Advertisement
UK markets close in 2 hours 28 minutes
  • FTSE 100

    8,036.83
    +140.98 (+1.79%)
     
  • FTSE 250

    19,623.17
    +231.87 (+1.20%)
     
  • AIM

    749.76
    +4.09 (+0.55%)
     
  • GBP/EUR

    1.1566
    -0.0041 (-0.35%)
     
  • GBP/USD

    1.2311
    -0.0060 (-0.48%)
     
  • Bitcoin GBP

    53,656.75
    +817.79 (+1.55%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,394.22
    -11.77 (-0.84%)
     
  • S&P 500

    4,967.23
    -43.89 (-0.88%)
     
  • DOW

    37,986.40
    +211.00 (+0.56%)
     
  • CRUDE OIL

    82.77
    -0.37 (-0.45%)
     
  • GOLD FUTURES

    2,350.00
    -63.80 (-2.64%)
     
  • NIKKEI 225

    37,438.61
    +370.26 (+1.00%)
     
  • HANG SENG

    16,511.69
    +287.55 (+1.77%)
     
  • DAX

    17,852.34
    +114.98 (+0.65%)
     
  • CAC 40

    8,044.09
    +21.68 (+0.27%)
     

Where are the axed Beeching rail lines that could be re-opened?

Another major shake-up of Britain’s railway network is on the horizon
Another major shake-up of Britain’s railway network is on the horizon

Hundreds of miles of rail lines axed during the Beeching purge of the 1960s could be reopened.

Routes under consideration include restoring the link between Ashington and Blyth in the North East, Uckfield and Lewes in Sussex, and between Burton on Trent and Leicester.

Plans are already moving forward to re-establish the so-called “brain train”, or Varsity Line, between Oxford and Cambridge.

MORE: These councils have made the biggest profits from parking fees and fines

Some 4,000 miles of railway was axed during the notorious cuts overseen by Dr Richard Beeching 50 years ago.

Some of the routes being examined (PA)
Some of the routes being examined (PA)

Now transport secretary Chris Grayling believes some of those routes would boost the economy, encourage house-building and ease overcrowding on the network.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The system is creaking – it’s bursting at the seams,” he said. Grayling said the new routes would “provide better services for commuters but also unlock housing potential”.

Other routes being discussed include suburban lines around Bristol, a freight line that runs through central Birmingham and the line from Okehampton to Exeter.

MORE: UK aerospace industry already being frozen out of big deals amid Brexit uncertainty

Grayling told Sky News: “I certainly want to start the process of bringing back into use some of the lines that disappeared from passenger use about 50 years ago – and where there’s a real need now.

“If you look for example around Bristol, where you’ve got an over-crowded city, lots of traffic in the city centre, there’s a desperate need to improve suburban rail routes.”

He admitted restoring some routes would be expensive and difficult as many now formed part of the country’s cycle path networks or were used a protected country walks.

Walkers make their way past Alton railway station in Staffordshire, axed under Beeching. The building is now owned by the Landmark Trust and is rented out as a holiday home. (PA)
Walkers make their way past Alton railway station in Staffordshire, axed under Beeching. The building is now owned by the Landmark Trust and is rented out as a holiday home. (PA)

Who was Richard Beeching?

As chairman of the British Transport Commission, Richard Beeching was tasked with “making railways pay”.

And his answer was cuts. His first report in 1963 recommended 2,363 stations and almost 6,000 miles, mainly on rural routes and towns, be axed. His second report two years identified just 3,000 miles of major rail lines that should be invested in.

Despite major opposition, “Beeching’s Axe” fell on 2,128 stations and more than 67,000 British Rail jobs were lost by the end of the programme in the early 1970s.

An old railway bridge at Threlkeld in the Lake District (Global Warming Images/REX/Shutterstock)
An old railway bridge at Threlkeld in the Lake District (Global Warming Images/REX/Shutterstock)

The plan forms part of a wider strategy to shake-up Britain’s creaking rail network. Proposals also include splitting up the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise serving London and parts of the south east in 2021.

Great Western – serving the South West and South Wales and currently run by First Group – could also be broken up under the plans.

MORE: Tesla unveils its first electric articulated lorry – and a new sports car

The government also plans to devolve running the track and train services to local companies. Currently, Network Rail, which is state-owned, looks after the track and other infrastructure while train services are operated by private companies.

While the plan to reopen rural routes was broadly welcomed, unions worried for the future of Network Rail and the rail franchises.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “RMT will fight these plans for more privatisation and fragmentation on Britain’s railways and will step up the campaign for public ownership and control.”