British Transport Commission (BTC)


The British Transport Commission (BTC) was created by Clement Attlee’s post-war Labour government as a part of its nationalisation programme, to oversee railways, canals, shipping and road freight transport in Great Britain.

Its general duty under the Transport Act 1947 was to provide “an efficient, adequate, economical and properly integrated system of public inland transport and port facilities within Great Britain for passengers and goods”.

The BTC came into operation on 1 January 1948. Its main holdings were the networks and assets of the ‘Big Four’ national regional railway companies: Great Western Railway, London and North Eastern Railway, London, Midland and Scottish Railway and the Southern Railway.

It was via the assets of the ‘Big Four’ that the British Transport Commission was involved in passenger shipping with numerous steamers being owned by the railway companies. By the late 1950s the BTC was in serious financial difficulties, largely due to the economic performance of the railways. It was criticised as an overly bureaucratic system of administering transport services and had failed to develop an integrated transport system (such as integrated ticketing and timetabling).

It was eventually abolished by Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government under the Transport Act, 1962 and replaced by five successor bodies: British Railways Board (railways, hotels and some shipping), British Transport Docks Board (docks), British Waterways Board (inland waterways), London Transport Board (London buses and the London Underground) and Transport Holding Co (remaining interests, in shipping, travel and road transport).

British Transport Commission (BTC) Archive

TS Princess Margaret (1931) - Past and Present

TS Princess Margaret (1931) – Past and Present

TS Macau, ex Princess Margaret – Steel twin screw steam turbine vessel built in 1931 by William Denny & Brothers Ltd., Dumbarton (Yard No 1252) as a passenger, vehicle and cargo ferry for the London, Midland & Scottish Railway Company (LMS)

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

TS Princess Maud (II) – Past and Present

TS Nybo, ex Venus, Princess Maud (II) – Steel twin screw steam turbine vessel built in 1934 by William Denny & Brothers Ltd., Dumbarton (Yard No 1265) as a passenger, vehicle and cargo ferry

MV Pointer - Past and Present

MV Pointer – Past and Present

MV Kapetan Christos, ex Alastair, Fehim Bey, Zebbug, Pointer, Preseli, Antwerpen, Isartal – Steel twin screw motor vessel built in 1970 at Krögerwerft G.m.b.H., Rendsburg, Germany  (Yard No 1356) as a RoRo Cargo ship

© Ted Ingham

MV Suffolk Ferry – Past and Present

MV Suffolk Ferry – Steel twin screw motor vessel built in 1947 at John Brown & Co., (Clydebank) Ltd (Yard No 638) for The British Transport Commission (L.N.E.R. Harwich) as a passenger and train ferry

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

MV Norfolk Ferry – Past and Present

MV Norfolk Ferry – Steel twin screw motor vessel built in 1951 at John Brown & Co., (Clydebank) Ltd (Yard No 661) for The British Railways, Southern Region as a passenger and train ferry

TSMV Lymington (II) - Past and Present

TSMV Lymington (II) – Past and Present

TSMV Sound of Sanda, ex Lymington (II) – Steel twin screw double ended vessel built in 1938 at William Denny Brothers, Dumbarton (Yard Number. 1322) for British Railways Board, London, England as a Motor Car Ferry (Double-ended)

PMV Farringford - Past and Present

PMV Farringford – Past and Present

PMV Farringford – Steel double ended diesel-electric paddle vessel built in 1947 at Wm Denny & Bros Ltd., Dumbarton (Yard No. 1402) for British Railways Board, London, England as a passenger and vehicle ferry

© Brian Fisher

MV Freshwater (II) – Past and Present

MV Sound of Seil, ex Freshwater (II) – Steel twin Voith Schneider double ended vessel built in 1959 at Ailsa SB Company, Troon (Yard Number. 505) for British Railways Board, London, England as a passenger and vehicle ferry

© British Railways Board

MV Fishbourne (II) – Past and Present

MV Kibris I, ex Fishbourne (II) – Steel twin Voith Schneider double ended vessel built in 1961 at Philip & Son Ltd., Dartmouth (Yard Number. 1318) for British Railways Board, London, England as a RoRo Cargo/Ferry

© J K Byass

MV Camber Queen – Past and Present

MV Mira Troia, ex Camber Queen – Steel twin Voith Schneider double ended vessel built in 1961 at Philip & Son Ltd., Dartmouth (Yard Number. 1319) for British Railways Board, London, England as a passenger and vehicle ferry