British Rail

British Rail

The following is reproduced from the tri-language booklet.
"Das ist British Rail

This is British Rail

British Rail, la Compagnie des Chemins de Fer Britanniques".

PDF English / French / German (2.78MB)

This is British Rail

British Rail operates a network of 17,983 route kilometres throughout Britain. Its' Inter-City passenger services and all freight operations are commercial businesses run without state subsidy. Essential public transport services for London and the Southeast of England, major cities and rural areas are provide within strict financial limit. Supporting rail operations are 13 engineering factories, the largest railway research centre in the world, 40 ships in European waters, the world's largest hovercraft, hotels and train catering services. A consultancy Transmark makes this expertise available to the world. This leaflet illustrates the main activities of British Rail.

Rail technology

Drawing on the work of the Railway Technical Centre, the mechanical and electrical, signal and telecommunications and civil engineering departments are introducing advanced technology to every day railway operation. The Advanced Passenger Train is a typical example of the way in which British Rail applies technology to commercial needs. This lightweight train is designed to run at up to 250 km/h on existing lines. It further increases average speeds by tilting through curves, maintaining passenger comfort at speeds 20-40% higher than conventional trains. Three pre-production prototype Advanced Passenger trains have been built for service evaluation.

The passenger business

British Rail's passenger business has an annual revenue of over £700 million with nearly half coming from Inter-City travel. Each year passengers make over 700 million journeys, a total of over 3 billion passenger kilometres. Every day 2,364 stations are served by 15,800 passenger trains including over 150 Inter-City 125 200 km/h services, the fastest diesel trains in the world. Catering services are provided on over 1,000 trains a day and at 183 stations. each working day British Rail brings 400,000 commuters into Central London - the most intensive suburban service in the world.

The freight business

British Rail's freight and parcels business has an annual revenue of over £500 million. Each year, 170 million tonnes of freight are carried - 80% in train loads. Every day, British Rail runs 1,900 freight trains including 500 trains of privately owned wagons. Daily services also include 195 merry-go-round trains transporting coal from colliery to power station, 200 Freightliner container trains and 50 Speedlink services providing over-night delivery for containers and wagon-load freight. In conjunction with Sealink, ferry trains carry 1 million tonnes of freight a year between Britain and Europe. Every wagon and container in the freight network is individually controlled by real-time computer system.


British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) has 13 factories throughout Britain which are responsible for the manufacture, maintenance, repair and refurbishing of all locomotives and rolling stock for British Rail. The 1978 scheduled maintenance workload included 800 locomotives, 9,000 passenger vehicles and over 30,000 freight vehicles. New construction for British Rail includes Advanced Passenger Trains, High Speed Trains, locomotive-hauled Buffet cars and sleepers, electric multiple units for suburban services, freight locomotives and wagons. In addition BREL manufactures a wide range of rolling stock for overseas through its export company BRE-Metro Ltd., and also for private wagon operators in UK.


The Railway Technical Centre at Derby is the largest railway research complex in the world. Its work covers every aspect of railway technology, including vehicles, track construction and maintenance, power systems and electrification, train control and signalling, construction techniques and computer applications. A staff of over 800 is supported by extensive test facilities which include dynamic loading rigs, a fleets of trials rail vehicles and two test tracks. In addition to its work for British Rail, the centre also carries out research projects for private industry and other railways.

Services Européens

British Rail's subsidiaries Sealink UK Ltd. and British Rail Hovercraft Ltd. (Seaspeed), in partnership with European shipping organisations and railways, operate shipping and hovercraft services linking continental Europe with Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands. The Sealink fleet includes 50 British vessels. In 1978, Sealink ships carried 18 million passengers, 2.8 million cars and lorries and 1 million tonnes of freight. Seaspeed is one of the world's most experienced hovercraft operators. Each of its Super 4 and SEDAM N500 hovercraft carry 60 cars and 400 passengers between France and Britain.

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Last Revised: 28.06.2022 11:01
by R G Latham
© 1998