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British Transport Commission


Records of the British Transport Commission: general administrative, legal and financial papers and correspondence 1948-1962, solicitor's papers 1950-1960, assistant general manager's (commercial) papers 1952-1964, film agreements 1951-1971, publications 1948-1959, printed material kept for information by the British Transport Commission 1888-1961.



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These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The British Transport Commission was formed as a public authority on 1 January 1948 under the Transport Act of 1947. Under the Act most of Britain's inland transport was nationalised including railways, railway-owned ports, hotels, waterways, much of the country's road haulage and those inland waterways that had come under government control during World War II. Executives were formed for each of the transport industries - the Railway Executive, divided into 6 regions and headquarters; the Road Transport Executive, divided into 8 regions and headquarters; the London Transport Executive; the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive, divided into headquarters, Inland Waterways which had 6 divisions; Docks which had 4 divisions and the Hotels Executive. In 1953 a new Transport Act was passed and the British Transport Commission was reorganised, abolishing the executives and bringing in new divisions - British Railways, London Transport, British Road Services, Road Passenger Services, British Transport Docks, British Transport Waterways and British Transport Hotels and Catering Services. British Transport Waterways retained those docks associated with inland waterways, the other docks being managed separately. Responsibility was also taken for the Forth and Clyde and Monkland canals in Scotland. In 1955 British Transport Waterways dropped the word 'Transport' from their title becoming British Waterways, the structure again being retained. The prescribed navigable system remained under British Waterways and the British Transport Commission agreed to maintain waterways to their current standards, and to undertake engineering and financial surveys into the possibility of making the Grand Union Canal a broad waterway from the Port of London to Birmingham. In 1959 an Inland Waterways Redevelopment Advisory Committee was set up to deal with those outside the system. Improvements to the system included the upgrading of many of British Transport Commission's properties such as cottages as well as operational equipment such as pumping stations. Other modernisation included the building of welfare facilities for boatmen at Hawkesbury, Wolverhampton and Bulls Bridge and the addition of sanitary facilities at repair yards. Following the nationalisation of transport in 1948, the British Transport Commission set up its own in-house film production and distribution system called British Transport Films. It became one of the largest industrial film units in Britain producing films classed under three types: Public Relations and Information, Travel Promotion and Staff Instruction and Training. The Transport Act of 1962 reorganised the nationalised transport industries abolishing the commissions including the British Transport Commission. In their place independent boards were established, that for the waterways being known as the British Waterways Board. For further information on the British Transport Commission see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations'.

System of arrangement

It has not been possible to ascertain the complete original structure of record-keeping from the records held for this company. The fonds has been arranged into series by subject, which is how some of the records could originally have been kept. The company's general administrative, legal and financial papers and correspondence have been placed first, followed by solicitor's papers and then the assistant general manager's (commercial) papers. These are followed by film agreements then publications. At the end of the collection is printed material kept for information by the British Transport Commission. The records within these series have been arranged chronologically while keeping records relating to each other together. This means that some records may fall slightly out of the chronological sequence.