War-time Control and Nationalization
In many respects the history of Britain’s railways during most of the decade after 1940 was very similar to that during the period of the First World War and shortly after. In both cases the railways were controlled by the Government in the national interest, whilst the day-to-day management of the system was left in the hands of the railway managers. During the hostilities the equipment and rolling stock was used intensively, though at the same time more efficiently than in peace time. On the other hand, partly because of the pressure of circumstances, new investment and even normal maintenance were neglected, and as a result the railways were in bad shape at the end of the period. Similarly the artificial freezing of the price structure by the Government left the railways in a perilous financial position at the end of both wars, when traffic fell off sharply and the pressure of rising costs began to be felt. Again at the end of hostilities in 1918 and 1945 the main problem which occupied the attention of the Government was not so much the physical condition of the railways, but what was to be done with them when government control ceased. Here, and probably only here, did history fail to repeat itself.
KeywordsTransport Service Public Ownership Labour Party Rolling Stock Railway System
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