The growing movement to reverse some of the infamous ‘Beeching cuts’ of 1963 has received a £500 million boost from government.
Dr Richard Beeching published his report “The Reshaping of British Railways” on 27 March 1963. It proposed the closure of 2,363 stations and 6,000 route miles of railway, and that some other lines should lose their passenger services and be used for freight only.
Despite local protests, the bulk of his recommendations were carried out. Not all were implemented – there were some notable exceptions such as the Settle to Carlisle line – but many areas of the country lost their railway services. The plan was, in some cases, to replace trains with buses, while in other areas the report sought to remove duplication and give passengers a single route between destinations.
Today, the popularity of train travel is increasing and government is promoting it as a way of reducing carbon emissions. It is therefore natural that there should be calls to reopen some of the routes and stations that were closed in the sixties.
One notable success story was the Borders railway. The original Waverley Route, 98 miles from Edinburgh to Carlisle via Hawick, was one of the last railways to close under Beeching, in 1969. The northern 35 miles, from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, reopened as the Borders railway In 2015.
Back in November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to spend £500 million on reopening rail lines axed by Beeching.
Now the Government has committed £21.9 million to two routes and a new stations fund. £1.5 million will be used to develop proposals for the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line in Northumberland, while £100,000 for the same purpose goes to the Fleetwood line in Lancashire.
An ‘ideas fund’ will be created so that proposals can be brought forward for future investment – this will get £300,000 – and £20 million goes to the New Stations Fund which, in earlier guises, has already been involved in reopening 10 stations around the country:
- Pye Corner, Wales – opened 14 December 2014
- Newcourt, Exeter – opened 4 June 2015
- Lea Bridge, London – opened 16 May 2016
- Ilkeston, Derby – opened 2 April 2017
- Kenilworth, Warwickshire – 30 April 2018
- Warrington West station, Cheshire – 16 December 2019
- Bow Street station, Ceredigion, Wales – opening 2020
- Reading Green Park station, Berkshire – opening 2020
- Hordon Peterlee station, County Durham – opening 2020
- Portway Parkway, Bristol – opening 2020
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Many communities still live with the scars that came from the closure of their local railway more than five decades ago. Today sees work begin to undo the damage of the Beeching cuts by restoring local railways and stations to their former glory.
“Investing in transport links is essential to levelling up access to opportunities across the country, ensuring our regions are better connected, local economies flourish and more than half a century of isolation is undone.”