The Beeching cuts (also Beeching Axe) refer to the reduction of route network and restructuring of the Railways in Great Britain outlined in two reports, The Reshaping of British Railways (1963) and The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes (1965), written by Dr Richard Beeching and published by the British Railways Board.
The first report identified 2,363 stations and 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of railway line for closure, 55% of stations and 30% of route miles, with an objective of stemming the large losses being incurred during a period of increasing competition from road transport; the second identified a small number of major routes for significant investment. The 1963 report also recommended some less well publicised changes, including a switch to containerisation for rail freight.
Protests resulted in the saving of some stations and lines, but the majority were closed as planned and Beeching's name remains associated with the mass closure of railways and the loss of many local services in the period that followed. A few of these routes have since reopened, some short sections have been preserved as Heritage Railways, while others been incorporated into the National Cycle Network or used for road schemes; with others now lost to construction, simply reverted to farm land, or remain derelict.
- 1 Background
- 2 The Beeching reports
- 3 The closures
- 4 Critical analysis
- 5 The people and the politics
- 6 Reopenings
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 Gallery
- 9 Closures by year
- 10 See also
- 11 References, sources and notes
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
After growing rapidly in the 19th century during the Railway Mania, the British railway system reached its height in the years immediately before the First World War, with a network of 23,440 miles (37,720 km). After the First World war the railways faced increasing competition from a growing road transport network, which led to the closure of some 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of passenger railway between 1923 and 1939. Some of these lines had never been profitable and were not subject to loss of traffic in that period. The railways were busy during World War II, but at the end of the war they were in a poor state of repair, and were soon nationalised as British Railways.
The "Branch Lines Committee" of the British Transport Commission (BTC) was formed in 1949 with a brief to close the least-used branch lines; 3,318 miles (5,340 km) of railway were closed between 1948 and 1962. Closures in this period included the Charnwood Forest Railway, closed to passengers in 1931, the Harborne Line in Birmingham, closed to passengers in 1934, and the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, closed in 1959. This period saw the beginning of a closures protest movement led by the Railway Development Association, whose most famous member was the poet John Betjeman. They went on to be a significant force resisting the Beeching proposals.
Economic recovery and the end of petrol rationing led to rapid growth in car ownership and use. Vehicle mileage grew at a sustained annual rate of 10% between 1948 and 1964. In contrast, railway traffic remained steady during the 1950s but the economics steadily deteriorated, with labour costs rising faster than income and fares and freight charges repeatedly frozen by the government to try to control inflation. By 1955 income no longer covered operating costs, and things got steadily worse.
The 1955 Modernisation Plan promised expenditure of over £1,240 million; steam locomotives would be replaced with diesel and electric locomotives, traffic levels would increase and the system was predicted to be back in profit by 1962. Instead losses mounted, from £68 million in 1960 to £87 million in 1961, and £104 million in 1962. The BTC could no longer pay the interest on its loans. The government lost patience and looked for radical solutions.
By 1961 losses were running at £300,000 a day; since nationalisation in 1948 3,000 miles (4,800 km) of line had been closed, railway staff numbers had fallen 26% from 648,000 to 474,000[note 1] and the number of railway wagons had fallen 29% from 1,200,000 to 848,000.[note 2]
The Beeching reports
The Reshaping of British Railways (The Beeching report)
The report The Reshaping of British Railways (or Beeching I report) was published on 27 March 1963.
The report starts by quoting the brief provided by the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, from 1960 "First, the industry must be of a size and pattern suited to modern conditions and prospects. In particular, the railway system must be modelled to meet current needs, and the modernisation plan must be adapted to this new shape"[note 3] and with the premise that the railways should be run as a profitable business.[note 4]
Beeching first studied traffic flows on all lines to identify 'the good, the bad, and the indifferent'.[note 5] His analysis showed that the least-used 1,762 stations had annual passenger receipts of less than £2,500 each (£51.4 thousand as of 2018), that over half of the 4,300 stations open to passengers in 1960 had receipts of less than £10,000,[note 6] that the least-used 50% of stations contributed only 2% of passenger revenue[note 7] and that one third of route miles carried just 1% of passengers.[note 8]
By way of example, he noted that the line from Thetford to Swaffham carried five trains each weekday in each direction, carrying an average of nine passengers with only 10% of the costs of operating the line covered by fares; another example was the Gleneagles-Crieff-Comrie line which had ten trains a day and five passengers on average earning only 25% of costs. Finally there was the service from Hull to York via Beverley (using part of the Yorkshire Coast Line, which was not closed, and the York to Beverley Line which was). The line covered 80% of its operating costs but he calculated that it could be closed because there was an alternative, but less direct, route.[note 9]
Out of 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of railway, Beeching recommended that 6,000 miles (9,700 km)—mostly rural and industrial lines—should be closed entirely, and that some of the remaining lines should be kept open only for freight. A total of 2,363 stations were to close, including 435 already under threat, both on lines that were to close and on lines that were to remain open.[note 10]
He recommended that freight services should mainly be for minerals and coal, and that the freight system made use of new containerised handling systems rather than less efficient and slower wagon-load traffic.[note 11] This was eventually adopted with Freightliner. He recommended further electrification of the West Coast Main Line from Crewe to Glasgow in 1974. Staff terms and conditions were to be improved over time.
The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes (Beeching II)
On 16 February 1965, Beeching announced the second stage of his reorganisation of the railways. In The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes. In this report he set out his conclusion that of the 7,500 miles (12,100 km) of trunk railway only 3,000 miles (4,800 km) "should be selected for future development" and invested in.
This policy would result in traffic being routed along nine lines. Traffic to Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Scotland would be routed through the West Coast Main Line to Carlisle and Glasgow; traffic to the north-east would be concentrated through the East Coast Main Line, which was to be closed north of Newcastle; and traffic to Wales and the West Country would go on the Great Western Main Line to Swansea and Plymouth.
Underpinning Beeching's proposals was his belief that there was too much duplication in the railway network, "The real choice is between an excessive and increasingly un-economic system, with a corresponding tendency for the railways as a whole to fall into disrepute and decay, or the selective development and intensive utilisation of a more limited trunk route system".[note 12] Of the 7,500 miles (12,100 km) of trunk route, 3,700 miles (6,000 km) involves a choice between two routes, 700 miles (1,100 km) a choice of three, and over a further 700 miles (1,100 km) a choice of four. In Scotland only the Central Belt routes and the lines via Fife and Perth to Aberdeen were selected for development, and none were selected in Wales, apart from the Great Western Main Line as far as Swansea.
Beeching's secondment from ICI ended early in June 1965 after Harold Wilson's attempt to get him to produce a transport plan failed. It is a matter of debate whether Beeching left by mutual arrangement with the government or if he was sacked. Frank Cousins, the Labour Minister of Technology, told the House of Commons in November 1965 that Beeching had been dismissed by Tom Fraser. Beeching denied this, pointing out that he had returned early to ICI as he would not have had enough time to undertake an in-depth transport study before the formal end of his secondment.
The first report was accepted by the Government, but many of the closures it recommended sparked protests from communities that would lose their trains, many of which (especially rural communities) had no other public transport. The government argued that many services could be provided more cheaply by buses.
Line closures, which had been running at about 150–300 miles per year between 1950 and 1961, peaked at 1,000 miles (1,600 km) in 1964 and had come to a virtual halt by the early 1970s. One of the last major closures was the 98-mile long (158 km) Waverley Route between Carlisle, Hawick and Edinburgh in 1969; the re-opening of a 35-mile section of this line has been approved by the Scottish Parliament and passenger services resumed on 9 September 2015.
Not all the recommended closures were implemented. Reprieved lines include:
- Lines through the Scottish Highlands, such as the Far North Line were kept open, in part because of pressure from the powerful Highland lobby.
- The Central Wales Line was said to have been kept open because it passed through so many marginal constituencies that no one dared to close it.
- The Tamar Valley Line in Devon and Cornwall was kept open because the local roads were poor.
- Other routes (or parts of routes) planned for closure that survived include the Settle-Carlisle Line, Ipswich–Lowestoft, Manchester–Sheffield via Edale (but the Woodhead Line and Bakewell route closed), Buxton Line, Ayr–Stranraer, Glasgow–Kilmarnock, Glasgow–Edinburgh via Shotts, Barrow–Whitehaven, Middlesbrough–Whitby, York–Harrogate, Leeds/Bradford–Ilkley, Nottingham–Lincoln, Boston–Skegness, Birkenhead–Wrexham, Liverpool–Southport (and other Merseyside commuter routes), Bury-Manchester, Leicester–Peterborough, Hastings–Ashford and Ryde–Shanklin.
The Beeching Report was intended to be the first stage in the rail network's contraction. As a result, some lines it had not recommended for closure were subsequently shut down, such as the Woodhead Line between Manchester and Sheffield in 1981, after the freight traffic (mostly coal) on which it had relied declined. Most of the Oxford–Cambridge "Varsity Line" closed despite its strategic location serving Milton Keynes, Britain's largest "new town". Kinross-shire and Fife especially suffered closures not included in the Report, including the main line from Edinburgh to Perth. King's Lynn was to have remained at the centre of routes towards Norwich, Hunstanton and Wisbech, all of which closed.
With a few exceptions, after the early 1970s proposals to close other lines were met with vociferous public opposition and were quietly shelved. This opposition likely stemmed from the public experience of the many line closures during the cuts in the mid and late 1960s.
||This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (July 2012)|
Disposals of land and structures
Beeching's reports made no stipulation for the handling of land after closures. British Rail operated a policy of disposing of land that was surplus to requirements. Many bridges, cuttings and embankments have been removed and the land sold for development. Closed station buildings on remaining lines have often been demolished or sold for housing or other purposes. Increasing pressure on land use meant that protection of closed trackbeds as in other countries (such as the US Rail Bank scheme, which holds former railway land for possible future use) was not seen to be practical. Many redundant structures from closed lines remain, such as bridges over other lines and drainage culverts. These often require maintenance as part of the rail infrastructure while providing no benefit. Critics of Beeching argue that this demonstrates the short-sighted aspect of the report's approach. On the other hand, it does not automatically follow that retaining a railway on these routes, which would obviously increase the cost of maintaining them, would have earned enough to justify that greater cost. As demand for rail has grown since privatisation, the failure to preserve the routes of closed lines – for example between Bedford and Cambridge – has been criticised.
Acceptance of rail subsidies
By 1968 the railways had not been restored to profitability and Beeching's approach appeared to many to have failed. It has been suggested that by closing almost a third of the network Beeching achieved a saving of just £30 million, whilst overall losses were running in excess of £100 million per year. However, the precise savings from closures are impossible to calculate. The Ministry of Transport subsequently estimated that rail operating costs had been cut by over £100 million in the wake of the Beeching Report but that much of this had been swallowed up by increased wages. Although in some cases closures removed branches that acted as feeders to the main lines and that feeder traffic was lost when the branches closed, the financial significance of this is debatable as over 90 per cent of the railways' 1960 traffic was carried on lines which remained open ten years later.
Whatever the correct figures, towards the end of the 1960s it became increasingly clear that rail closures were not bringing the rail system out of deficit and were unlikely ever to do so. Transport minister Barbara Castle stipulated that some rail services that could not pay their way but had a valuable social role should be subsidised. Legislation allowing this was introduced into the 1968 Transport Act (Section 39 made provision for a subsidy to be paid by the Treasury for a three-year period). Whether this affected the size of the network is questionable: the criteria for reprieving loss-making lines had not altered, merely the way their costs appeared in the railways accounts—previously their contribution to the railways overall loss was hidden in the total deficit.
Replacement buses and proposed alternatives
The "bustitution" policy that replaced rail services with buses also failed. In many cases the replacement bus services were slower and less convenient than the trains they were meant to replace, and so were unpopular. Replacement bus services were often run between the (now disused) station sites, thus losing any potential advantage over the closed rail service. Most replacement bus services lasted less than two years before they were removed due to a lack of patronage, leaving large parts of the country with no public transport.
The assumption at the time was that car owners would drive to the nearest railhead (which was usually the junction where the closed branch line would otherwise have taken them) and continue their journey onwards by train. In practice, having left home in their cars, people used them for the whole journey. Similarly for freight: without branch lines, the railways' ability to transport goods "door to door" was dramatically reduced. As in the passenger model, it was assumed that lorries would pick up goods and transport them to the nearest railhead, where they would be taken across the country by train, unloaded onto another lorry and taken to their destination. The development of the motorway network, the advent of containerisation, improvements in lorries and the economic costs of having two break-bulk points combined to make long-distance road transport a more viable alternative.
Many of the closed lines ran at only a small deficit. Some lines such as the Sunderland to West Hartlepool line cost only £291 per mile to operate. Closures of such small-scale loss-making lines made little difference to the overall deficit.
The Beeching reports recommended against attempts to make loss-making lines profitable. Changing to light railway type operations were attacked by Beeching, who wrote: "The third suggestion, that rail buses should be substituted for trains, ignores the high cost of providing the route itself, and also ignores the fact that rail buses are more expensive vehicles than road buses." There is little in the Beeching report recommending general economies (in administration costs, working practices and so on). For example, a number of the stations that were closed were fully staffed 18 hours a day, on lines controlled by multiple Victorian era signalboxes (again fully staffed, often throughout the day). Operating costs could have been reduced by reducing staff and removing redundant services on these lines while keeping the stations open. This has since been successfully done by British Rail and its successors on lesser-used lines that survived the axe, such as the East Suffolk Line from Ipswich to Lowestoft, which survives as a "basic railway". Such recommendations were absent from the Beeching reports.
Some of the closed routes would now be heavily used, possibly even important trunk routes. The Settle-Carlisle Railway was threatened with closure, reprieved and now handles more traffic (both passenger and freight) than at any time in its history. The Great Central Main Line, the last trunk route built in Britain until the opening of High Speed 1 in 2007, was intended to provide a link to the north of England from a proposed Channel Tunnel. It was built to the larger Continental loading gauge and constructed to the same standards as a modern high speed line, with no level crossings, and curves and gradients kept to an absolute minimum. This line closed in stages between 1966 and 1969 after just 60 years of service, 28 years before the opening of the Channel Tunnel rail link There has been discussion about "High Speed 2" linking the tunnel to the North of England and Scotland. While this route would have been served by a simple extension of the closed line's original function, it would now be very difficult and expensive to construct as much of the former GC route has been levelled or built over. The Marshlink Line between Ashford and Hastings, threatened with closure in the Beeching Report, is now seen as important due to the opening of the Channel Tunnel and High Speed 1. Traffic on the single track Golden Valley Line between Kemble and Swindon and the Cotswold Line between Oxford and Worcester has increased significantly, and double track has now been reinstated on the Golden Valley Line.
The people and the politics
The Conservatives increased their Commons majority in the 1959 General election of 8 October, their first with Harold Macmillan as prime minister, who famously said that most people "had never had it so good". Ernest Marples, previously the Postmaster General, was made Transport Minister two weeks later in a cabinet reshuffle; Marples was described by some as "cocky", "flash", "slick" and as a "construction tycoon", and Macmillan noted that the Northern working-class boy who had won a scholarship to a grammar school was one of only two "self-made men" in his cabinet.
Marples had a background with a successful road construction company. When opening the M1 motorway he said: "This motorway starts a new era in road travel. It is in keeping with the bold scientific age in which we live. It is a powerful weapon to add to our transport system". His association with the high-profile construction company Marples Ridgway became a matter of concern to both the public and politicians during the period. As is customary, he resigned as a director of the company in 1951 on becoming a junior minister, but he only sold his shares in the company in 1960 after the company won a contract to build the Hammersmith Flyover, when questions were asked both in the media and also in the Commons on 28 January 1960; he made a statement to the House later that day confirming that the sale of shares was in hand and would be completed 'very soon', noting that as part of the agreement he could be required to buy the shares from the purchaser at the original price after he ceased to hold office, if so desired by the purchaser. In July 1964, Marples Ridgway and partners were awarded a £4.1 million contract for the "Hendon Urban Motorway" extension of the M1, in the same year that the company was taken over by the Bath and Portland Group. There was no evidence of any wrongdoing on anyone's part in this or any of the other contracts awarded to the company during his term of office, it did however lead to a sense of unease, not least within the railway sector.[note 13]
In April 1960, Sir Ivan Stedeford established an advisory group known as the Stedeford Committee at the request of Harold Macmillan to report on the state of the British Transport Commission and to make recommendations. Sir Frank Smith, a retired former Chief Engineer at Imperial Chemical Industries was asked by the Conservative Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples, to become a member of an advisory group; Smith declined but recommended Beeching in his place, a suggestion which Marples accepted. Dr Beeching, with a PhD in Physics, had been appointed to the main board of ICI at the age of 43. The board consisted of senior figures in British businesses, and none of the board had previous knowledge or experience of the railway industry. Stedeford and Beeching clashed on a number of issues. However, the future size of the railway system was not one of them. For all the suspicion it aroused, the committee had little to say on this and the government was already convinced of the need to reduce the size of the rail network. In spite of questions being asked in Parliament, Sir Ivan's report was not published at the time. In December 1960 there were questions in the Lords asked about this "secret" and "under-the-counter" study group. It was later suggested that Stedeford had recommended that the government should set up another body "to consider the size and pattern of the railway system required to meet current and foreseeable needs, in the light of developments and trends in other forms of transport… and other relevant considerations".[note 14]
Marples then appointed Beeching as Chairman of the British Transport Commission in March 1961. He would receive the same yearly salary that he was earning at I.C.I., the controversial sum of £24,000 (£367,000 in today's money), £10,000 more than Sir Brian Robertson, the previous chairman of the B.T.C., £14,000 more than Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and two-and-a-half times higher than the salary of any head of a nationalised industry at the time. At that time the Government was seeking outside talent and fresh blood to sort out the huge problems of the railway network, and he was confident that he could make the railways pay for themselves, but his salary, at 35 times the level paid to many railway workers, has been described as a "political disaster".
The Transport Act 1962 dissolved the British Transport Commission (BTC), which had overseen the railways, canals and road freight transport and established the British Railways Board, which took over on 1 January 1963, with Dr Beeching as its first chairman. The Act put in place measures that simplified the process of closing railways by removing the need for pros and cons of each case to be heard in detail. 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 1854".
The Beeching report was published in March 1963 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.
The General election in October 1964 returned the Labour Government 1964–1970 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 quickly backtracked, and subsequently oversaw some of the most controversial closures. Tom Fraser was appointed Transport Minister, but was replaced by Barbara Castle in December 1965. Castle published a map, Network for Development, in 1967 showing the railway system "stabilised" at around 11,000 route miles (17,700 km).
Section 39 of the 1968 Transport Act made provision for Grants to be paid in relation to loss-making lines and services, however 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 1970, when the Conservatives were returned to power, serious thought was given to a further programme of closures, but this proved politically impossible. In 1983, under the government of Margaret Thatcher, Sir David Serpell, a civil servant who had worked with Beeching, compiled the Serpell Report in which it was again proposed that a profitable railway could be achieved only by closing much of what remained. 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. Serpell was shown to have some serious weaknesses, such as the closure of the Midland Main Line (a busy route for coal to power stations), and the East Coast Main Line between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Edinburgh, part of the key London/Edinburgh link. The report was met with 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 being "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". Beeching was unrepentant about his role in the closures: "I suppose I'll always be looked upon as the axe man, but it was surgery, not mad chopping".
Since the Beeching cuts, road traffic levels have grown significantly and since the mid-1990s there have been record levels of passengers on the railways. A modest number of the railway closures have therefore been reversed. However, despite the considerable increase in railway journeys since the mid-1990s, rail transport's share of the total transport market remains below that of the early 1960s, with road overwhelmingly the dominant mode. In summary, rail's market share was 13% in 1961, 6% in 1991 and 2001 and 9% in 2013, the latter only a 50% increase despite a reported 100% increase in rail passenger numbers over the previous decade. 
A small but significant number of closed stations have reopened, and passenger services been restored on lines where they had been removed. Many of these were in the urban metropolitan counties where passenger transport executives have a role in promoting passenger rail use.
- Snow Hill tunnel, south of Farringdon station, was reopened for passengers in 1988 as Thameslink, providing a link between the Midland Main Line and the former Southern Railway via London Blackfriars station.
- Since May 2010, Transport for London has restored most of the line that once connected Broad Street and Dalston Junction, as part of its East London Line project on the Overground network.
- South East
- The Varsity Line closed in 1967, despite not being recommended for closure by Beeching. The Oxford to Bicester Line section reopened in 1987, while works to extend passenger services to Bedford as part of the East West Rail Link are due to be completed by 2019. Plans to fully reopen the Varsity Line, restoring direct service between Oxford and Cambridge, are in the discussion stages.
- Chiltern Main Line was redoubled in two stages between 1998 and 2002 between Princes Risborough and Aynho Junction
- Chandler's Ford in Hampshire opened its new railway station in 2003, on the Romsey to Eastleigh link that had closed to passengers in 1969.
- Part of the London to Aylesbury Line was extended north along the former Great Central Main Line to a new station called Aylesbury Vale Parkway, which opened in December 2008. As part of the East West Rail Link works passenger services will by 2019 be restored to the section of line from Aylesbury Vale Parkway to as far as the Varsity Line, which is currently used only by freight trains, providing direct services from Aylesbury to Milton Keynes and Bedford.
- The Portishead Railway opened to freight as far as Portbury in 2002, plans are to reopen as far as Portishead.
- Stations reopened include Yate, Cam and Dursley, Ashchurch and Melksham
- The Cotswold Line has been redoubled in places and Honeybourne station reopened.
- East Midlands
- Robin Hood Line in Nottinghamshire, between Nottingham and Worksop via Mansfield reopened in the early 1990s. Previously Mansfield had been the largest town in Britain without a rail link.
- Lincoln to Peterborough line. The section between Peterborough and Spalding closed to passengers on 5 October 1970 and re-opened on 7 June 1971.
- North of Sleaford, Ruskington Station re-opened on 5 May 1975.
- Metheringham Station reopened 6 October 1975.
- Kettering to Oakham Line via Corby and Melton Mowbray. The line closed to passengers on 18 April 1966. A line was reopened in 1987 with a shuttle service between Kettering and Corby, but the service was unreliable and lost funding support from the local council, leading to its closure in 1990. The line was then reopened 23 February 2009, with a direct train to London that terminates at Corby, with a limited number of trains continuing on towards Oakham.
- West Midlands
- Birmingham Snow Hill station was rebuilt and reopened in 1987 (the original was closed in 1972) along with Snow Hill tunnel underneath Birmingham city centre to Birmingham Moor Street. The line towards Kidderminster and Worcester was reopened to Snow Hill in 1995.
- The line from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton reopened as the Midland Metro tram system. Despite the successful and potential re-opening of many rail routes as light-rail and metro lines, the concept is still under threat due to the varying popularity of these schemes with successive governments.
- The line from Coventry to Nuneaton reopened to passengers in 1988.
- The Walsall–Hednesford line reopened to passengers in 1989, extended to Rugeley in 1997. Passenger services were terminated between Walsall and Wolverhampton in 2008 on cost and efficiency grounds. Some commentators believe an intermediate station at Willenhall should have been included with the original reopening.
- The South Staffordshire Line between Stourbridge and Walsall is set to re-open as a part of the Midland Metro expansion scheme. The line will be shared between trams and freight trains.
- North West
- The route out of Manchester Central over the Cheshire Lines Committee's Manchester South District Line has been reopened by Metrolink. The line opened to St Werburgh's Road (via Chorlton) in July 2011 and was extended as far as East Didsbury in May 2013.
- South Wales
- 32 new stations, such as Llanharan, and four lines reopened within 20 miles (32 km) of each other: Abercynon–Aberdare, Barry–Bridgend via Llantwit Major, Bridgend–Maesteg and the Ebbw Valley Railway via Newbridge.
- Glasgow Central Railway between Rutherglen and Stobcross was reopened in November 1979 establishing the Argyle Line connecting the Hamilton Circle to the North Clyde Line.
- Intermediate stations at Dalmarnock, Bridgeton, Glasgow Central Low Level and Anderston were reopened. A new station opened at Argyle Street.
- The Argyle Line was extended in December 2005 when a four-mile (6.4 km) section of the Mid Lanark Lines of the Caledonian Railway reopened, serving Chatelherault, Merryton and Larkhall.
- Stirling to Alloa reopened on 19 May 2008, providing a passenger (and freight on to Kincardine) route after a 40-year gap.
- Laurencekirk on the mainline between Arbroath and Aberdeen was shut in 1967 but 42 years later in May 2009 it was reopened. This was the 77th new or reopened station in Scotland since 1970. Others include Gretna Green, Dyce and New Cumnock all of which had been closed in the mid-1960s.
- The Edinburgh to Bathgate route opened in 1985, as single track, the line was doubled, electrified and extended beyond Bathgate to Airdrie in 2010, creating a fourth route between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
- A 35-mile (56 km) stretch of the former Waverley Route between Edinburgh and Tweedbank via Galashiels reopened on 6 September 2015. The closure of the line in 1969 left the Scottish Borders without any rail links.
- Beauly (2006) and Connon Bridge (2015) were re-opened on the Far North Line between Inverness and Dingwall
- Other lines were re-opened as heritage railways. See List of British heritage and private railways.
The lines include, either wholly or in part:—
- Cranleigh Line
- Bordon Light Railway
- Fawley Branch
- Torbay and Brixham Railway
- Sutton Park Line
- Walsall – Brownhills Line
- Aldridge – Brownhills West Line
- Wisbech – March Line
- Fleetwood Branch Line
- East Lancashire Railway
- Skelmersdale Branch
- Blyth and Newbiggin Branch Line,
- Durham – Washington – Pelaw line.
In popular culture
Flanders and Swann, writers and performers of satirical songs, wrote a lament for lines closed by the Beeching Axe 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 axe. It perpetuated the myth that the Beeching cuts were concerned solely with sleepy rural branch lines, but they concerned well-used "industrial" and commuter lines.
In the satirical magazine Private Eye, the "Signal Failures" column on railway issues is written under the pseudonym "Dr. B. Ching".
The lyrics of the I Like Trains song "The Beeching Report" are a criticism of Dr Beeching and the Beeching Axe.
Prospect Tunnel lay on the Harrogate to Church Fenton Line, one of the very first lines to be closed.
Closures by year
The list below shows 7000 miles of closures:
|Year||Total length closed|
|1950||150 miles (240 km)|
|1951||275 miles (443 km)|
|1952||300 miles (480 km)|
|1953||275 miles (443 km)|
|1954 to 1957||500 miles (800 km)|
|1958||150 miles (240 km)|
|1959||350 miles (560 km)|
|1960||175 miles (282 km)|
|1961||150 miles (240 km)|
|1962||780 miles (1,260 km)|
|Beeching report published|
|1963||324 miles (521 km)|
|1964||1,058 miles (1,703 km)|
|1965||600 miles (970 km)|
|1966||750 miles (1,210 km)|
|1967||300 miles (480 km)|
|1968||400 miles (640 km)|
|1969||250 miles (400 km)|
|1970||275 miles (443 km)|
|1971||23 miles (37 km)|
|1972||50 miles (80 km)|
|1973||35 miles (56 km)|
References, sources and notes
- RB(1963a), page 50
- RB(1963a), page 46
- RB(1963a), page 1.
- RB(1963a), page 2. "It is, of course the responsibility of the British Railways Board so to shape and operate the railways as to make them pay."
- RB(1963a), page 3. "Ever since major amalgamations started, the business of railways has been, from a financial point of view, a mixture of good, bad, and indifferent."
- RB(1963a), page 65.
- RB(1963a), page 66.
- RB(1963a), page 64.
- RB(1963a), page 96-99 Appendix 2.
- RB(1963a), page 97.
- RB(1963a), page 141-148. "Appendix 4 The Liner Train"
- RB(1965), page 45.
- Ecologics(2010) "A more critical interpretation is that after Macmillan named Marples as Minister of Transport, Britain’s transport policy swerved to the right, and became motivated by the kind of conflict of interest that Thompson notes can be loosely regarded as a form of corruption (9). Actually, in this case it may well have been a rather tight form of corruption. At the time that he was named minister, Marples owned 64,000 of the 80,000 shares of Marples Ridgeway, a civil engineering firm that specialised in building roads"
- Ecologics(2010) "First, Marples decided to 'disappear' the Stedeford report—or at any rate, any recommendations he put forward (there appears to be some debate as to whether an actual report was produced). 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 1966' (22). In fact, we now know that Stedeford actually proposed that the government should set up another body whose task it would be '... to consider the size and pattern of the railway system required to meet current and foreseeable needs, in the light of developments and trends in other forms of transport ... and other relevant considerations'"
- RB(1963a), page 107
- RB(1963a), page 129 (in Section 6 "Passenger Services under Consideration for Withdrawal before the Formulation of the Report")
- RB(1963a), page 130
- White, H.P. (1986) ''Forgotten Railways, ISBN 0-946537-13-5
- Henshaw, David (1994). The Great Railway Conspiracy. ISBN 0-948135-48-4.
- "TRA0101 (also TSGB0701) Road traffic (vehicle miles) by vehicle type in Great Britain, annual from 1949". Department for Transport.
- "The Great Vanishing Railway". timmonet.co.uk.
- Wolmar, Christian (2005) On the wrong Line, ISBN 1-85410-998-7
- "British Railways Board history". The National Archives. Retrieved 25 November 2006.
- UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
- "BRITISH TRANSPORT COMMISSION (CHAIRMAN)". Hansard.
- Daniels, G. & Dench, L.A. (1975). Passengers No More. Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0438-2.[not in citation given]
- Garry Keenor. "The Reshaping of British Railways – Part 1: Report". The Railways Archive. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
- The Times, "The Second Stage of Dr. Beeching's Reorganisation Proposals", 17 February 1965, p. 8.
- The Times, "Mr. Cousins says 'We Sacked Beeching'", 17 November 1965, p. 12.
- The Times, "Lord Beeching: 'I Was Not Sacked'", 18 November 1965, p. 12.
- "All stations on the Stour Line are Doomed – Councils to lead massive protest".
- Gourvish, T. R. (1974), British Rail 1948 – 1973: A Business History
- "Borders to Edinburgh railway: Track laying gets under way". BBC News. BBC. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- Rail Engineer article - Derailed: The complicity dividend
- Loft, Charles (2013) Last Trains – Dr Beeching and the Death of Rural England ISBN 9781849545006
- Garry Keenor. "Railway Finances – Report of a Committee chaired by Sir David Serpell KCB CMG OBE". The Railways Archive. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
- "High speed service to run between Ashford and Hastings from London after Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin attends rail summit". Kent Business. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Driving Spaces: A Cultural-Historical Geography of England's M1 Motorway. 2011. p. 153. ISBN 9781444355475.
- "MINISTERS OF THE CROWN (PRIVATE INTERESTS)". Hansard. 28 January 1960.
Is he aware that there has been a Press report, which I am unable to confirm or deny, that the Minister of Transport was in fact the senior partner of a firm of contractors which has obtained a contract worth £250,000 and that we understand, according to this Press report, that the right hon. 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?
- "PERSONAL STATEMENT". Hansard. 28 January 1960.
When I became Minister of Transport, last October, I realised that there was a risk of a conflict of interest appearing 381 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. 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
- "M1". Hansard. 21 April 1967.
- "Reginald Ridgway". The Telegraph. 29 March 2002.
- "Marples, Ridgway & Partners Limited". 11 November 1964.
Mr. A. Lewis asked the Minister of Transport whether he will publish in HANSARD a table of figures giving the contracts obtained by Marples, Ridgway & Partners Limited during the past 13 years, and the amounts of such contracts in each case.
- "BRITISH TRANSPORT COMMISSION (ADVISORY GROUP)". Hansard. 6 April 1960.
In accordance with the statement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made on 10th March, I have now appointed the body which will advise me and the British Transport Commission. It will be composed as follows: Chairman: Sir Ivan Stedeford, K.B.E., Chairman and Managing Director, Tube Investments Ltd. Members: Mr. C. F. Kearton, O.B.E., Joint Managing Director, Courtaulds, Dr. R. Beeching, A.R.C.S., B.Sc, Ph.D., Technical Director of I.C.I., Mr. H. A. Benson, C.B.E., F.C.A., partner in Cooper Bros., chartered accountants. 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.
- Hardy, R.H.N. (1989). Beeching: Champion of the Railway?. London: Ian Allan Ltd. pp. 44–48. ISBN 978-0-7110-1855-6.
- Dudley, Geoff (2000). Why Does Policy Change: Lessons from British Transport Policy 1945–95. London: Routledge. pp. 48–9. ISBN 0-415-16918-6.
- "Railways". Hansard. 29 April 1963.
- "PROBLEMS OF TRANSPORTATION".
There has been appointed a highly secret, "under-the-counter" study group of the railways, the Stedeford Advisory Group. Now do not let it be thought that I have any prejudice against Sir Ivan Stedeford. I have a great respect for him: I think he is a very able business man. Indeed, I exercised some influence in getting him appointed as a Governor of the British Broadcasting Corporation, where he did good work. I have no prejudice; but I do not like the way the Government have handled it. They have never published the terms of reference, and I cannot believe that there are not any. They are refusing to publish the Report. In fact, they do not wholly admit that there is a Report; but there are recommendations, and they have not been published...
- Celmins, Martin (30 July 1995). "REAR WINDOW: FAT CATS The man who was paid pounds 24,000 a year". The Independent.
IS THIS man—or any man—worth pounds 450 a week?" the Daily Sketch demanded to know. The Daily Express asked: "Is THIS the way to run a country?". The Daily Mail reassuringly observed "Dr Beeching rides the storm", while the Mirror calmly stuck to the facts. These were that Dr Richard Beeching, technical director of ICI, had been appointed head of the British Railways Board at a salary of pounds 24,000 per annum ... Whatever the logic, politically it was a disaster.
- Kahn-Freund, Otto (March 1963). "Transport Act, 1962". Modern Law Review. 26 (2): 174. JSTOR 1093306. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2230.1963.tb00706.x.
- 1967 Network for Development report and map
- "Transport Act 1968 – 39 Grants for unremunerative passenger services". legislation.gov.uk.
If, in the case of any place or places to and from which railway passenger services are for the time being provided by the Railways Board, the Minister is satisfied (a)that those services are unremunerative ; and (b)that it is desirable for social or economic reasons that railway passenger services to and from the place or places in question should for the time being continue to be provided either in the same or in some different form or manner ; and (c)that because of the unremunerative nature of the services which the Minister is satisfied are desirable for those reasons (hereafter in this section referred to as "the required services") the Board cannot reasonably be expected to provide them without assistance under this section, then, subject to the provisions of this section, the Minister may from time to time with the consent of the Treasury undertake to make grants to the Board in respect of the provision of the required services for such period not exceeding three years at a time as the Minister may think fit
- See list of initial grants awarded and applications rejected in The Railway Magazine for January 1969
- "Britain's most hated civil servant". BBC news. 1 October 2008.
- Davies, Hunter (1982). A walk along the tracks. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-297-78042-7.
- "Operators call for new rail lines". BBC News Online. 15 June 2009. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
- "Michael Williams: So much pain in our love of the train". The Independent. 3 April 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- RB(1963a): Beeching, Richard (1963a). "The Reshaping of British Railways" (PDF). HMSO.
- RB(1963b): Beeching, Richard. "The Reshaping of British Railways (maps)" (PDF). HMSO.
- Beeching, Richard (1965). "The Development Of The Major Railway Trunk Routes" (PDF). HMSO.
- Ecologics (2010) "Financial Scandal, Corruption and Censorship: Part 3".
- Allen, G. Freeman (1966). British Railways after Beeching. Shepperton: Ian Allan.
- Gourvish, T. R. (1986). British Rail 1948 – 1973: A Business History. Cambridge.
- Henshaw, David (1994). The Great Railway Conspiracy. ISBN 0-948135-48-4.
- Joy, Stewart (1973). The Train That Ran Away: A Business History of British Railways 1948–1968. Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0428-5
- Loft, Charles (2013). Last Trains: Dr Beeching and the Death of Rural England. ISBN 9781849545006
- White, H. P. (1986). Forgotten Railways. ISBN 0-946537-13-5.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Beeching rail closures.|
- Commons debate on the Beeching Report 29 April 1963, discussing the problematic financial implications of Beeching to councils on the provision of more roads and to industry.
- A further Commons debate on Beeching Report 2 May 1963
- Colour film of one of the closed "branch" lines in operation
- Website about Beeching cuts in more detail
- Railway maps before and after cuts
- Extensive before and after photo collection of closed stations, with commentaries
|Closed railway stations in Britain by first letter|
|A, B, C, D–F, G, H–J, K–L, M–O, P–R, S, T–V, W–Z|