Tavern (now Arms) in Covent Garden, Charing Cross Station and the Bank of England (now the Old Bank of England pub) on the Strand.

Furthermore, I worked out the average price of all the journeys in each distance range. This further confirmed my thesis that the further an individual went, the more value they received. The averages per mile for journeys in each distance range are as follows:

Less than a mile: 7.83d/mile
Between 1 and 1.9 miles: 8.53d/mile
Between 2 and 2.9 miles: 7.90d/mile
Between 3 and 3.9 miles: 7.05d/mile
Above 4 miles: 6.52d/mile

Lastly, I wished to look at whether the cost per mile of journeys was affected by the direction of travel, for example South East, North, etc. The results shown in the table clearly suggest that they were not.

With exception of cabs going to the South and South West of London, for each of the directions of travel the range in the cost of journeys was large. This suggests that price structure above was applied across London. This is confirmed by looking at the average cost per mile for the journeys in each direction. The highest average cost per mile was found on journeys to the North and West of London (8.16d). Whereas, those cabs going to the South and South West of London cost the least per mile (7.32d).  However, this latter result may have been affected by the small sample size. Therefore, given the difference between the highest and lowest average cost per mile was small, only 0.84d, and because the lowest average cost per mile was because of a limited sample size, it again confirms that the fare structure was the same for journeys going in every direction.

Overall, I can say that unless passengers were lucky enough to travel to a place for which the fare was especially good value for money, cab rates from Waterloo were standardised based on the distance of the journey. Furthermore, the direction passengers travelled did not affect how much they paid for conveyance. The only variable in the cab fares was that those going further were paying less per mile for their travel.

Lastly, as this is a railway blog, I thought I would end with a minute from the London and South Western Railway’s Traffic Committee that amused me. On the 10 November 1886 it recorded:

‘The General Manager recommended that W.C. Accommodation be provided in the above arch [at Waterloo] for the use of the cabmen at a cost of about £45.’[1]


[1] The National Archives, RAIL 411/255, Traffic Committee Minute Book, Minute No. 1091, 10 November 1886


  1. As above we can see the price list of the fare cab form the waterloo station and it can give the idea of the fare and we can decide what would be the price rate in the past.

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  2. i visit your blog and read your post on daily base and you are sharing good information actually i belong to USA and i find Waterloo airport taxi


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