21 results back to index
Fire and Steam: A New History of the Railways in Britain by Christian Wolmar
accounting loophole / creative accounting, Beeching cuts, carbon footprint, collective bargaining, computer age, Corn Laws, creative destruction, cross-subsidies, financial independence, hiring and firing, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, low cost airline, railway mania, rising living standards, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, strikebreaker, union organizing, upwardly mobile, working poor, yield management
When Fiddlers Ferry changed over from coal to oil in the 1970s, the line became redundant and closed in 1981. These electrification schemes were definitely the exception, and BR was similarly slow to make use of diesel technology. The failure to convert many local and branch services to diesel was a missed opportunity given that the resulting cost economies could have made these lines far more resistant to the Beeching axe wielded in the 1960s. This was not for lack of available technology. As far back as 1921, one of Colonel Stephens’s railways, the Weston Clevedon and Portishead, had introduced a petrol-engined railcar on its fourteen-mile length and in Ireland the first diesel railcars in the British Isles started running on the small County Donegal Railways in 1926. Despite the unfortunate tendency of early models to lose their front wheels – luckily without causing injury to any passengers – they proved a great success.
And because British Railways was now run by powerful regional managers, who were all vying for the largest slice of the cake for their patch, there was never any coherent programme to focus the investment where it was most needed. Local managers came up with crazy schemes such as electrifying vast swathes of line in the Eastern Region that served remote communities in the Lincolnshire fens (which soon fell to the Beeching axe). The London Midland Region tried to bid for the ridiculous number of 660 electric locomotives for the West Coast Main Line when 100 later sufficed. Such proposals were rejected but other daft schemes went ahead, notably the £1.6m (£30m today) Bletchley flyover on the West Coast line which was never used and survives today as a monument to incompetent planning. The flyover was part of a very sensible scheme to use the Oxford–Cambridge line as an east–west route avoiding London, but not only was that plan never implemented, sadly much of the route was closed in the 1960s.
The only remaining purpose of the railway was, therefore, to serve the 3,000 people living in Buntingford and the villages along the route, and its initial mainstay was freight, principally agricultural produce, although later it would become a commuter line with through trains into London. Inevitably, given the line was a risky financial proposition from the start, the company that built it quickly became incorporated into its bigger neighbour, the Great Eastern, with the shareholders losing much of their investment. The line, like so many built in this period, was closed following the Beeching Report, with passenger services ceasing in 1964 and freight the following year. There were, quite literally, hundreds of similar lines spreading around Britain. Even the Isle of Wight, an island just fifteen by ten miles, acquired thirty-two miles of railway by 18754 and eventually fifty-five by the end of the century, built by no fewer than eight different companies. There were even branches off branches where a train from the junction with the main line might disgorge its passengers at a remote station, only for them to have to change on to an even more remote service.
Last Trains: Dr Beeching and the Death of Rural England by Charles Loft
The Treasury’s ultimate responsibility for the investment programmes of nationalised industries fostered a belief that it needed to develop a picture of future needs against which to judge those programmes. Efforts to apply this principle to transport spending were central to the policy behind the Beeching Report. In turn, the report was one of a series of measures the Conservatives hoped would convince the electorate that they were the standard-bearers of modernisation, and Labour’s opposition to closures sat uncomfortably with Harold Wilson’s attempts to present himself as the moderniser par excellence. This book argues that the Beeching Report was the outcome of a genuine modernisation of Whitehall’s management of the economy. Its form and presentation were a reflection of what was imagined to be wrong with Britain; its limitations reflected the difficulties of modernising Britain.
To Elaine, Billy, Sid and Ron Contents Title Page Dedication 1 Introduction: a wound that has not healed 2 Colonel Stephens’s lost causes: the railway problem 1914–51 3 A terrible tangle: the Isle of Wight and the end of integration 4 Chromium dreams: the 1955 Modernisation Plan 5 The Bluebell and Primrose Line: the 1956 closure plan 6 White elephants: the M&GN and the collapse of faith in the railways 7 Westerham, Marples and the M25 8 The nitty gritty: shaping Reshaping 9 Wells-next-the-Sea and the general election 10 Unmitigated England: Tom Fraser and the Great Central 11 A tiger in the tank? Barbara Castle and the stable network 12 Aftermath: the management of decline 13 Conclusion: ultra-modern horror Glossary Acknowledgements Select bibliography Notes Index Plates Copyright Chapter 1 Introduction: a wound that has not healed On a September evening in 1964, a branch line terminus in the north of England waited for the Beeching Axe to fall. As the last train from Carlisle pulled into the tiny terminus at Silloth, the usual diesel replaced by a steam locomotive for the occasion, passengers in the packed coaches gasped to see a crowd of between 5,000 and 9,000 people spilling across the tracks and a group of folk singers performing ‘The Beeching Blues’. The police had already ejected the local Labour Party candidate from the platform.
When, in the same month, ministers raised the question of a general separation of the commercial and social activities of the nationalised industries, they were told the Padmore committee on nationalised industries had examined this and considered it impractical. The Commission had missed an opportunity to provoke a different conclusion, but it had had little incentive to take it. Even if the Commission had been interested in pursuing social subsidies, would it have made any difference to Melton Constable? Unsurprisingly, the line there from Sheringham did not survive the Beeching Axe, inflicting the limited, if intensely felt, hardship discussed in Chapter 1. Given the small numbers involved it is hard to imagine that any kind of social analysis would have justified keeping it open. By the 1980s only the Sheringham to Cromer line remained, the population of Melton had roughly halved and the heart of the M&GN was reduced to some relics in an industrial estate and a couple of iron brackets from the station incorporated into a bus shelter.
Rush Hour: How 500 Million Commuters Survive the Daily Journey to Work by Iain Gately
Albert Einstein, autonomous vehicles, Beeching cuts, blue-collar work, Boris Johnson, British Empire, business intelligence, business process, business process outsourcing, call centre, car-free, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, Clapham omnibus, cognitive dissonance, congestion charging, connected car, corporate raider, DARPA: Urban Challenge, Dean Kamen, decarbonisation, Deng Xiaoping, Detroit bankruptcy, don't be evil, Elon Musk, extreme commuting, global pandemic, Google bus, Henri Poincaré, Hyperloop, Jeff Bezos, lateral thinking, low skilled workers, Marchetti’s constant, postnationalism / post nation state, Ralph Waldo Emerson, remote working, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, stakhanovite, Steve Jobs, telepresence, Tesla Model S, urban planning, éminence grise
However, by the time that Reginald Perrin appeared on television, commuting by rail had been in steady decline for twenty years. Passenger rail journeys fell from a peak of over 1.1 billion in 1959 to around 650 million in 1980. A proportion of the fall was caused by the so-called ‘Beeching cuts’, named after Dr Richard Beeching, who produced two reports, in 1963 and 1965, which recommended that British Railways’ network should be pruned back to trunk lines and major branches. Several thousand miles of tracks were closed, including some commuter lines, although the Beeching axe fell mainly on rural stations, many of which had never been popular or profitable. The cuts were resented by the public, some of whom looked beyond the present inconvenience of losing their local station.*3 In April 1964, for instance, Barbara Preston had a letter published in the Guardian protesting about the planned closure of some of Manchester’s commuter routes: ‘is this what is really necessary here and now?’
Kiev, meanwhile, took eleven years between 1949 and 1960 to build a 5.2-kilometre system. Trams, trolleybuses and railways augmented these subway systems. The first two were for short-hop journeys; the latter, in theory, enabled every citizen to expand his or her range to the horizon and beyond. The Soviet rail system was growing while its counterparts in the West were contracting. In the 1960s, when the Beeching cuts removed several thousand miles of track from service in Britain, the USSR added nearly 500 kilometres every year. However, these were mostly for moving freight rather than people. Indeed, the freedom of movement that commuting implied was discouraged by the Soviets. Factories were built in wildernesses and tower-block suburbs were built around them, with dedicated transit systems to carry workers between the two.
I live in Bishop’s Waltham, a medieval market town in Hampshire. It was once the seat of the Bishops of Winchester, in whose palace Henry V prepared himself before leaving for France and the Battle of Agincourt, and where Queen Mary I waited for King Philip of Spain to arrive in the country for their wedding. It’s now something of a commuter-shed serving the nearby cities of Winchester, Portsmouth and Southampton. Its railway station was closed in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, and the nearest surviving station at Botley is four miles away along a twisting country road that has several crosses, with bunches of flowers scattered around them, where recent fatal accidents have occurred. There’s a limited bus service, which takes forever to go anywhere. There are no designated cycle paths. The only way for 90 per cent of the people who live in Bishop’s Waltham to get to work is by driving, even if it’s just driving to Botley station as part of a longer commute.
Bike Boom: The Unexpected Resurgence of Cycling by Carlton Reid
1960s counterculture, autonomous vehicles, Beeching cuts, bike sharing scheme, California gold rush, car-free, cognitive dissonance, Haight Ashbury, Jane Jacobs, Kickstarter, peak oil, Ponzi scheme, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, urban planning, urban renewal, Whole Earth Catalog, Yom Kippur War
The “Middlesbrough Cycleway” scheme had ambitious intent (officials had consulted with the Bureau and with Claxton) and was to form a backbone of routes that could, in time, have led to a granular network, but only a few stretches were built in 1978 to the “innovatory” standard that had been envisaged, and the would-be network failed to attract cyclists in sufficient numbers for the trial to be rolled out further. FOLLOWING THE 1963 publication of Dr. Beeching’s report mentioned earlier, the motor-centric government of the day wielded the “Beeching Axe” and ripped out more than 5,000 miles of track from Britain’s historic and world-famous rail network. The steel rails may have been removed but the track beds remained and, in time, some of these rights-of-way were transformed into cycle trails. The UK’s current “National Cycle Network”—14,000 miles of traffic-free and quiet routes administered by a charity called Sustrans, founded by a visionary called John Grimshaw—sprang from one fifteen-mile stretch of former railway line.
The UK’s current “National Cycle Network”—14,000 miles of traffic-free and quiet routes administered by a charity called Sustrans, founded by a visionary called John Grimshaw—sprang from one fifteen-mile stretch of former railway line. Grimshaw wasn’t the first to lobby for the cycle-conversion of Britain’s (not at all) Permanent Way. That distinction goes to Michael Dower, a conservationist who, in 1992, became director general of Britain’s Countryside Commission. In 1963, writing in Architectural Review, Dower proposed that the track beds left after the Beeching cuts should form a national system of “greenways,” and that it would be cyclists who would be the greatest beneficiaries of them. The idea lay fallow until a 1970 government report picked up on the suggestion. Written by J. H. Appleton for, as it happens, the Countryside Commission, Disused Railways in the Countryside of England and Wales suggested that the track beds might also be used as refuse dumps, shooting ranges, nature reserves, linear campsites, running tracks, and—in Cambridgeshire—as an access road to a radio telescope.
On the Wrong Line: How Ideology and Incompetence Wrecked Britain's Railways by Christian Wolmar
The railway would merely link a few major cities such as London, Manchester and Glasgow; Newcastle would find itself at the end of a single-track freight branch from Leeds; while the London-Leicester, Newcastle-Edinburgh and Plymouth-Penzance routes were all to be shut. Although the government rejected the report and chose not to renew Beeching’s tenure at the British Railways Board, it nevertheless proceeded with a series of closures that were to prove the most damaging to the railways in the long term. When they had been completed about 10,500 route miles had survived. Closures set out in the first Beeching Report, in fact, continued throughout the 1960s but slowed to a trickle by the mid-1970s and then dried up altogether by 1977. In fact, the attempt by BR to close major sections of the railway only ended in the 1980s with the unsuccessful and highly dishonest attempt to shut the Carlisle to Settle railway, now intensively used by freight and passenger trains and as a diversionary route. It was the closures after 1966, by which time Wilson held a large majority in Parliament, that are most difficult to comprehend.
The Act also denationalised road haulage, resulting in the sale of 24,000 lorries to small road hauliers who were able to compete, without any restriction on their charges, against BR which had its rates fixed by the government. The investment programme was hamstrung by the need to make interest payments to the former shareholders, which increased losses. As David Henshaw notes in his ground-breaking analysis of the Beeching cuts, ‘Whereas a private company would have paid little or no dividend in lean years, the return on British Transport Stock was guaranteed ... the railways were obliged to pay a fixed sum of around £40 million per year - even when they were making substantial losses.’⁵ That money would have been much better spent on improving the railways. According to a calculation by the Central Statistical Office,⁶ the railways suffered a net disinvestment of £440m in the period 1938-53 (about £13bn at 2012 prices) - in other words, their assets deteriorated faster than they were being renewed.
Although Labour’s transport minister at the time, Barbara Castle, was one of the ablest ever, the civil servants who had developed the Beeching strategy were very much in control at the ministry and their views, greatly influenced by the notion that roads represented the future, were allowed to prevail. The chief casualties, which were either partially or wholly dismantled, were the Great Central which provided an alternative route from London to the Midlands and north-west, the Somerset & Dorset between Bath and Bournemouth, Oxford-Cambridge and the alternative Exeter-Plymouth line. The failure of those who carried out the Beeching cuts to consider the railway within a wider context seems, in retrospect, almost inexplicable. For example, at the very time that the Oxford-Cambridge line was being axed, the government was busily drawing up plans to turn Milton Keynes, within easy reach of the line, into the nation’s fastest growing city. The Great Central, heavily used, was an equally short-sighted closure as, at the same time, Harold Wilson was negotiating with the French to build the Channel Tunnel that would have linked in with the line, which was built to European gauge standards, able to take the wider trains used for freight on the Continent, since it was originally planned to run to Paris.
The Railways: Nation, Network and People by Simon Bradley
Alfred Russel Wallace, back-to-the-land, Beeching cuts, British Empire, clean water, Corn Laws, cross-subsidies, David Brooks, Etonian, intermodal, joint-stock company, loose coupling, low cost airline, oil shale / tar sands, period drama, railway mania, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Barnum, Written by Himself (1888) Barringer: Tim Barringer, Men at Work: Art and Labour in Victorian Britain (2005) Barson: Susie Barson, ‘“A Little Grit and Ginger”’, in Holder and Parissien, 47–73 Baxter: Alan Baxter & Associates, Great Western Main Line Route Structures Gazetteer (2012) BDP: Birmingham Daily Post Bede: Cuthbert Bede, The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1853–7) Beebe: Lucius Beebe, Mansions on Rails: The Folklore of the Private Railway Car (1959) Beeching: The Reshaping of British Railways (The Beeching Report) (1963) Beer: Patricia Beer, Mrs Beer’s House (1968) Beerbohm 1: Max Beerbohm, And Even Now (1924) Beerbohm 2: Max Beerbohm, More (1898) Beerbohm 3: Max Beerbohm, Yet Again (1909) Belloc: Hilaire Belloc, On Nothing and Kindred Subjects (1908) Bennett: Arnold Bennett, ‘The Death of Simon Fuge’, in The Grim Smile of the Five Towns (1907) Betjeman 1: John Betjeman, First and Last Loves (1952) Betjeman 2: John Betjeman, Trains and Buttered Toast: Selected Radio Talks, ed.
The mass of steelwork comprising the overhead line equipment at Tamworth, Staffordshire, 2015. The two nearest trains are class 390 ‘Pendolinos’ 19. Crumlin viaduct, Monmouthshire, built 1853–7. The valley below is threaded through with railways at multiple levels, all still in use in this photograph of 1961 20. Whitemoor marshalling yard explained, on a British Railways poster of c. 1950 21. The notorious closure map from Reshaping Britain’s Railways, alias the Beeching Report, 1963 22. Adlestrop station, Gloucestershire, c. 1905. The main building of 1853 is on the up platform (right), the platform shelter on the down platform, with the stationmaster’s house behind 23. The Great Western Hotel at Paddington station, opened 1854, in a Photochrom carriage picture of c. 1900 24. Euston station train shed, aquatint after Thomas Talbot Bury, 1837 25.
There were about thirty of these in all, plain buildings of brick with hipped roofs, composed in a lopsided way: a two-storeyed residential side, attached to a single-storey section housing the public facilities. The standard provision of rooms – three bedrooms, parlour, kitchen – was the same as at the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Dudley’s stations of the 1850s. The humorist and broadcaster Paul Jennings (1918–89), investigating the aftermath of the Beeching cuts in the late 1960s, found a retired stationmaster named Mr Purdie still living in his 1865-built home at Linton in Cambridgeshire. The station house had 14ft-high ceilings, an ‘elegant curved staircase’, and rusting rails as yet unlifted next to the empty platform. Following the same defunct route into Suffolk, Jennings visited the boarded-up and doomed Haverhill station, with its garden of ‘straggly rosebeds and vague asters’.
The Story of Crossrail by Christian Wolmar
The other early London railway on the east–west axis was the North London Railway, which is described by the chronicler of its rather chequered history as having ‘precious little to do with north London or the needs of its citizens at all’.2 This is rather harsh but, in truth, reflects the fact that its original purpose was to provide access from the west to the economically important London docks and markets rather than serve local passengers. The railway was built in bits and pieces, and has had various incarnations, as well as the threat of closure, as recommended in the Beeching report of the early 1960s, hanging over it for several years. However, now it is an incredibly busy link between various north and northwestern suburbs and the eastern side of the City. The first section opened in 1850 between Bow Junction and Islington, and was soon extended to Camden and a junction with the London & North Western Railway, which owned the line (now the West Coast Main Line) in the west, and to Poplar Dock in the east.
The 1974 study scored a massive own goal by playing down the need for major new schemes: none of the ideas for extending London’s rail network could, it asserted, ‘be justified either on financial grounds or on a conventional social cost/benefit assessment of their transport effects’. Indeed, it is salutary to note that various sections of railway line in London were closed in the wake of the Beeching report of 1963. The North London line, which can be considered a cross-London line linking east and west, was actually slated for closure by Beeching and only saved after a lengthy campaign. Even then, it was run in a half-hearted way – first by British Rail and later under privatization in 1997. However, it would later become well patronized following considerable investment by Transport for London (TfL) in its track, stations and trains.
Abbey Wood 98, 99, 127, 154, 236, 242, 280 Abercrombie report (Greater London Plan) 25–6 Adonis, Lord 53, 126, 153–6, 158, 268, 280 agglomeration effects 38, 48, 152–3 Airport Junction 126 apprenticeships 276–7 archaeological finds, during Crossrail construction 199–202 articulated trains 240 artwork at Crossrail stations 220–2 ATP (Automatic Train Protection) systems 245–6, 247 Aventra trains 243–4 Aviation White Paper 100 AVIS (automatic vehicle inspection system) 242 BAA plc 125, 146, 149–50 Baker Street 123, 124 Bakerloo line 19–20, 31, 62, 73, 125 Bam Ferrovial Kier 229 Banks, Matthew 84 Barbara, St 188–9 Barbican Centre 122 Batty, Ed 195 Bechtel 166–7 Beeching report (1963) 5, 31 behavioural safety 170 benefit–cost ratios Crossrail project 83, 99, 153, 273 and the Chelsea–Hackney Line 70, 71 Kingston branch 105, 106 potential cross-London railways 91–2 transport megaprojects 45–54, 59 Bennett, Simon 143 Berkeley Homes 139, 149, 151, 154 Berryman, Keith 164–5 Bethlem Hospital cemetery, skeletons found at 201–2 bi-mode trains 126 Big Bang (financial services) 38, 40, 123 Binley, Brian 134 Binns, Chris 248, 254, 259, 264–5 Black, Mike 175, 186, 211–12 Blair, Tony 47, 109–10, 114, 146 Bombardier 128, 237, 239, 240–1, 243, 262 Bond Street 119–20, 128, 141 platforms 242 station construction 211, 221 tunnel construction 182–3, 187 Boyd-Carpenter, John 27 British Land 136, 141, 221 British Rail 74 A Cross-London Rail Link?
Are Trams Socialist?: Why Britain Has No Transport Policy by Christian Wolmar
active transport: walking or cycling, Beeching cuts, Berlin Wall, Boris Johnson, BRICs, congestion charging, Diane Coyle, financial independence, full employment, joint-stock company, Kickstarter, low cost airline, Network effects, railway mania, trade route, urban sprawl, wikimedia commons, Zipcar
The last throes of the ‘shut it down’ brigade was the attempt in the late 1980s to close the Settle–Carlisle railway on the spurious grounds that it was too expensive to maintain – a plan that was eventually killed off by a spirited campaign by local opponents and the arrival of Michael Portillo, later to become a true rail buff, at the Department of Transport in 1988. Faulkner and Austin summarize the period by suggesting that, while the build-up to the Beeching report is well known, what is remarkable – and shocking – is the discovery of just how determined the railway managers and civil servants of particularly the 1970s, and also the 1980s, were to reduce the size of the network with which they were entrusted, even after public opinion had turned against major closures, and politicians had wisely followed them.¹⁷ Again, this demonstrates the incoherence of government policies on the railways and on transport in general.
The World's First Railway System: Enterprise, Competition, and Regulation on the Railway Network in Victorian Britain by Mark Casson
banking crisis, barriers to entry, Beeching cuts, British Empire, business cycle, combinatorial explosion, Corn Laws, corporate social responsibility, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, intermodal, iterative process, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, linear programming, Network effects, New Urbanism, performance metric, railway mania, rent-seeking, strikebreaker, the market place, transaction costs
The routes that are eliminated from the counterfactual are generally the later constructions. This illustrates a general pattern: that earlier routes generally Introduction and Summary 15 follow better alignments than later competing routes. Being Wrst in the Weld, their promoters had the widest choice, although there are some cases where the Wrst mover did not appear to choose wisely. A similar pattern was evident in the selection of the Beeching cuts of the 1960s: the lines that were Wrst to be closed were often those that were the last to be constructed, suggesting that they followed inferior alignments. The counterfactual trunk line system has a striking similarity to the modern motorway network. The lines from London to the north, for example, replicate the M1, M6, and M45 motorways, while the down-grading of the East Coast route is reXected in the relatively lowly status of the A1 road.
He often placed a four-way hub at the centre of his network; most of his plans are Steiner-compliant, in the sense that the hub has a distinctive orientation and the lines cross at about 608 rather than 908. Despite his eminence, Stephenson’s plans were not particularly successful. Some lost out to rival schemes, and others had to be scaled down because they were too ambitious. Perhaps the best example of his work was the York–DriYeld–Selby–Hull system in East Yorkshire, which had a four-way hub at Market Weighton. It was eventually built in full, although most of it was closed down during the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. The construction of integrated regional schemes was encouraged by the Railway Committee of the Board of Trade, although this did no good for the promoters of such schemes for, as we have seen, Parliamentary support for the Railway Committee soon evaporated. Some of these schemes were seen, rather cynically, as just an attempt to monopolize a region by courting favour with the Board of Trade.
But British civil engineers built their lines to last—their lines were not just strategic transport links, but monuments of empire and testaments to personal engineering skill. The construction costs were sunk—they could not be recovered if the line was closed (apart from iron bridges, which were used for scrap). As the network expanded, some lines became obsolete, however—for example, the Birmingham and Derby Junction line from Whitacre to Hampton-in-Arden— but most were simply downgraded to local use rather than closed altogether. It was not until the Beeching cuts of the 1960s that wholesale closures occurred. Closures were so unusual that promoters could count on existing railways staying open—indeed, building a connection to a line would improve its chance of survival by bringing extra traYc to it. Path dependence can explain the alignments of many branch lines. It has already been noted that many branches were built in the aftermath of the Railway Mania to salvage something from more ambitious schemes.
Driverless Cars: On a Road to Nowhere by Christian Wolmar
Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, Beeching cuts, bitcoin, Boris Johnson, BRICs, carbon footprint, Chris Urmson, cognitive dissonance, congestion charging, connected car, deskilling, Diane Coyle, don't be evil, Elon Musk, high net worth, RAND corporation, ride hailing / ride sharing, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart cities, Tesla Model S, Travis Kalanick, wikimedia commons, Zipcar
Malls housing B&Q superstores, Homebase garden centres, Toys “R” Us and countless other chains spread inexorably around the country. As transport expert Lynn Sloman summarized in 2006: In less than forty years, the car has become so intrinsic to the way we work, shop and spend our leisure time that it is almost inconceivable that we once managed without it.3 Other transport modes suffered. While the cuts resulting from the Beeching report are the most infamous, the wiping out of all the nation’s trolleybus schemes, all but one of its tramways (the one in Blackpool was saved), and many of its bus routes and suburban railways resulted in an ever-greater dependence on the car. Even parts of the London Underground, which saw a decline in passenger numbers, were being considered for closure. Cyclists were bullied off the roads and pedestrians were at far greater risk on busy roads where traffic was encouraged by the design of the highway to go faster.
The Trains Now Departed: Sixteen Excursions Into the Lost Delights of Britain's Railways by Michael Williams
Where the palatial Great Western Hotel once dominated is a characterless solar-glass office block above a fume-filled subterranean platform. Where the old station once stood, buzzing with the ferment of Brummie commercial life, is a depressing multi-storey car park with a large sign reading, WELCOME TO THE SNOW HILL CAR PARK – BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL. Goodness, those councillors must be proud of themselves! The fate of the old Snow Hill is a case history of what happens when railways fall out of fashion. The 1963 Beeching Report, which promoted blinkered short-term economic demand above community need, ripped, as one commentator put it, the steel backbone out of the nation. More than two thousand stations were lost as a result. Bad enough, but in their misguided quest for modernity architects and planners inflicted equal damage on many of the stations that survived. Magnificent buildings were felled by the wrecker’s ball and deleted from our heritage with callous disregard for tradition or merit.
No wonder the closure of the railway was described at the time as ‘the rape of the Borders’. Unlike the Settle & Carlisle line – the only surviving British main-line rival to the Waverley route for scenic grandeur, luckily saved in 1989 after a long and hard-fought campaign – the official axe fell swiftly on the Edinburgh–Carlisle line as the mandarins in London, set on closure, outsmarted the locals. The first indication of doom came in the 1963 Beeching Report, where the railway was identified as one, in the anodyne phraseology of the time, from which it was ‘intended to withdraw passenger train services’. Beeching hammered an especially devastating nail into its coffin by describing the Waverley route as ‘the biggest money-loser in the British railway system’. At this stage closure was not certain – several Scottish lines given the kiss of death by Beeching are still with us today, including the Far North line from Inverness to Wick and Thurso and the ‘road to Skye’ from Fort William to Mallaig in the West Highlands – but the local campaign against closure was too slow and too late.
The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WWII Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women Who Worked There by Sinclair McKay
The huts that were built soon afterwards – some of which still survive today – strike the modern eye as puzzlingly temporary structures; they put one in mind of prefab houses. Bletchley was both far enough away yet convenient enough to reach to make it an ideal location. And the town and surrounding villages were reckoned to have sufficient space for billeting all the codebreakers and translators. Bletchley Park itself was (and is) next to what is now referred to as the West Coast railway line. And in the days before Dr Beeching axed so much of the network, Bletchley station teemed with activity. To the west, the railways reached Oxford; to the east Cambridge. Meanwhile, anyone travelling from London, Birmingham, Lancashire or Glasgow could get to the town with ease. ‘Or relative ease,’ says Sheila Lawn, who became used to these long-distance hauls. ‘The trains were always absolutely packed with soldiers.’ Nevertheless, the location was a great boon to the many young people scattered across the country who would find themselves receiving the summons.
Who Owns England?: How We Lost Our Green and Pleasant Land, and How to Take It Back by Guy Shrubsole
back-to-the-land, Beeching cuts, Boris Johnson, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, centre right, congestion charging, deindustrialization, digital map, do-ocracy, Downton Abbey, financial deregulation, fixed income, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Google Earth, housing crisis, James Dyson, Kickstarter, land reform, land tenure, land value tax, linked data, loadsamoney, mega-rich, mutually assured destruction, new economy, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, openstreetmap, place-making, plutocrats, Plutocrats, profit motive, rent-seeking, Right to Buy, Ronald Reagan, sceptred isle, Stewart Brand, the built environment, the map is not the territory, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trickle-down economics, urban sprawl, web of trust, Yom Kippur War, zero-sum game
For three decades, the post-war Keynesian consensus held sway, with both major parties accepting the need for a high level of state intervention in the economy – and for the public sector to own an expanded estate in land. But increasingly the free-market right demanded the state be pared back. In 1963, under the auspices of a faltering Conservative administration, Dr Richard Beeching presented the findings of his government-commissioned review into the future of British railways. The ‘Beeching Axe’, as it was quickly termed, would fall sharply: a third of the existing railway network was to be closed. Despite a storm of protest from the rural communities affected, who rightly feared being marooned if they lost their local branch line, the government went along with his proposals. Beeching’s Axe proved short-sighted. He justified his proposals on the grounds of economic rationalisation, but made no recommendations about what to do with the land after the railway lines were closed.
Britain's 100 Best Railway Stations by Simon Jenkins
There is a David Lean exhibition, with clips of his other work. The opportunity has also been taken for a more general railway exhibition, with the usual heritage clutter of a 1940s ticket office, luggage, signs and advertisements, and some rather sad bunting. None of this came easily. The handsome main station building was designed in 1846 by Sir William Tite for the Lancashire & Carlisle Railway. By the 1990s, a combination of Beeching cuts and British Rail neglect had reduced it to dereliction. Only Herculean efforts by the Carnforth Railway Trust brought it and the island platform back to life, and equipped a museum. The Carnforth Station Heritage Centre opened in 2003, with another film telling the story of this, more protracted, encounter. An unusual stone signal-box at the end of the down platform, designed in 1870 to match Tite’s station, has also been restored.
Railways & the Raj: How the Age of Steam Transformed India by Christian Wolmar
Beeching cuts, British Empire, collective bargaining, colonial rule, James Dyson, John Snow's cholera map, joint-stock company, Khyber Pass, Kickstarter, low cost airline, Mahatma Gandhi, Ponzi scheme, railway mania, strikebreaker, trade route, women in the workforce
Increasing concerns of the Government of India about the poor economic performance of the railways led, in 1936, to the establishment of yet another committee, this time to ‘examine the position of Indian state-owned railways’ (which by then were the majority), in order to suggest ways of improving profits and ‘at a reasonable and early date place railway finances on a sound and remunerative basis’.2 This was the type of enquiry that, incidentally, was paralleled across the world as railways everywhere faced increasing competition from road transport, which was wrecking the economic viability of many networks and placing ever-increasing financial burdens on the governments which owned them. The search for a ‘profitable’ or ‘economic’ railway was akin to seeking the Holy Grail, and discovered almost as rarely. India, in fact, was rather ahead of the game in that work on the infamous Beeching Report, which had a very similar remit in the UK, did not start until a quarter of a century later. The Indian Railway Enquiry Committee was chaired by Sir – of course – Ralph Wedgwood, who, reporting in 1937, found that the tendency to spend lavishly on new projects had surprisingly survived the Depression. The railways, in other words, had got in the habit of spending above their means, which had been fine in the highly profitable 1920s but was now a serious problem.
Fuller Memorandum by Stross, Charles
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Beeching cuts, British Empire, cognitive dissonance, complexity theory, congestion charging, dumpster diving, finite state, Firefox, HyperCard, invisible hand, land reform, linear programming, MITM: man-in-the-middle, peak oil, post-work, security theater, sensible shoes, side project, Sloane Ranger, telemarketer, Turing machine
If he'd run away into the Siberian forest, alone, might they have concocted some cock-and-bull cover story . . . ? I make a right turn into a narrow path. It leads to a tranquil bicycle track, walled in beech and chestnut trees growing from the steep embankments to either side and sporadically illuminated by isolated lampposts. It used to be a railway line, decades ago, one of the many suburban services closed during the Beeching cuts--but it wasn't a commuter line. (I stumbled across it not long after we moved to this part of town, and it caught my attention enough to warrant some digging.) The Necropolis Service ran from behind Waterloo station to the huge Brookwood cemetery in Surrey; tickets were sold in two classes, one-way and return. This is one of its tributaries, a tranquil creek feeding the great river of the dead.
Commuter City: How the Railways Shaped London by David Wragg
Beeching cuts, Boris Johnson, British Empire, financial independence, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Louis Blériot, North Sea oil, railway mania, Right to Buy, South Sea Bubble, urban sprawl, V2 rocket, Winter of Discontent, yield management
Transport Bill enacted setting up British Transport Commission and preparing for nationalisation of railways, canals, railway-owned assets such as ports and bus companies, and for later nationalisation of road haulage. 1948 The ‘Big Four’ railway companies nationalised, including joint lines, and some other smaller railways. The new British Railways divides itself into six regions. Non-stop services between King’s Cross and Edinburgh reinstated. 1956 British Transport Commission plans most future electrification to be 25kv ac overhead. 1960 Inauguration of electric services between Euston and Manchester via Crewe on the London Midland Region, British Railways. 1963 Reshaping of British Railways, the ‘Beeching Report’ published. District Line train conducts trials with automatic driving equipment. 1964 Central Line conducts trials with automatic train operation using Woodford-Hainault shuttle. 1966 Electric service introduced from Euston to Manchester and Liverpool. 1974 Electric services inaugurated between Euston and Glasgow. 1991 Electric services inaugurated between King’s Cross and Edinburgh. 1994 British Rail restructured ready for privatisation.
Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World by Christian Wolmar
banking crisis, Beeching cuts, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, invention of the wheel, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, Kickstarter, Mahatma Gandhi, railway mania, refrigerator car, side project, South China Sea, transcontinental railway, tulip mania, urban sprawl
With the loss of much of their traffic, it was inevitable that the Western European railways would start to close lines and drastically reduce staffing levels. Branches had started closing in many countries since the 1930s, but the pace accelerated greatly once cars started rolling on to the improved roads in the 1950s and 1960s in huge numbers. The inflexibility of the railways was proving a great burden, as stations and whole lines had to be shut. In Britain there was the infamous Beeching report published in 1963 which led to the closure of 4,000 miles of railway, a quarter of the total, and 3,000 stations, while in France most of the Departmental lines built after the clamouring of local interests in the 1870s were closed in the 1940 and 1950s. There were, however, some heroic attempts to resist the onslaught from cars, lorries and planes. Gradually, after the chaos of the immediate aftermath of the war, railway administrations across Europe began to understand that the affluence which spawned the motor car also offered them opportunities to provide a new kind of service.
Fall Out: A Year of Political Mayhem by Tim Shipman
banking crisis, Beeching cuts, Bernie Sanders, Boris Johnson, centre right, Clapham omnibus, Corn Laws, corporate governance, Dominic Cummings, Donald Trump, drone strike, Etonian, eurozone crisis, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, iterative process, John Bercow, Kickstarter, kremlinology, land value tax, mutually assured destruction, Neil Kinnock, new economy, non-tariff barriers, offshore financial centre, open borders, quantitative easing, Ronald Reagan, Snapchat, working poor
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, dealt with his amendments by reading out a long list and saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.’ The meeting descended further into chaos as the push-button microphones were not working properly. ‘People couldn’t hear what other people were saying,’ the official said. Corbyn, who was supposed to be co-chairing the meeting, chipped in occasionally on obscure issues: ‘It was quite a bizarre afternoon.’ At one point the meeting even agreed to reverse the Beeching Report of the 1950s and rebuild local branch railway lines across the country, though that was never added to the manifesto. Tom Watson pushed for no major changes on the big spending commitments, only asking for a few pet policies to be included. ‘There was a sense that if Jeremy was going to lose, which they assumed, they should let him have his manifesto,’ a moderate in the room said. A LOTO source agreed: ‘Watson was of the opinion: make them own it.
A History of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr
air freight, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, battle of ideas, Beeching cuts, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bob Geldof, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Brixton riot, clean water, collective bargaining, computer age, congestion charging, cuban missile crisis, deindustrialization, Etonian, falling living standards, fear of failure, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, floating exchange rates, full employment, housing crisis, illegal immigration, Kickstarter, liberal capitalism, Live Aid, loadsamoney, market design, mass immigration, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, Neil Kinnock, Nelson Mandela, new economy, North Sea oil, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, open borders, out of africa, Parkinson's law, Piper Alpha, Red Clydeside, reserve currency, Right to Buy, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, strikebreaker, upwardly mobile, Winter of Discontent, working poor, Yom Kippur War
Hired as the chairman of the railways, he conducted a ‘reshaping plan’ which proposed the closure of 2,361 stations and 5,000 miles of track – and that was just for starters. It was one of the most extreme liquidations in the history of British commerce, on a par with the collapse of the car industry a decade later, or the end of shipbuilding on the Clyde. Suspicions have been heard ever since that the Beeching cuts were politically motivated. They had been prepared for by a secret committee on which sat industrialists but no railway people. They came a few years after a savagely effective strike by two railway unions which had reminded Conservative ministers that while a country could be closed down if it was linked by trains, this was very much harder if it was a lorry and car economy. The Tories had already denationalized road transport, putting 24,000 lorries back into the hands of private hauliers; everything from fish to potatoes, newspapers to engine parts, seemed to be transferring from rail.
Great Britain by David Else, Fionn Davenport
active transport: walking or cycling, Albert Einstein, Beeching cuts, Boris Johnson, British Empire, call centre, car-free, carbon footprint, clean water, colonial rule, Columbine, congestion charging, credit crunch, David Attenborough, Etonian, food miles, glass ceiling, global village, haute cuisine, illegal immigration, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kickstarter, land reform, Livingstone, I presume, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, mega-rich, negative equity, new economy, North Sea oil, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, period drama, place-making, Skype, Sloane Ranger, South of Market, San Francisco, Stephen Hawking, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, Winter of Discontent
* * * STEAM RIDES AGAIN Wales’ narrow-gauge railways are testament to an industrial heyday of mining and quarrying. Using steam and diesel engines, these railways often crossed terrain that defied standard-gauge trains. The advent of steam and the rapid spread of the railway transformed 19th-century Britain, but 20th-century industrial decline and road-building left many lines defunct. The infamous Beeching report of 1963 closed dozens of rural branch lines. Five years later, British Rail fired up its last steam engine. Passionate steam enthusiasts formed a preservation group, buying and restoring old locomotives, rolling stock, disused lines and stations – a labour of love financed by offering rides to the public, often with old railway workers helping out. Nine restored lines around Wales form a group called Great Little Trains of Wales (www.greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk).