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Long-term calls to reopen rail lines closed in Beeching cuts

Campaigners earlier this year announced a £5 billion proposal which would add 33 lines and 72 stations to the rail network.

A man jogs along the disused Cuckoo Line, East Sussex which fell victim to the Beeching cuts (Gareth Fuller/PA)
A man jogs along the disused Cuckoo Line, East Sussex which fell victim to the Beeching cuts (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

Rail campaigners have long called for many of the lines axed following the 1963 Beeching Report to be re-opened.

In February, the Campaign for Better Transport urged the Government to invest £5 billion in adding 33 lines and 72 stations to the rail network through re-openings, new projects and by running passenger trains on freight lines.

It claimed this would bring more than half a million more people within walking distance of a station.

‏Examples of lines identified as a priority include‏ March to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire‏; Totton to Fawley in Hampshire and Ashington to Newcastle, Northumberland.

In November 2017, then-transport secretary Chris Grayling announced that a new development programme would identify opportunities to restore some of the routes axed under Beeching.

Proposals being discussed included suburban lines around Bristol, a freight route that runs through central Birmingham, and the line from Okehampton to Exeter.

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald claimed Friday’s announcement that the Tories will reverse the Beeching cuts “isn’t new”.

He said: “The Conservatives announced it two years ago to try to distract from the collapse of the East Coast franchise, which ultimately cost taxpayers £2 billion.

“Unsurprisingly, not one of the Beeching cuts has been restored.

“The Tories have broken their promises on rail time and again. In 2015 they promised electrification projects that were put on hold just months after the general election and then ditched.”

The report by British Railways chairman Dr Richard Beeching was published in 1963.

Between 1964 and 1970, 5,224 route miles and 1,434 stations were closed.

In the year before the report, there were 4,347 stations and 34,150 miles of track.

Now there are 2,566 stations and 19,319 miles of track.

Three stations were added to the mainline network in the 12 months to the end of March.

Kenilworth in Warwickshire and Maghull North in Merseyside were new stations, while Dorset’s Corfe Castle was an existing station served by a heritage rail service which was added to South Western Railway’s network.

One of the last major re-openings of a line in Britain was the Borders Railway in September 2015.

The £294 million link between Edinburgh and Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders re-established part of the former Waverley line, which fell victim to the Beeching cuts.

In December 2016, Chiltern Railways began operating trains between London Marylebone and Oxford city centre on a newly established rail link, providing competition to Great Western Railway’s service between the cities.

The £320 million project included upgrading an old 20-40mph branch line to a 100mph main line.

PA

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