50 years ago today Dr. Richard Beeching officially resigned as Chairman of British Railways Board, following Government opposition to his proposals, he wasn’t missed. The consequences of Beeching’s cuts are still with us today. The Scottish Government have spent huge sums, over the last 5 years and more, to re-open part of the Waverley route, closed in 1969, after Beeching had resigned, though still as a result of his proposals. Few will forget the travel disruption caused by the closure of alternative routes to Cornwall, when part of the only line connecting this area to the rest of the country was severed, at Dawlish, following damage to the sea wall and trackbed.
The examples above are just a couple, drawn from a whole litany of slashed routes, axed services, withdrawn facilities, which, over the years, have been the subject of campaigns to re-open, replace or re-institute them, in various guises. A few narrow gauge and industrial lines excepted, the vast majority of heritage railways simply wouldn’t exist without the ill considered, and poorly executed, programme of closures instigated by the Beeching proposals. This is, quite possibly, the only saving grace in the entire debacle.
Many are the arguments and debates which have raged, over the 50 years since Beeching walked the plank, I dare say they’ll still be arguing in another 50 years. On balance he should never have been given the post and the outcomes of his appointment were, almost entirely, predictable. The Government wanted to do things which weren’t very palatable, so they employed a bogey, (Beeching), man to do their dirty work for them. Later they used him as a scapegoat to deflect the blame from their own glaring ineptitude in formulating anything even remotely resembling a coherent transport policy, one which benefited the people of Britain; as opposed to entrenched capital, corporate greed, and political shenanigans, particularly that of Tory Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples, the man who gave Beeching his job..
The photograph shows A3 class 4-6-2 No.60061 Pretty Polly, I think leaving York, for the North – but, as all I have is a black and white print, which has no details on it, I cannot be certain. If anyone recognises this as their photo, please leave details on Steam Age Daydreams Facebook page.
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