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).