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Under the Transport Act 1947 the railways, long-distance road haulage and various other types of transport were acquired by the state and handed over to a British Transport Commission for operation. The commission was responsible to the Ministry of Transportmarker for general transport policy, which it exercised principally through financial control of a number of executives set up to manage specified sections of the industry under schemes of delegation.


The Act was part of the nationalisation agenda of Clement Attlee's Labour government, and took effect from 1 January 1948. In Northern Irelandmarker, the Ulster Transport Authority acted in a similar manner. The government also nationalised other means of transport such as canals, sea and shipping ports, bus companies, and eventually amidst much opposition, road haulage. All of these transport modes including British Railways were brought under the control of a body called the British Transport Commission (BTC).

The BTC was a part of a highly ambitious scheme to create a publicly owned, centrally planned, integrated transport system. In theory the BTC was to coordinate different modes of transport, to co-operate and supplement each other instead of competing. This was to be achieved by means of fare and rate adjustments.

Road transport

The road haulage industry bitterly opposed nationalisation, and they found allies in the Conservative Party. Once the Conservatives were elected in 1951 road haulage was soon de-nationalised and de-regulated, but the still heavily regulated railways and buses were left under the control of the BTC.


After the war the Big Four railway companies of the grouping era were effectively bankrupt, and the Act was intended to bring about some stability in transport policy. As part of that policy British Railways was set up to run the railways.

Shares in the railway companies were exchanged for British Transport Stock, with a guaranteed 3% return chargeable to the BTC . The government had based the levels of compensation for former railway shareholders, on the peppercorn valuation of the railway companies in 1946, a time when the railways were in a dilapidated state because of war damage and minimal maintenance.

See list of constituents of British Railways.

Despite nationalisation and the creation of British Railways (BR), the rail system changed little, and was left in much the same way as it had been before nationalisation. BR was divided into six administrative regions:

These closely mirrored the regions covered by the former companies in England and Wales, although with the addition of a separate Scottish Region. At first there was a separate North Eastern Region, although this was eventually amalgamated with the Eastern Region, reflecting the English operations of the London and North Eastern Railway.

Transport Act 1962

Fifteen years later, under the Transport Act 1962, Harold Macmillan's Conservative government dissolved the British Transport Commission, and created the British Railways Board to take over its railway duties from 1 January 1963 and the Transport Holding Company to take over its bus operations from the same date.


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