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Government supports reversing Beeching railway closures

The Railway Hub

Many small stations and railway lines closed under the Beeching cuts of the 1960s should be reopened, according to the Transport Secretary.

Grant Shapps told the Commons he would support opening long-closed railway links to help improve public transport and connectivity in the UK.

Asked about plans to open a section of the Market Harborough line as part of the Oxford to Cambridge “expressway”, Mr Shapps said he backs the project.


He said he would also support further reopening of smaller railway links closed in the 1960s under the recommendations of former British Rail chairman Richard Beeching.

Mr Shapps said: “I have to say I am also supportive of the reopening of a lot of these smaller lines closed under the Beeching cuts under the Labour government of the time, and I would like to see how we can get as many of these opened as possible.”

MPs heard that good rail links are important for local economies in the UK. He said poor rail services are “unacceptable”, but rejected claims that nationalising services would bring improvements for passengers.


Mr Shapps said: “It is unacceptable to have these poor services running. That is why the Williams Review is so important.

“I don’t agree that nationalisation is the answer, not least because railway numbers have doubled since the privatisation. There is a lot more to do.”

What were the Beeching cuts?

The Beeching cuts were a reduction of route network and restructuring of the railways in Great Britain, according to a plan outlined in two reports between 1963 and 1965. The Reshaping of British Railways and The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes were written by Dr Richard Beeching.


Most of the Beeching cuts took place during Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s first period in office (1964-70).

But the Beeching review, which recommended even more drastic cuts to the railway network, was ordered by the previous Conservative government.

One of the last major lines to be closed was the Waverley route from Carlisle to Edinburgh. The reopening of a 35-mile section of the line was approved in 2006.


Several other Beeching lines have been partially or wholly reopened, including a number rescued by enthusiasts for heritage railways, but most remain closed.

Also see…

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Sam Hewitt

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