The British railway system may have come into being to meet the needs of rapidly expanding mining and textile industries but it had a dramatic impact on both the British economy and society in general. It symbolized the 'spirit of the age' in a way that no other development did, with the possible exception of the factory or mill. It made possible the development of an integrated and national economic system where canals and turnpike roads had not. Railways brought people closer together by cutting down the time spent travelling, broke down parochialism and regionalism and made the products of economic change more readily available. It was 'the great connector'.