We are all aware of all the proposed severe cuts that the coalition government is about to inflict on us but I want to take you back 50 to an appointment that led to a situation very similar to today.
In Fact it was 50 year ago this week on March 15th that Dr Robert Beeching was made the head of British Rail and it was not long after that he produced is famous Beeching report. This report was to decimate our railways system; it was responsible for closing over 4,000 miles of track and nearly 3000 stations and it lead to the loss of 67,000 railway jobs. Everyone accepted that the railway network needed to be trimmed but it was the speed and severity of the cuts that appalled everyone. The name Beeching was hated everywhere and he became known as the mad axe man. Many people have questioned the need and the reasons for the cuts that were made during the 60s, it left many growing towns without any adequate transport links not only did it cost the lively hood of the railwaymen but many businesses failed as well. Questions have been asked about the reasoning for the cuts especially when it came to light that many of the government of the time had business interested linked to road haulage. Ernest Marples Transport Minister in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government owned two thirds shareholding in a road construction company, much of the money spent on the railways was to go over to road haulage. Many people have said that the real damage that was done by the speed and severity of the cuts was the fact that thousands of miles of track bed was not retained for a later use, something that his very much regretted in this present time of our expanding rail network.
Luckily not all of the lines that Beeching earmarked for closer actually went through. I found an interesting site that highlight this fact http://www.mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings/doctor-beeching for me the saddest part of all this was to see thousands of much loved Steam Locomotives being sent the scrap yards, many of these ending up at Barry in South Wales. Barry was to have been the last resting place of some of our greatest examples of British Engineering but a stroke of luck was to save a vast majority of them. The owners of Barry scrap yard found that breaking up railway wagons was more profitable and less complicated and so many of these giants of steam were left to rust until 10 years later saw the start of the railway preservation society’s.
Just a few years ago Corby re-opened their station and more stations are to follow. Our preservation lines are running economically and it seems with the cost of rising fuel the need for a growing rail network is back on course, its just a shame that with the speed of the cuts 50 years ago no one thought to put in moth balls the track beds that could have been used in the expansion,