It is 70 years since the era of public rail ownership began in Great Britain. The British Transport Commission formally took control of the operation and planning of the whole network, having been brought into existence by Clement Attlee’s Labour government under the Transport Act 1947 (the name British Rail didn’t appear until 1965).
At the time, the network was in dire need of investment. The Railways Act 1921 had consolidated over 100 operators into “the big four” – Great Western; London, Midland & Scottish; London & North Eastern; and Southern Railways. They had been financially squeezed by rules that forced them to carry freight at rates that were often unprofitable, and competition from an emerging road sector that had been prioritised for public investment.
The rail network had then been worn to the bone in supporting the war effort and considerably damaged by German Luftwaffe bombing. Rail safety had become a serious concern: two major accidents in the southand north of England within two days in October 1947, resulted in 60 fatalities, and contributed to that year being the second deadliest in British railway history.
Source: Britain’s railways were nationalised 70 years ago – let’s not do it again : The Conversation