Robert Hampton

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29th July 2011

Undertaking is a breach of the Highway Code
Posted by at 7.33pm | 1 response | Trains

United Utilities sent a letter to our home recently enclosing a notice about our sewers, presumably to comply with some legal niceties.


It’s fairly mundane stuff, until you get halfway down the page and find this little nugget (click to enlarge):-

This notice does not apply to private sewers or private lateral drains which: 1. are owned by a railway undertaker; or

The phrase “railway undertaker” conjures up an image of a funeral director who loads coffins into the 0821 to Southport. I suspect however, it means undertaker in the sense of “an undertaking” – i.e. a railway company. Presumably there is some arcane law which requires specific reference to be made to “railway undertakers”.

It’s yet another legacy of how important the railways were in the good old days – I suspect there are thousands of these laws still on the statute books.

I found it amusing, but maybe I should be worried about the staff at Aigburth station going to the toilet – if the sewers are not maintained by United Utilities, where does the waste go?

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One Response
  1. Comment by Jamie
    29th July 2011 at 8:14 pm

    The phrase they were groping for (missed it by *that* much) was “railway undertaking”. It’s used in legislation from the Darlington and Stockton through to Grouping, Nationalisation and disaggregation. It can be used singularly (a railway undertaking) or in the present imperfect (are owned by a railway undertaking). I’ve never seen “railway undertaker”, which is a good guess by someone but… well, a swing and a miss.

    Railway undertakings are responsible for drainage on their own land and drainage of their own land, partially because the legislation was based on that which authorised the canals, partially because the permanent way needs a lot of drainage and partially because nobody wants to own a sewer main that has 600 tonnes of metal passing over it periodically. The railway sewer empties into the main.

    Also, while much private and public land is subdivided or freehold or leasehold or the like, the p-way is completely owned by the railway undertaking very deeply underground – each line was established by an Act that effectively appropriated the land “for a fair price”. That’s why railways often take a daft route into a destination (to avoid someone powerful or to only plough throw tenements and slums). Follow on Google Earth the three miles of p-way down from the London termini to see this in operation!