Profit or Utility Maximizing? Strategy, tactics and the Municipal Tramways of York, c. 1918-1935

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This paper contests Mees (2010) theory that publically owned public transport operators normatively target their resources to maximize service rather than profit. Mees argues that neoliberal governments in the Anglosphere were mistaken to
privatize their undertakings yet we show that the British ethos of municipal trading meant that municipalities always saw public transport as more of a business than a service.
Methodology: We use an archival microstudy of the municipal tramway undertaking of the English city of York, using municipal archives triangulated with local and industry media sources.
Findings: We propose the refination of the Mees spectrum of public transport from public to private (2010, pp. 73–75) to note that public undertakings can be operated within a profit-maximizing framework.
Originality/Value: We provide a rare historical explication of an individual municipal trading enterprise and tramway system placed in its economic context together with its wider theoretical implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-40
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Management History
Early online date19 Jul 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jul 2017

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