Pullman Train (UK) - Nationalisation


The PCC was bought by the British Transport Commission (BTC) in 1954. The BTC was the public body that controlled the nationalised transport in mainland Britain. At this point most of the Pullman fleet was somewhat elderly - apart from ten new cars which had entered service in 1951-52 (the building of seven of which had commenced in 1939, and another of which had a reconditioned chassis dating from 1927), the newest cars were 38 vehicles built for Southern Railway 5-BEL and 6-PUL electric multiple units in 1932. The BTC decided to modernise Pullman services as part of the British Railways 1955 Modernisation Plan, with new rolling stock and diesel or electric haulage. The most radical manifestation of this policy was the building of five new diesel multiple-unit Blue Pullman trains (36 cars) in 1960, in a special livery of Nanking Blue and cream. Among the services which these initially operated were two new trains: the "Midland Pullman" (Manchester Central to London St Pancras), and the "Birmingham Pullman" (Wolverhampton Low Level to London Paddington), which offered business travellers alternatives to West Coast Main Line services at a time when that route was subject to frequent disruption due to electrification work. These were joined in 1960-61 by 44 new locomotive-hauled Pullman carriages based on the British Railways Mark 1 design, which were built by Metro-Cammell to modernise the East Coast Main Line Pullman services.

Despite new rolling stock, the Pullman company was experiencing difficulties. Although its equity was wholly owned by the BTC, its separate staffing and operations became an anomaly on the state-owned railway system, and staffing of the new Blue Pullmans had created some union disputes. The National Union of Railwaymen urged its integration into British Railways, which was completed in 1962. The Pullman company then ceased to exist as a separate legal entity, but Pullman trains continued to be operated. British Rail went on to build a final 29 cars in 1966, based on the BR Mark 2 design. These were used on new "Manchester Pullman" and "Liverpool Pullman" services over the newly electrified West Coast Main Line, replacing the Blue Pullman services to the Midlands. The Blue Pullman sets were then allocated solely to the Western Region and the traditional umber and cream Pullman livery was replaced by a new grey and Rail Blue livery, which the Blue Pullman units also received in 1969.

Despite this investment in new carriages, use of Pullman services declined. In part this was due to the development of the British motorway network and increasing competition from domestic air travel for the passengers who could afford the Pullman surcharge, but improvements to British Rail's normal first-class service also had an impact. For example, the Mark 1 Pullmans lacked air-conditioning, while later batches of ordinary Mark 2 stock had this feature as standard in both first and second class.

The Southern Region had not modernised its Pullman rolling stock, and was first to discontinue its Pullman trains. The "Bournemouth Belle" ended in 1967, with the "Brighton Belle" and "Golden Arrow" following in 1972, by which time most of the coaches used on those trains were at least 40 years old. The Blue Pullman diesels used on the Western Region were a non-standard design which suffered from poor reliability, and were withdrawn when the "Bristol Pullman" and "South Wales Pullman" services ceased in 1973. The advent of much faster InterCity 125 trains with new British Rail Mark 3 coaches resulted in the demise of the Mark 1 Pullman services on the East Coast Main Line in 1978. By this time the "Liverpool Pullman" on the West Coast Main Line had also been discontinued, leaving just the "Manchester Pullman". This was finally dropped in 1985, being replaced by increased first-class accommodation on ordinary West Coast Main Line services. A new batch of Mark 3b carriages built for this purpose initially carried "Intercity Pullman" branding and individual carriage names, but they were ordinary Open Firsts in otherwise standard Intercity livery. Subsequently a number of named trains have used the word 'Pullman' in their titles, but these have been normal trains with increased first-class accommodation.

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