- British Rail
:"This article is about the defunct entity "British Railways", which later traded as "British Rail". The
History of rail transport in Great Britainis covered in its own article."
Infobox Defunct Company
company_name = British Railways/British Rail
fate = Privatised
successor = Principally
Railtrack(infrastructure); members of ATOC (passenger); EWSand Freightliner (freight)
foundation = 1962 (previously a section of the BTC)
defunct = 2000
location = Great Britain and adjacent waters
industry = Land and sea transport
parent = British Transport Commission (until 1962), British Railways Board (since 1962)
British Railways (BR), which later traded as British Rail, ran most of the British railway system from the
nationalisationof the 'Big Four' British railway companies in 1948 until privatisation in stages from 1994 to 1997. At first the trading brand of the Railway Executive of the British Transport Commission, it became in 1962 an independent statutory corporation, the British Railways Board.
This period of nationalisation saw sweeping changes in the railway network: steam traction was eliminated in favour of diesel and electric power, passengers replaced freight as the main source of business, and one third of the network was axed.
The British Rail "double arrow logo" (see right) which represents direction of travel on a double track is now employed as a "generic" denoter of a railway station on public (non-operating company) street signs; it is therefore incorrect to claim that where this logo is seen it is a "relic from the past." The logo is still being used in new signs and is used by the train operating companies jointly as part of their
National Railbrand; it is still also used on railway tickets.
The rail transport system in Great Britain developed during the 19th century. After the grouping of 1923 under the
Railways Act 1921there were four large railway companies, each dominating its own geographic area: the Great Western Railway(GWR), the London, Midland and Scottish Railway(LMS), the London and North Eastern Railway(LNER) and the Southern Railway (SR). The Transport Act 1947made provision for the nationalisation of the network, as part of a policy of nationalising public services by Clement Attlee's Labour Government. British Railways came into existence as the business nameof the Railway Executiveof the British Transport Commission(BTC) on 1 January 1948 when it took over the assets of the Big Four. [ cite web| url=http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/docSummary.php?docID=67| title=Transport Act 1947| author=Her Majesty's Government | year=1947| work=The Railways Archive| publisher=(originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office)| accessdate=2006-11-25] Though there were few initial changes to the service, usage increased and the network became profitable. Regeneration of track and stations was completed by 1954. In the same year, changes to the British Transport Commission, including the privatisation of road haulage, [cite web| url=http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/docSummary.php?docID=116| title=Transport Act 1962| author=Her Majesty's Government | year=1962| work=The Railways Archive| publisher=(originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office)| accessdate=2006-11-25] ended the coordination of transport in the UK. Rail revenue fell and in 1955 the network again ceased to be profitable. The mid-1950s saw the rapid introduction of diesel and electric rolling stock, but the expected transfer back from road to rail did not occur and losses began to mount. [cite web |url=http://www.ndad.nationalarchives.gov.uk/AH/37/detail.html |title=British Railways Board history| accessdate=2006-11-25| publisher=The National Archives]
The desire for profitability led to a major reduction in the network during the mid-1960s. Dr.
Richard Beechingwas given the task by the government of reorganising the railways ("the Beeching Axe"). [cite web| url=http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/docSummary.php?docID=13| title=The Reshaping of British Railways - Part 1: Report| author=British Transport Commission| year=1963| work=The Railways Archive| publisher=(originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office)| accessdate=2006-11-25] [cite web| url=http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/docSummary.php?docID=35| title=The Reshaping of British Railways - Part 2: Maps| author=British Transport Commission| year=1963| work=The Railways Archive| publisher=(originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office)| accessdate=2006-11-25 ] This policy resulted in many branch lines and secondary routes being closed because they were deemed uneconomical. The closure of stations serving rural communities removed much feeder traffic from mainline passenger services. The closure of many freight depots that had been used by larger industries such as coaland ironled to much freight transferring to road haulage. The closures were extremely unpopular with the general public at that time, and remain so today. Ironically some of those lines have recently been reopened with the startling growth of rail traffic following privatisation of the network.
Passenger levels decreased steadily from the late 1950s to late 1970s. [The UK [http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_transstats/documents/divisionhomepage/031571.hcsp Department for Transport] (DfT), specifically Table 6.1 from [http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_transstats/documents/downloadable/dft_transstats_613483.pdf Transport Statistics Great Britain 2006] (4MB PDF file)] Passenger services then experienced a renaissance with the introduction of the high-speed
Intercity 125trains in the late 1970s and early 1980s.cite book |last=Marsden |first=Colin J. |title=British Rail 1983 Motive Power: Combined Volume |year=1983 |publisher=Ian Allen |location=London |id=ISBN 0-7110-1284-9] The 1980s saw severe cuts in government funding and above- inflationincreases in fares, and the service became more cost-effective. Between 1994 and 1997, British Rail was privatised. [cite web| url=http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/docSummary.php?docID=12| title=Railways Act 1993| author=Her Majesty's Government | year=1903| work=The Railways Archive| publisher=(originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office)| accessdate=2006-11-26] Ownership of the track and infrastructure passed to Railtrack; passenger operations were franchised to individual private-sector operators (originally there were 25 franchises); and the freight services sold outright (six companies were set up, but five of these were sold to the same buyer). [cite web |url=http://www.ews-railway.co.uk/about/history.html |title=EWS Railway - Company History |accessdate=2006-11-26] The Conservative government under John Majorclaimed that privatisation would see an improvement in passenger services. Passenger levels have since increased to above the level they had been at in the late 1950s. [The UK [http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/nav.129 Office of Rail Regulation] (ORR), specifically Section 1.2 from [http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/303.pdf National Rail Trends 2006-2007 Q1] (PDF file)]
The BR network, with the trunk routes of the
West Coast Main Line, East Coast Main Line, Great Western Main Lineand Midland Main Line, remains mostly unchanged since privatisation, with several branch line reopenings particularly in Scotlandand Wales, where the control of the railway network is devolved from central government.
In Wales the Welsh Assembly Government successfully supported the opening of the Vale of Glamorgan line between Barry and Bridgend in 2005 and the Ebbw Valley Line between Ebbw Vale and Cardiff in 2008. Both of these lines had been axed in the Beeching cut.
Under the process of British Rail's privatisation, operations were split into more than 100 companies. The ownership and operation of the infrastructure of the railway system was taken over by
Railtrack. The rolling stock was transferred to three private ROSCOs (ROlling Stock COmpanies). Passenger services were divided into 25 operating companies, which were let on a franchise basis for a set number of years, whilst freight services were sold off completely. Dozens of smaller engineering and maintenance companies were also created and sold off.
British Rail's passenger services came to an end upon the franchising of
ScotRail; the final train that the company operated was a Railfreight Distributionfreight train in Autumn 1997. The British Railways Board continued in existence as a corporation until early 2001, when it was replaced with the Strategic Rail Authority.
Since privatisation, the structure of the rail industry and number of companies has changed many times. Franchise-based companies that took over passenger rail services include:
Midland Mainlinesuperseded in 2007 by East Midlands Trains
Great North Eastern Railwaysuperseded in 2007 by National Express East Coast
Virgin Trains(West Coast)
Virgin CrossCountrysuperseded by CrossCountryin 2007
Great Western Trainsfrom 1998 First Great Western
Wales and Westbecoming Wessex trainsin 2001, after being broken up, and now ran by First Great Western
Arriva Trains Northern(originally Northern Spiritsuperseded in 2004 by First TransPennine Expressand Northern Rail)
Arriva Trains Merseyside
Arriva Trains Wales
South West Trains
Central Trains(Network West Midlands), divided between London Midland, Cross Country and East Midlands Trains in 2007
History of rail transport in Great Britain
British Rail brand names
British Rail corporate liveries
British Rail flying saucer
British Carriage and Wagon Numbering and Classification
British Rail locomotive and multiple unit numbering and classification
British Transport Police
List of British Rail classes
List of companies operating trains in the United Kingdom
Liverpool Overhead Railway
Steam locomotives of British Railways
SealinkBR's sea division
* [http://ndad.ulcc.ac.uk/datasets/AH/britrail.htm British Railways Board history]
* [http://www.brb.gov.uk BRB (Residuary) Ltd.]
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