What were the relative advantages of canal and railway transportation?

With the development of industrialisation, England felt the need for an improved transportation system. An effective link of transportation could ensure hassle-free movement of goods and labour and establishment of canal and rail network provided the framework to achieve the same. The advantages of both these modes of transportation have been enlisted below.

1) The presence of a canal by the coal mine eased the transportation of coal to the industries and cities. This convenient transport of coal from the source to the destination due to the presence of a canal enhanced the value of a coal mine.

2) The places where two or more canals met developed as important trading spots. Overtime, these spots grew as marketing centres that further developed as hustling and bustling new towns. One such town was Birmingham that developed to its position of prominence from a small trading centre because of its position, which was at the heart of a canal system.

The big landowners of that time were quick to understand the worth of building canals by their lands. This led to the construction of approximately 4000 miles of canal network between the years 1796 to 1856. However, soon this phase of 'canal mania' was replaced by the 'rail mania'.  The reasons that led to the establishment of approximately 17000 miles of railway tracks within a span of 17 years (1830–1847) have been drafted below.

1) Railways proved to be a faster mode of transportation.  It was beneficial for the transportation of perishable goods from one corner of the country to the other.

2) Railways could carry much heavier commodities as compared to the canals.

3) Unlike the canals, which made transportation of goods in adverse climatic condition impossible, railways functioned efficiently all year around. This made the railways a much more reliable way of carrying goods.

Thus, it will not be wrong to state that the railways had relatively more advantages as compared to the canals. Railways were more efficient and reliable mode of transportation. However, both these modes together marked a shift from a rudimentary mode of transportation to a highly advanced transportation mode that served as the backbone of England's industrialisation process.

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