BR privatisation

A (one day) comprehensive listing

Last update 26 May 2021

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This listing shows the sale of former British Rail (BR) businesses. Greater detail for passenger TOCs is shown on this page.

Prior to sale, most businesses were set up as individual standalone companies, though it appears that some were not. Owing to the complexities of company subsidiaries (sometimes within further subsidiaries) no attempt has been made to give subsequent history, only the initial purchaser is shown. Even then, there is room for debate about the exact name of the purchasing company and which subsidiary is credited, particularly where the BR subsidiary name carried over. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the listing gives a good flavour of the diverse way the industry was split up.

The British Transport Hotels (BTH) sale is particularly complex as it was not sold as a single entity but as individual sites. Additionally, many hotels were sold before BTH was set up. Much of the detail is unknown and the hotels are listed in their own table below.

Main privatisation

Company Date Buyer
British Rail Hovercraft Ltd may have been named BR Hovercraft Ltd 24 October 1981 Hoverspeed UK Ltd (BR retained 50% stake, selling it on 27 July 1984)
Superbreak Mini Holidays Ltd 14 February 1983 Dundon Ltd (MBO)
Slateford Laundry, Edinburgh 19 September 1983 unknown
Sealink (UK) Ltd 18 July 1984 British Ferries Ltd
British Transport Advertising Ltd originally jointly owned with National Bus Company 28 August 1987 British Transport Advertising Ltd (MBO)
Doncaster Wagon Works Ltd 16 October 1987 RFS Industries Ltd
Horwich Foundry Ltd 15 August 1988 Parkfield Group
Travellers Fare Ltd 19 December 1988 Evenmen (MBO)
Vale of Rheidol Railway 31 March 1989 officials associated with The Brecon Mountain Railway Company Ltd
British Rail Engineering Ltd 18 April 1989 British Rail Engineering (1988) Ltd (MBO/Asea Brown Boveri/Trafalgar House) previously set up as a separate legal entity 31 October 1969
Gold Star Holidays (formerly Golden Rail) 9 May 1989 Superbreak Mini Holidays Ltd
Transmark Ltd 7 April 1993 Sir William Halcrow & Partners Ltd
Meldon Quarry Ltd 4 March 1994 ECC Construction Materials Ltd
Railtrack plc 1 April 1994 assets transferred to separate government company; floated 20 May 1996
European Passenger Services Ltd 9 May 1994 assets transferred to separate government company
Special Trains Unit assets only 31 March 1995 Waterman Railways
Swindon Electronic Service Centre Ltd 31 March 1995 ABB Customer Support Services Ltd
Union Railways 1 April 1995 assets transferred to separate government company
Chart Leacon Rail Maintenance Ltd 5 June 1995 ABB Customer Support Services Ltd
Doncaster Rail Maintenance Ltd 5 June 1995 ABB Customer Support Services Ltd
Ilford Rail Maintenance Ltd 5 June 1995 ABB Customer Support Services Ltd
Glasgow Rail Maintenance Ltd 6 June 1995 Railcare Ltd (Babcock International Group plc/Siemens plc joint venture)
Wolverton Rail Maintenance Ltd 6 June 1995 Railcare Ltd (Babcock International Group plc/Siemens plc joint venture)
Eastleigh Rail Maintenance Ltd 7 June 1995 Wessex Traincare Ltd (MEBO)
Baileyfield Switch & Crossing Works 7 July 1995 VAE-Baileyfield Ltd (MBO joint venture)
DCU Birmingham Ltd 25 July 1995 Owen Williams Railways Ltd (Owen Williams Consulting Engineers subsidiary)
IDG Glasgow Ltd 18 August 1995 Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick (SWK Holdings subsidiary)
Mainline Swindon Ltd 18 August 1995 Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick (SWK Holdings subsidiary)
Ditton Timber Treatment Works 1 September 1995 PTG Holdings (Phoenix Timber Group plc subsidiary)
Red Star Parcels Ltd 5 September 1995 Rald Ltd (MBO)
Civil Engineering Design Group, York Ltd 15 September 1995 British Steel plc
BPE Mechanical & Electrical Engineering Consultancy Ltd 15 September 1995 James Scott BPE (AMEC Group plc subsidiary)
OBS Services Ltd 3 October 1995 European Rail Catering Company Ltd (MBO)
Sparesco 9 October 1995 assets transferred jointly to ROSCOs (Angel Train Contracts Ltd, Eversholt Leasing Ltd and Porterbrook Leasing Co Ltd)
Quality & Safety Services Ltd 10 November 1995 Ingleby (805) Ltd (MBO)
Railways Occupational Health Ltd may have been named Occupational Health Care (Railways) Ltd 30 November 1995 Occupational Health Care plc
Signalling Control (UK) Ltd 1 December 1995 Westinghouse Brake and Signal Holdings Ltd
Rail express systems Ltd 9 December 1995 North and South Railways Ltd
British Rail Telecommunications plc 12 December 1995 Racal Electronics plc
CEDAC London Ltd 15 December 1995 WS Atkins Ltd
Powertrack Engineering Co Ltd 15 December 1995 WS Atkins Ltd
Interlogic Control Engineering Ltd 4 January 1996 ABB Daimler-Benz Transportation (Signal) Ltd
Porterbrook Leasing Co Ltd 8 January 1996 Porterbrook Leasing Co Ltd (MBO backed by Charterhouse Development Capital)
Angel Train Contracts Ltd 17 January 1996 GRS Holdings (including Prideaux and Associates, Babcock and Brown, and Nomura International)
Eversholt Leasing Ltd 2 February 1996 Eversholt Holdings, a consortium led by Candover Partners Ltd together with the management team, and including Electra Fleming Ltd and the Royal Bank of Scotland
Great Western Trains Company Ltd 4 February 1996 Great Western Holdings, a consortium led by MBO together with 3i and First Group
South West Trains Ltd 4 February 1996 South West Trains Ltd (Stagecoach)
Scotland Track Renewals Co Ltd 8 February 1996 Relayfast Ltd (MBO funded by Hambro European Ventures Ltd)
Scotland Infrastructure Maintenance Co Ltd 14 February 1996 TrackAction Ltd (MEBO)
Loadhaul Ltd 24 February 1996 North and South Railways Ltd
Mainline Freight Ltd 24 February 1996 North and South Railways Ltd
Transrail Freight Ltd 24 February 1996 North and South Railways Ltd
Central Track Renewals Co Ltd 29 February 1996 Tarmac Construction Ltd
Raildata Ltd 3 March 1996 asset transfer to Rail Safety And Standards Board Ltd (BR not shareholder from 31 March 1999 accounts)
Castleton (Long welded Rail and Track) Works 14 March 1996 British Steel plc
Eastern Track Renewals Co Ltd 15 March 1996 Fastline Rail Services Ltd (MEBO)
The engineering link Ltd 18 March 1996 The engineering link Ltd (MBO)
Interfleet Technology Ltd 22 March 1996 Broomco (909) Ltd (MBO)
Western Infrastructure Maintenance Co Ltd 25 March 1996 Amey Railways Ltd
College of Railway Technology Ltd 29 March 1996 Advicepart Ltd (MBO)
Network Train Engineering Services Ltd 1 April 1996 WS Atkins (Consultants) Ltd
Eastern Infrastructure Maintenance Co Ltd 2 April 1996 Balfour Beatty Ltd
South East Infrastructure Maintenance Co Ltd 2 April 1996 Broomco (919) Ltd (MBO/Balfour Beatty joint venture)
Southern Track Renewals Co Ltd 2 April 1996 Balfour Beatty Ltd
South West Infrastructure Maintenance Co Ltd 18 April 1996 AMEC plc
Central Infrastructure Maintenance Co Ltd 19 April 1996 GT Railway Maintenance (GEC Alsthom Ltd/Tarmac Construction Ltd joint venture)
Midland Main Line Ltd 28 April 1996 Midland Main Line Ltd (National Express)
Gatwick Express Ltd 28 April 1996 Gatwick Express Ltd (National Express)
Intercity East Coast Ltd 28 April 1996 Intercity East Coast Ltd (Sea Containers)
Northern Track Renewals Co Ltd 23 May 1996 Fastline Group Ltd
Freightliner (1995) Ltd 25 May 1996 MCB Ltd (MBO backed by 3i/Electron Private Equity)
LTS Rail Ltd 26 May 1996 LTS Rail Ltd (Prism Rail)
Network Southcentral Ltd 26 May 1996 Network Southcentral Ltd (Connex)
St Pancras station; land/buildings at Kings Cross/Stratford 31 May 1996 assets transferred to Union Railways
Northern Infrastructure Maintenance Co Ltd 18 June 1996 Jarvis plc
BR Projects Ltd 26 June 1996 Addspice Ltd (MBO)
Heathrow Express 19 July 1996 BRB 30% share sold to BAA
The Chiltern Railway Company Ltd 21 July 1996 The Chiltern Railway Company Ltd (M40 Trains)
Western Track Renewals Co Ltd 23 July 1996 Relayfast Ltd
Cardiff Railway Company Ltd 13 October 1996 Cardiff Railway Company Ltd (Prism Rail)
Island Line Ltd 13 October 1996 Island Line Ltd (Stagecoach)
South Eastern Trains Ltd 13 October 1996 Connex South Eastern Ltd
South Wales & West Railway Ltd 13 October 1996 South Wales & West Railway Ltd (Prism Rail)
Thames Trains Ltd 13 October 1996 Thames Trains Ltd (Victory Railway Holdings)
Scientifics Ltd 9 December 1996 Atesta Group Ltd
BR Research Ltd 19 December 1996 AEA Technology plc
Nationwide Fire Services 6 January 1997 Serco Ltd
Anglia Railways Train Services Ltd 5 January 1997 Anglia Railways Train Services Ltd (GB Railways)
Great Eastern Railway Ltd 5 January 1997 Great Eastern Railway Ltd (First Group)
CrossCountry Trains Ltd 5 January 1997 CrossCountry Trains Ltd (Virgin Rail Group)
West Anglia Great Northern Railway Ltd 5 January 1997 West Anglia Great Northern Railway Ltd (Prism Rail)
Merseyrail Electrics Ltd 19 January 1997 Merseyrail Electrics Ltd (MTL Trust Holdings)
National Railway Supplies Ltd 31 January 1997 Gresty Supplies Ltd (MBO/Unipart (49%))
BR Business Systems 31 January 1997 Sema Group UK Ltd
Rail Occupational Research Ltd 4 February 1997 BR Projects Ltd (associate company of General Practice Investment Corporation Ltd)
Railtest Ltd 14 February 1997 Serco Ltd
Opal Engineering Ltd 14 February 1997 WS Atkins Rail plc
Thameslink Rail Ltd 2 March 1997 Thameslink Rail Ltd (Govia)
Central Trains Ltd 2 March 1997 Central Trains Ltd (National Express)
North London Railways Ltd 2 March 1997 North London Railways Ltd (National Express)
North West Regional Railways Ltd 2 March 1997 North West Regional Railways Ltd (Great Western Holdings)
Regional Railways North East Ltd 2 March 1997 Regional Railways North East Ltd (MTL Trust Holdings)
Railpart (UK) Ltd 6 March 1997 Unipart Rail Holdings Ltd
West Coast Trains Ltd 9 March 1997 West Coast Trains Ltd (Virgin Rail Group)
BR International Ltd 24 March 1997 Grand Lignes International
ScotRail Railways Ltd 31 March 1997 ScotRail Railways Ltd (National Express)
Rail Direct [London] 1 April 1997 unknown
Rail Direct [Scotland] 7 June 1997 unknown
Rail Direct [Northern] 7 June 1997 unknown
Railfreight Distribution Ltd 22 November 1997 English Welsh & Scottish Railway Ltd

British Transport Hotels

British Transport Hotels (and its predecessors) sold its sites individually as going concerns. Twenty sites were disposed of, mainly through the 1950s, before a full privatisation policy was pursued. BTH sold a ⅔ share in three sites as a joint venture in 1981, selling the remaining ⅓ share three years later. A tranche of ten hotels was sold in March 1983 and a further ten in March 1983 to June 1984. Unfortunately, few details are known of exact dates or purchasers; such information as is known is shown here.

Company Date Buyer
Royal Hotel, Grimsby 31 December 1949 Hewitt Brothers
Fishguard Bay Hotel 1950 unknown
Park Hotel, Preston 1950 Lancashire County Council
Sandringham Hotel, Hunstanton 1950 Hunstanton Urban District Council
Cruden Bay Hotel, Port Erroll 1951 unknown
Station Hotel, Ayr 1951 unknown
Knowle Hotel, Sidmouth 1951 Mr R N Chard
Crewe Arms Hotel, Crewe 1952 Embassy Hotels possibly a subsequent purchaser in 1969
Felix Hotel, Felixstowe 1952 Fisons Ltd
Great Northern Station Hotel, Leeds 1952 unknown
Great Northern Victoria Hotel, Bradford 1952 Frederick Hotels Ltd
Yarborough Hotel, Grimsby 1952 Allanson Hick?
Midland Hotel, Morecambe 30 September 1952 Mr & Mrs Lewis Hodgson, Devonshire Arms Hotel, Bolton Abbey
North Stafford Hotel, Stoke-on-Trent 1953 unknown
Grand Pump Room Hotel, Bath 1956 unknown
Highland Hotel, Strathpeffer 1958 Mr Watson?
Craven Hotel, Charing Cross, London 1963 unknown
Dornoch Hotel, Dornoch 1965 unknown
Station Hotel, Dumfries 1972 unknown, now Best Western
Zetland Hotel, Saltburn-by-the-Sea 1976 unknown
Gleneagles Hotel 18 June 1981 Gleneagles Hotels plc (BTH retained ⅓ stake, selling it in March 1984)
North British Station Hotel Edinburgh 18 June 1981 Gleneagles Hotels plc (BTH retained ⅓ stake, selling it in March 1984)
Caledonian Hotel Edinburgh 18 June 1981 Gleneagles Hotels plc (BTH retained ⅓ stake, selling it in March 1984)
Royal Victoria Station Hotel, Sheffield 1982 Midland Hotels?
St Andrews Hotel March 1982 Frank Sheridan
Midland Hotel Derby April 1982 Midland Hotels (joint venture)
Midland Hotel Manchester April 1982 Midland Hotels (joint venture) or Heathside Catering Ltd or Greater Manchester Councils & Commercial Unions Assurance Partnership all reported
Great Western Royal Hotel, Paddington 1983 M F North plc
Manor House Hotel, Moretonhampstead 1983 Virani Group
Tregenna Castle Hotel, St. Ives, Cornwall 1983 by 25 April Batchshire Ltd
Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool 1983 by 20 May Oakleydene Ltd
Central Hotel, Glasgow 1983 Virani Group
Lochalsh Hotel, Kyle of Lochalsh 1983 by 25 April Batchshire Ltd
Station Hotel, Inverness 1983 Virani Group
Station Hotel, Perth 1983 Virani Group
Turnberry Hotel 1983 by 25 April Batchshire Ltd
Welcombe Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon 1983 by 25 April Batchshire Ltd
Grand Hotel, West Hartlepool 1983 Jifbarge Ltd
Great Eastern Hotel, Liverpool Street 1983 Compass Hotels Ltd (management agreement)
Great Northern Hotel, King's Cross 1983 Compass Hotels Ltd (management agreement)
Great Northern Hotel, Peterborough 1983 Virani Group
Royal Station Hotel, York 1983 by 25 April Batchshire Ltd
Royal Station Hotel, Hull 1983 Virani Group
Royal Station Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne 1983 Virani Group
Station Hotel, Aberdeen 1983 Virani Group
Charing Cross Hotel, Charing Cross, London 1983 M F North plc
Grosvenor Hotel, Victoria, London 1983 M F North plc
North British Station Hotel, Glasgow 1984 Archyfeld Ltd
Queen's Hotel, Leeds June 1984 Trusthouse Forte Ltd