Railway Construction Act 1884

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The Victorian Government's Act No. 821, Railway Construction Act 1884, authorised the construction of 59[1] new railway lines. Created by the Minister for Railways, Thomas Bent,[2] and passed on 12 December 1884, it became notorious for the excessive number of inner-city railways it created, and received the nickname "the Octopus Act". The depression of the 1890s soon rendered many of these lines unviable.


The task of implementing the act fell to Richard Speight, Railway Commissioner at the time,[3] a role created by the Victorian Railways Commissioners Act of 1883.[4]

Beneficiaries of the act included construction engineers such as Andrew O'Keefe, and politicians such as Thomas Bent himself, who reaped the rewards of commissioning construction in their own electorates.

Construction of the lines was complete by April 1890.[5]

By 1892, outrage at the excesses of this construction boom, including a number of "white elephants", led to the sacking of Speight, Richard Ford and A J Agg, the other commissioners. Then, the Railways Act of 1892, attempted to reverse some of the damage.

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