The Western Region was a region of British Railways from 1948. The region ceased to be an operating unit in its own right on completion of the 'Organising for Quality' initiative on 6 April 1992. The Region consisted principally of ex-Great Western Railway lines, minus certain lines west of Birmingham, which were transferred to the London Midland Region in 1963 and with the addition of all former Southern Railway routes west of Exeter, which were subsequently rationalised.
The Great Western Railway (GWR) was established during the 19th century. Although run down by the Second World War, its management opposed its nationalisation into British Railways. Even after nationalisation under the Transport Act 1947 and amalgamation with the other railway companies as British Railways, the new Region continued its enmity with its powerful neighbour, the London Midland Region, which had been born out of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. There were few incomers to the Region at senior level: for example, the Chairman of the Regional Board from 1955, Reggie Hanks, came from the motor industry but had been a Swindon Works apprentice. In the 1956-62 period, a range of express trains were named and their coaches given GWR-style chocolate and cream colours.
Major changes came on the appointment from outside as Regional Managers Stanley Raymond (in 1962) and Gerry Fiennes (in 1963); both worked hard to eliminate the Western Region's large financial operating deficit.
Some revenues were increased, but most of the savings came from cuts. Adjusted for transfer of Banbury northward to LMR and Dorset, Devon and Cornwall from SR, the assets of WR reduced greatly over the decade 1955-1965 and especially from 1963 to 1965:-
|Miles of routes||3,700||3,500||3,115||3,000|
Major new investment in infrastructure did not go ahead substantially until after 1955. The earliest projects included the rebuilding of stations at Banbury and Plymouth, both postponed since the 1940s; of less long-term relevance were new facilities at Paignton for summer holiday passenger traffic and a marshalling yard at Margam in South Wales. Bristol Parkway station opened in 1972.
The Western Region built a large number of steam locomotives to GWR designs including 341 pannier tanks, even after the advent of diesel shunters. Both 2-6-0 tender and 2-6-2 tank engine variants of the BR Standard Class 3 were also built by the Western Region. It was the first region of BR to completely eliminate steam traction under the 1955 Modernisation Plan.
While the other BR regions introduced diesel-electric locomotives the Western Region went its own way by purchasing a complete range of diesel-hydraulic locomotives covering the type 1 to type 4 power requirements. These included the Warship locomotives, which were based on proven West German designs, the British-designed Class 14, Hymek and Western types; these were all eventually withdrawn and replaced with more standard British Rail diesel-electric classes.
One of the major improvements on the Western Region, and later on the Eastern Region East Coast Main Line, was the introduction on the Great Western main line of the InterCity 125 trains in 1976/7 bringing major accelerations to the timetables.