Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years on: Memories of Britain's Lost Railways
Tens of thousands of families paid with their traditional existence for his slimmed-down network of only bulk-load freight and InterCity expresses. Down came the stations, the engine sheds and their homes. Change was already under way before Beeching. He promised to turn the industry round, and failed. Beeching, a caricature capitalist in a three-piece suit and trilby, sporting a toothbrush moustache, became a hate figure. The plot came to nothing. TV sitcom Oh, Doctor Beeching!
The infrastructure had to be brought back into the public sector as Network Rail and the East Coast Main Line had to be rescued from collapse. Subsidies to the railways are higher than under nationalisation. Fares are the highest in Europe. This is the destination the anti-railway obsessed Tories of 50 years ago, and of the s, were always going to take this vital industry to.
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It was described as the "most momentous piece of legislation in the field of railway law to have been enacted since the Railway and Canal Traffic Act ". The Beeching report was published in March , and was adopted by the government; it resulted in the closure of a third of the rail network and the scrapping of a third of a million freight wagons.
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The general election in October returned a Labour government under Prime Minister Harold Wilson after 13 years of Conservative government. During the election campaign Labour had promised to halt rail closures if elected, but it quickly backtracked, and later oversaw some of the most controversial closures. Section 39 of the Transport Act made provision for grants to be paid in relation to loss-making lines and services,  but many of the services and railway lines that would have qualified had already been closed. A number of branch lines and local services were saved by this legislation.
After , when the Conservatives were returned to power , serious thought was given to a further programme of closures, but this proved politically impossible. The infamous "Option A" in this report was illustrated by a map of a vestigial system with, for example, no railways west of Bristol or Cardiff and none in Scotland apart from the central belt.
Half a Century ago the infamous Beeching Cuts commenced – We ask, Were the recommendations correct?
The report met fierce resistance from many quarters and was quickly abandoned. Ian Hislop comments that history has been somewhat unkind to "Britain's most hated civil servant", by forgetting that he proposed a much better bus service that ministers never delivered, and that in some ways he was used to do their "dirty work for them".
Hislop describes Beeching as "a technocrat [who] wasn't open to argument to romantic notions of rural England or the warp and weft of the train in our national identity. He didn't buy any of that. He went for a straightforward profit and loss approach and some claim we are still reeling from that today". Since the Beeching cuts, road traffic levels have grown significantly and since privatisation in the mids there have been record levels of passengers on the railways although the impact of this is disputed.
Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years on: Memories of Britain's Lost Railways by Julian Holland
A few of the railway closures have been reversed. A few closed stations have reopened , and passenger services been restored on a few lines where they had been removed. Flanders and Swann , writers and performers of satirical songs, wrote a lament for lines closed by the Beeching cuts entitled " Slow Train ".
Michael Williams' book On the slow train takes its name from the Flanders and Swann song. It celebrates 12 of the most beautiful and historic journeys in Britain, some of which were saved from the Beeching cuts. In the satirical magazine Private Eye , the "Signal Failures" column on railway issues is written under the pseudonym "Dr. The list below shows miles of closures: [ citation needed ].
After this period, "residual" Beeching closures did occur: Bridport to Maiden Newton [note 15] in , Alston to Haltwhistle [note 16] in , Woodside to Selsdon [note 17] in From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. See also: History of rail transport in Great Britain. This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject.
Please integrate the section's contents into the article as a whole, or rewrite the material. July This section needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Main article: History of rail transport in Great Britain to date. Further information: List of British heritage and private railways. Actually, in this case it may well have been a rather tight form of corruption.
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As noted by Henshaw, 'The findings of the Stedeford Committee remained such a well kept secret that even Barbara Castle was unable to see them on becoming Minister of Transport in ' In fact, we now know that Stedeford actually proposed that the government should set up another body whose task it would be ' RB a : Beeching, Richard RB b : Beeching, Richard. Beeching, Richard Archived from the original on 16 September Oxford Publishing Co.
Freeman British Railways after Beeching. Shepperton: Ian Allan. Gourvish, T. British Rail — A Business History. Henshaw, David The Great Railway Conspiracy. Joy, Stewart Forgotten Railways. Department for Transport. The National Archives. Archived from the original on 14 October Retrieved 25 November Retrieved 27 January Passengers No More. The Railways Archive.
Retrieved 25 July Beeching's Reorganisation Proposals", 17 February , p. Cousins says 'We Sacked Beeching'", 17 November , p. BBC News.
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Retrieved 12 October Retrieved 25 August Archived from the original on 28 July Retrieved 17 March Kent Business. Retrieved 8 March Gentleman is now trying to dispose of the shares he has. In a case of this kind, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it most improper, at any rate, that any Minister of the Crown should be associated with any company with which such a contract is placed?
When I became Minister of Transport, last October, I realised that there was a risk of a conflict of interest appearing to arise in consequence of my holding a controlling interest in the company. I immediately took steps to effect a sale of my shares. It has taken some time to arrange this as the company is a private one engaged in long-term contracts in civil engineering, but I hope that it will be completed very soon. Then I shall have no financial interest in the company. But I think that I should tell the House that the prospective purchasers have required me to undertake to buy the shares back from them at the price they are to pay if they ask me to do so after I have ceased to hold office.
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I myself have no option to buy the shares back. I have not, of course, had anything whatsoever to do with any tenders put in by the company while I have been a member of the Government. The Telegraph. In accordance with the statement which my right hon. Members: Mr. Kearton, O. Beeching, A. Sc, Ph. Benson, C. The Treasury and the Ministry of Transport will also be represented. The task of the advisory body will be to examine the structure, finance and working of the organisations at present controlled by the Commission and to advise the Minister of Transport and the British Transport Commission, as a matter of urgency, how effect can best be given to the Government's intentions as indicated in the Prime Minister's statement.
Beeching: Champion of the Railway? London: Ian Allan Ltd.