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Beeching cuts

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The overgrown viaduct across Lobb Ghyll on the Skipton to Ilkley Line in Yorkshire, built by the Midland Railway in 1888 and closed in 1965.

The Beeching cuts (also Beeching Axe) refer to the reduction of route network and restructuring of the Railways in Great Britain outlined in two reports, The Reshaping of British Railways (1963) and The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes (1965), written by Dr Richard Beeching and published by the British Railways Board.

The first report identified 2,363 stations and 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of railway line for closure, 55% of stations and 30% of route miles, with an objective of stemming the large losses being incurred during a period of increasing competition from road transport; the second identified a small number of major routes for significant investment. The 1963 report also recommended some less well publicised changes, including a switch to containerisation for rail freight.

Protests resulted in the saving of some stations and lines, but the majority were closed as planned and Beeching's name is to this day associated with the mass closure of railways and the loss of many local services in the period that followed. A number of these routes have since reopened, been incorporated into the National Cycle Network or used for road schemes; others were lost to construction or simply reverted to farm land.


British Railways crest

After growing rapidly in the 19th century during the Railway Mania, the British railway system reached its height in the years immediately before the First World War, with a network of 23,440 miles (37,720 km). After the First World war the railways faced increasing competition from a growing road transport network, which led to the closure of some 1,300 miles (2,100 km) miles of passenger railway between 1923 and 1939. Some of these lines had never been profitable and were not subject to loss of traffic in that period. The railways were busy during World War II, but at the end of the war they were in a poor state of repair, and were soon nationalised as British Railways.

The 'Branch Lines Committee' of the British Transport Commission (BTC) was formed in 1949 with a brief to close the least-used branch lines; 3,318 miles (5,340 km) of railway were closed between 1948 and 1962. Closures in this period included the Charnwood Forest Railway, closed to passengers in 1931, the Harborne Line in Birmingham, closed to passengers in 1934, and the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, closed in 1959. This period saw the beginning of a closures protest movement led by the Railway Development Association, whose most famous member was the poet John Betjeman. They went on to be a significant force resisting the Beeching proposals.

Economic recovery and the end of petrol rationing led to rapid growth in car ownership and use. Vehicle mileage grew at a sustained annual rate of 10% between 1948 and 1964. In contrast, railway traffic remained steady during the 1950s but the economics steadily deteriorated, with labour costs rising faster than income and fares and freight charges repeatedly frozen by the government to try to control inflation. By 1955 income no longer covered operating costs, and things got steadily worse.

The 1955 Modernisation Plan promised expenditure of over £1,240 million; steam locomotives would be replaced with diesel and electric locomotives, traffic levels would increase and the system was predicted to be back in profit by 1962. Instead losses mounted, from £68 million in 1960 to £87 million in 1961, and £104 million in 1962. The BTC could no longer pay the interest on its loans. The government lost patience and looked for radical solutions.

By 1961 losses were running at £300,000 a day; since nationalisation in 1948 3,000 miles (4,800 km) of line had been closed, railway staff numbers had fallen 26% from 648,000 to 474,000 and the number of railway wagons from 1,200,000 to 848,000.

The Beeching reports

The Reshaping of British Railways (The Beeching report)

A copy of The Reshaping of British Railways report, displayed beside the National Union of Railwaymen's response pamphlet.

The report The Reshaping of British Railways (or Beeching I report) was published on 27 March 1963.

The problem

The report starts by quoting the brief provided by the Prime Minister from 1960 "First, the industry must be of a size and pattern suited to modern conditions and prospects. In particular, the railway system must be modelled to meet current needs, and the modernisation plan must be adapted to this new shape" and with the premise that the railways should be run as a profitable business.

Beeching first studied traffic flows on all lines to identify 'the good, the bad, and the indifferent'. His analysis showed that the least-used 1,762 stations had annual passenger receipts of less than £2,500 each (£42.9 thousand as of 2013), that over half of the 4,300 stations open to passengers in 1960 had receipts of less than £10,000, that the least-used 50% of stations contributed only 2% of passenger revenue and that one third of route miles carried just 1% of passengers.

By way of example, he noted that the line from Thetford to Swaffham carried a five trains each weekday in each direction, carrying an average of nine passengers with only 10% of the costs of operating the line covered by fares; another example was the Gleneagles-Crief-Comrie line which had ten trains a day and five passengers on average earning only 25% of costs. Finally there was the service from Hull to York via Beverley (using part of the Yorkshire Coast Line, which was not closed, and the York to Beverley Line which was). The line covered 80% of its operating costs but he calculated that it could be closed because there was an alternative, but less direct, route.

The recommendations

Out of 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of railway, Beeching recommended that 6,000 miles (9,700 km)—mostly rural and industrial lines—should be closed entirely, and that some of the remaining lines should be kept open only for freight. A total of 2,363 stations were to close, including 435 already under threat, both on lines that were to close and on lines that were to remain open.

He recommended that freight services should mainly be for minerals and coal, and that the freight system made use of new containerised handling systems rather than less efficient and slower wagon-load traffic. This was eventually adopted with Freightliner. He recommended further electrification of the West Coast Main Line from Crewe to Glasgow in 1974. Staff terms and conditions were to be improved over time.

The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes (Beeching II)

Showing 'major lines' identified by Beeching II in bold.

On 16 February 1965, Beeching announced the second stage of his reorganisation of the railways. In The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes. In this report he set out his conclusion that of the 7,500 miles (12,100 km) of trunk railway only 3,000 miles (4,800 km) "should be selected for future development" and invested in.

This policy would result in traffic being routed along nine lines. Traffic to Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Scotland would be routed through the West Coast Main Line to Carlisle and Glasgow; traffic to the north-east would be concentrated through the East Coast Main Line, which was to be closed north of Newcastle; and traffic to Wales and the West Country would go on the Great Western Main Line to Swansea and Plymouth.

Underpinning Beeching's proposals was his belief that there was too much duplication in the railway network, "The real choice is between an excessive and increasingly un-economic system, with a corresponding tendency for the railways as a whole to fall into disrepute and decay, or the selective development and intensive utilisation of a more limited trunk route system". Of the 7,500 miles (12,100 km) of trunk route, 3,700 miles (6,000 km) involves a choice between two routes, 700 miles (1,100 km) a choice of three, and over a further 700 miles (1,100 km) a choice of four. In Scotland only the Central Belt routes and the lines via Fife and Perth to Aberdeen were selected for development, and none were selected in Wales, apart from the Great Western Main Line as far as Swansea.

Beeching's secondment from ICI ended early in June 1965 after Harold Wilson's attempt to get him to produce a transport plan failed. It is a matter of debate whether Beeching left by mutual arrangement with the government or if he was sacked. Frank Cousins, the Labour Minister of Technology, revealed to the House of Commons in November 1965 that Beeching had been dismissed by Tom Fraser. Beeching denied this, pointing out that he had returned early to ICI as he would not have had enough time to undertake an in-depth transport study before the formal end of his secondment.

The closures

Both Wednesbury Town railway station and the South Staffordshire Railway were closed and were still in ruins in 2003.

The first report was accepted by the Government, but many of the closures it recommended sparked protests from communities that would lose their trains, many of which (especially rural communities) had no other public transport. The government argued that many services could be provided more cheaply by buses.

Line closures, which had been running at about 150-300 mile per year between 1950 and 1961, peaked at 1,000 miles (1,600 km) in 1964 and had come to a virtual halt by the early 1970s. A list of railway stations and lines that were closed following the report is available in Category:Beeching closures. One of the last major closures was the 98-mile long (158 km) Waverley Route between Carlisle, Hawick and Edinburgh in 1969; the re-opening of a 35-mile section of this line has been approved by the Scottish Parliament and passenger services are due to resume in 2014.

Not all the recommended closures were implemented. Reprieved lines include:

  • Lines through the Scottish Highlands, such as the Far North Line and the West Highland Line were kept open, in part because of pressure from the powerful Highland lobby.
  • The Central Wales Line was said to have been kept open because it passed through so many marginal constituencies that no one dared to close it.
  • The Tamar Valley Line in Devon and Cornwall was kept open because the local roads were poor.
  • Other routes planned for closure that survived include the Settle-Carlisle Line, Ipswich–Lowestoft, Manchester–Sheffield via Edale (but the Woodhead Line and Bakewell route closed), Ayr–Stranraer, Glasgow–Kilmarnock, Glasgow–Edinburgh via Shotts, Barrow–Whitehaven, Middlesbrough–Whitby, York–Harrogate, Leeds/Bradford–Ilkley, Nottingham–Lincoln, Boston–Skegness, Birkenhead–Wrexham, Liverpool–Southport (and other Merseyside commuter routes), Bury-Manchester, Leicester–Peterborough, Hastings–Ashford and Ryde–Shanklin.

The Beeching Report was intended to be the first stage in the rail network's contraction. As a result, some lines it had not recommended for closure were subsequently shut down, such as the Woodhead Line between Manchester and Sheffield in 1981, after the freight traffic (mostly coal) on which it had relied declined. Most of the Oxford–Cambridge "Varsity Line" closed despite its strategic location serving Milton Keynes, Britain's largest "new town". Fife in Scotland especially suffered closures not included in the Report; and King's Lynn was to have remained at the centre of routes towards Norwich, Hunstanton and Wisbech, all of which closed.

With a few exceptions, after the early 1970s proposals to close other lines were met with vociferous public opposition and were quietly shelved. This opposition likely stemmed from the public experience of the many line closures during the cuts in the mid and late 1960s. Many of Britain's railways still run at a deficit and require subsidies.

Critical analysis

Disposals of land and structures

Beeching's reports made no stipulation for the handling of land after closures. British Rail operated a policy of disposing of land that was surplus to requirements. Many bridges, cuttings and embankments have been removed and the land sold for development. Closed station buildings on remaining lines have often been demolished or sold. Increasing pressure on land use meant that protection of closed trackbeds as in other countries (such as the US Rail Bank scheme, which holds former railway land for possible future use) was not seen to be practical. Many redundant structures from closed lines remain, such as bridges over other lines and drainage culverts. These often require maintenance as part of the rail infrastructure while providing no benefit. Critics of Beeching argue that this demonstrates the short-sighted aspect of the report's approach. On the other hand it does not automatically follow that retaining a railway on these routes, which would obviously increase the cost of maintaining them, would have earned enough to justify that greater cost. As demand for rail has grown in the last twenty years, the failure to preserve the routes of closed lines - for example between Bedford and Cambridge - has been criticised.

Some road schemes have been prioritised over existing rail lines, requiring lines to be reduced to single track. The Shrewsbury to Chester Line from Chester to Wrexham General has a dual carriageway bridge on the A483 over the railway where space was left for only a single track. This constraint on the network now hampers frequency and timekeeping on the north-south Wales railway service.

Acceptance of rail subsidies

By 1968 the railways had not been restored to profitability and Beeching's approach appeared to many to have failed. It has been suggested that by closing almost a third of the network Beeching achieved a saving of just £30 million, whilst overall losses were running in excess of £100 million per year. However, the precise savings from closures are impossible to calculate. The Ministry of Transport subsequently estimated that rail operating costs had been cut by over £100 million in the wake of the Beeching Report but that much of this had been swallowed up by better wages. Although in some cases closures removed branches that acted as feeders to the main lines and that feeder traffic was lost when the branches closed, the financial significance of this is debatable as over 90 per cent of the railways' 1960 traffic was carried on lines which remained open ten years later.

Whatever the correct figures, towards the end of the 1960s it became increasingly clear that rail closures were not bringing the rail system out of deficit and were unlikely ever to do so. Transport minister Barbara Castle stipulated that some rail services that could not pay their way but had a valuable social role should be subsidised. Legislation allowing this was introduced into the 1968 Transport Act (Section 39 made provision for a subsidy to be paid by the Treasury for a three-year period). Whether this affected the size of the network is questionable: the criteria for reprieving loss-making lines had not altered, merely the way their costs appeared in the railways accounts - previously their contribution to the railways overall loss was hidden in the total deficit.

Replacement buses and proposed alternatives

The " bustitution" policy that replaced rail services with buses also failed. In many cases the replacement bus services were slower and less convenient than the trains they were meant to replace, and so were unpopular. Replacement bus services were often run between the (now disused) station sites, thus losing any potential advantage over the closed rail service. Most replacement bus services lasted less than two years before they were removed due to a lack of patronage, leaving large parts of the country with no public transport.

The assumption at the time was that car owners would drive to the nearest railhead (which was usually the junction where the closed branch line would otherwise have taken them) and continue their journey onwards by train. In practice, having left home in their cars, people used them for the whole journey. Similarly for freight: without branch lines, the railways' ability to transport goods "door to door" was dramatically reduced. As in the passenger model, it was assumed that lorries would pick up goods and transport them to the nearest railhead, where they would be taken across the country by train, unloaded onto another lorry and taken to their destination. The development of the motorway network, the advent of containerisation, improvements in lorries and the economic costs of having two break-bulk points combined to make long-distance road transport a more viable alternative.

Many of the closed lines ran at only a small deficit. Some lines such as the Sunderland to West Hartlepool line cost only £291 per mile to operate. Closures of such small-scale loss-making lines made little difference to the overall deficit.

The Beeching reports recommended against attempts to make loss-making lines profitable. Changing to light railway type operations were attacked by Beeching, who wrote: "The third suggestion, that rail buses should be substituted for trains, ignores the high cost of providing the route itself, and also ignores the fact that rail buses are more expensive vehicles than road buses." There is little in the Beeching report recommending general economies (in administration costs, working practices and so on). For example, a number of the stations that were closed were fully staffed 18 hours a day, on lines controlled by multiple Victorian era signalboxes (again fully staffed, often throughout the day). Operating costs could have been reduced by reducing staff and removing redundant services on these lines while keeping the stations open. This has since been successfully done by British Rail and its successors on lesser-used lines that survived the axe, such as the East Suffolk Line from Ipswich to Lowestoft, which survives as a "basic railway". Such recommendations were absent from the Beeching reports.

Some of the closed routes would now be heavily used, possibly even important trunk routes. The Settle-Carlisle Railway was threatened with closure, reprieved and now handles more traffic (both passenger and freight) than at any time in its history. The Great Central Main Line, the last trunk route built in Britain until the opening of High Speed 1 in 2007, was intended to provide a link to the north of England from a proposed Channel Tunnel. It was built to the larger Continental loading gauge and constructed to the same standards as a modern high speed line, with no level crossings, and curves and gradients kept to an absolute minimum. This line closed in stages between 1966 and 1969 after just 60 years of service, 28 years before the opening of the Channel Tunnel rail link. Since the opening of the Channel Tunnel and High Speed 1, there has been discussion about " High Speed 2" linking the tunnel to the North of England and Scotland. While this route would have been served by a simple extension of the closed line's original function, it would now be very difficult and expensive to construct as much of the former GC route has been levelled or built over. Traffic on the single track Golden Valley Line between Kemble and Swindon and the Cotswold Line between Oxford and Worcester has increased significantly and double track is now being reinstated.

The people and the politics

The Conservatives increased their Commons majority in the 1959 General election of 8 October, their first with Harold Macmillan as prime minister, who famously said that most people 'had never had it so good'. Ernest Marples, previously the Postmaster General, was made Transport Minister two weeks later in a cabinet reshuffle; Marples was described by some as 'cocky', 'flash', 'slick' and as a 'construction tycoon', and Macmillan noted that the Northern working-class boy who had won a scholarship to a grammar school was one of only two "self-made men" in his cabinet.

Marples had a background with a successful road construction company. When opening the M1 motorway he said: "This motorway starts a new era in road travel. It is in keeping with the bold scientific age in which we live. It is a powerful weapon to add to our transport system". His association with the high-profile construction company Marples Ridgway became a matter of concern to both the public and politicians during the period. As is customary, he resigned as a director of the company in 1951 on becoming a junior minister, but he only sold his shares in the company in 1960 after the company won a contract to build the Hammersmith Flyover, when questions were asked both in the media and also in the Commons on 28 January 1960; he made a statement to the House later that day confirming that the sale of shares was in hand and would be completed 'very soon', noting that as part of the agreement he could be required to buy the shares from the purchaser at the original price after he ceased to hold office, if so desired by the purchaser. In July 1964, Marples Ridgway and partners were awarded a £4.1 million contract for the 'Hendon Urban Motorway' extension of the M1, in the same year that the company was taken over by the Bath and Portland Group. There was no evidence of any wrongdoing on anyone's part in this or any of the other contracts awarded to the company during his term of office, it did however lead to a sense of unease, not least within the railway sector.

In April 1960, Sir Ivan Stedeford established an advisory group known as the Stedeford Committee at the request of Harold Macmillan to report on the state of the British Transport Commission and to make recommendations. Sir Frank Smith, a retired former Chief Engineer at Imperial Chemical Industries was asked by the Conservative Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples, to become a member of an advisory group; Smith declined but recommended Beeching in his place, a suggestion which Marples accepted. Dr Beeching, with a PhD in Physics, had been appointed to the main board of ICI at the age of 43. The board consisted on senior figures in British businesses, and none of the board had previous knowledge or experience of the railway industry. Stedeford and Beeching clashed on a number of issues. However, the future size of the railway system was not one of them. For all the suspicion it aroused, the committee had little to say on this and the government was already convinced of the need to reduce the size of the rail network. In spite of questions being asked in Parliament, Sir Ivan's report was not published at the time. In December 1960 there were questions in the Lords asked about this 'secret' and 'under-the-counter' study group. It was later suggested that Stedeford had recommended that the government should set up another body 'to consider the size and pattern of the railway system required to meet current and foreseeable needs, in the light of developments and trends in other forms of transport… and other relevant considerations'.

Marples then appointed Beeching as Chairman of the British Railways Board in March 1961. He would receive the same yearly salary that he was earning at I.C.I., the controversial sum of £24,000 (£367,000 in today's money), £10,000 more than Sir Brian Robertson, the last chairman of the British Transport Commission, £14,000 more than Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and two-and-a-half times higher than the salary of any head of a nationalised industry at the time. At that time the Government was seeking outside talent and fresh blood to sort out the huge problems of the railway network, and he was confident that he could make the railways pay for themselves, but his salary, at 35 times the level paid to many railway workers, has been described as a 'political disaster'.

The Transport Act 1962 dissolved the British Transport Commission (BTC), which had overseen the railways, canals and road freight transport and established the British Railways Board, which took over on 1 January 1963. The Act put in place measures that simplified the process of closing railways by removing the need for pros and cons of each case to be heard in detail. It was described as the "most momentous piece of legislation in the field of railway law to have been enacted since the Railway and Canal Traffic Act 1854",

The Beeching report was published in 1963 and was adopted by the Government; it resulted in the closure of a third of the rail network and the scrapping of a third of a million freight wagons.

The General election in October 1964 returned the Labour Government 1964–1970 under Prime Minister Harold Wilson after 13 years of Conservative government. During the election campaign, Labour had promised to halt rail closures if elected but quickly backtracked, and subsequently oversaw some of the most controversial closures. Tom Fraser was appointed Transport Minister, soon to be replaced by Barbara Castle in December 1965. Castle published a map, Network for Development, in 1967 showing the railway system 'stabilised' at around 11,000 route miles (17,700 km).

Section 39 of the 1968 Transport Act made provision for a subsidy to be paid in relation to loss-making lines, however many of the services and railway lines that would have qualified had already been closed. A number of branch lines were saved by this legislation.

After 1970, when the Conservatives were returned to power, serious thought was given to a further programme of closures, but this proved politically impossible. In 1983, under the government of Margaret Thatcher, Sir David Serpell, a civil servant who had worked with Beeching, compiled the Serpell Report in which it was again proposed that a profitable railway could be achieved only by closing much of what remained. The infamous "Option A" in this report was illustrated by a map of a vestigial system with, for example, no railways west of Bristol and none in Scotland apart from the central belt. Serpell was shown to have some serious weaknesses, such as the closure of the Midland Main Line (a busy route for coal to power stations), and the East Coast Main Line between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Edinburgh, part of the key London/Edinburgh link. The report was met with fierce resistance from many quarters and was quickly abandoned.

Ian Hislop comments that history has been somewhat unkind to "Britain's most hated civil servant ", by forgetting that he proposed a much better bus service that ministers never delivered and that in some ways he was used to do their "dirty work for them". Hislop describes Beeching as being "a technocrat [who] wasn't open to argument to romantic notions of rural England or the warp and weft of the train in our national identity. He didn't buy any of that. He went for a straightforward profit and loss approach and some claim we are still reeling from that today". Beeching was unrepentant about his role in the closures: "I suppose I'll always be looked upon as the axe man, but it was surgery, not mad chopping."


Since the Beeching cuts road traffic levels have grown significantly and in some areas this has become close to gridlock, and in recent years there have been record levels of passengers on the railways. A modest number of the railway closures have therefore been reversed.

A small but significant number of closed stations have reopened, and passenger services been restored on lines where they had been removed. Many of these were in the urban metropolitan counties where passenger transport executives have a role in promoting passenger rail use.

  • Snow Hill tunnel, south of Farringdon station, was reopened for passengers in 1988 as Thameslink, providing a link between the Midland Main Line and the former Southern Railway via London Bridge station.
  • Since May 2010, Transport for London has restored most of the line that once connected Broad Street and Dalston Junction, as part of its East London Line project on the Overground network.
South East
  • Varsity Line closed in 1967 but not mentioned by Beeching, the Oxford to Bicester Line section reopened in 1987
  • Chiltern Main Line was redoubled in two stages between 1998 and 2002 between Princes Risborough and Aynho Junction
  • Chandler's Ford in Hampshire opened its new railway station in 2003, on the Romsey to Eastleigh link that had closed to passengers in 1969.
  • Part of the London to Aylesbury Line was extended north along the former Great Central Main Line to a new station called Aylesbury Vale Parkway, which opened in December 2008.

The Portishead Railway opened to freight as far as Portbury in 2002, plans are to reopen as far as Portishead.

East Midlands
  • Robin Hood Line in Nottinghamshire, between Nottingham and Worksop via Mansfield reopened in the early 1990s. Previously Mansfield had been the largest town in Britain without a rail link.
  • Lincoln to Peterborough line. The section between Peterborough and Spalding closed to passengers on 5 October 1970 and re-opened on 7 June 1971
  • North of Spalding, Ruskington Station re-opened on 5 May 1975.
  • Metheringham Station reopened 6 October 1975.
West Midlands
  • Birmingham Snow Hill station was opened in 1987 with the tunnel underneath Birmingham city centre to Birmingham Moor Street, and the line towards Kidderminster and Worcester. This introduced a new service between Birmingham and Marylebone.
  • The line from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton reopened as the Midland Metro tram system. Despite the successful and potential re-opening of many rail routes as light-rail and metro lines, the concept is still under threat due to the varying popularity of these schemes with successive governments.
  • The line from Coventry to Nuneaton reopened to passengers in 1988.
  • The Walsall–Hednesford line reopened to passengers in 1989, extended to Rugeley in 1997. Passenger services were terminated between Walsall and Wolverhampton in 2008 on cost and efficiency grounds. Some commentators believe an intermediate station at Willenhall should have been included with the original reopening.
  • The South Staffordshire Line between Stourbridge and Walsall is set to re-open as a part of the Midland Metro expansion scheme. The line will be shared between trams and freight trains.
North West
  • The route out of Manchester Central over the Cheshire Lines Committee's Manchester South District Line is being reopened by Metrolink. The line opened to St Werburgh's Road (via Chorlton) in July 2011. The line will fully open to East Didsbury in 2013.
South Wales
  • 32 new stations, such as Llanharan, and four lines reopened within 20 miles (32 km) of each other: Abercynon–Aberdare, Barry–Bridgend via Llantwit Major, Bridgend–Maesteg and the Ebbw Valley Railway via Newbridge, closed since 1983
  • Glasgow Central Railway between Rutherglen and Stobcross was reopened in November 1979 establishing the Argyle Line connecting the Hamilton Circle to the North Clyde Line.
  • Intermediate stations at Dalmarnock, Bridgeton, Glasgow Central Low Level and Anderston were reopened. A new station opened at Argyle Street.
  • The Argyle Line was extended in December 2005 when a four-mile (6.4 km) section of the Mid Lanark Lines of the Caledonian Railway reopened, serving Chatelherault, Merryton and Larkhall.
  • Stirling to Alloa reopened on 19 May 2008, providing a passenger (and freight on to Kincardine) route after a 40-year gap.
  • Laurencekirk on the mainline between Arbroath and Aberdeen was shut in 1967 but 42 years later in May 2009 it was reopened. This was the 77th new or reopened station in Scotland since 1970. Others include Gretna Green, Dyce and New Cumnock all of which had been closed in the mid-1960s.
  • Following the earlier reopening of the Edinburgh to Bathgate route, the line beyond Bathgate to Airdrie was reopened in 2010, creating a third route between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
  • A 35-mile (56 km) stretch of the former Waverley Route between Edinburgh and Galashiels via Dalkeith is expected to reopen in 2014 now that funding has been approved. The closure of the line in 1969 left the Scottish Borders without any rail links.
Heritage railways
  • Other lines were re-opened as heritage lines. See List of British heritage and private railways.

Current proposals

In June 2009, the Association of Train Operating Companies called for 14 lines with about 40 stations to be reopened.

The lines include, either wholly or in part:—

  • Cranleigh Line
  • Bordon Light Railway
  • Fawley Branch
  • Torbay and Brixham Railway
  • Sutton Park Line
  • Walsall – Brownhills Line
  • Aldridge – Brownhills West Line
  • Wisbech – March Line
  • Fleetwood Branch Line
  • East Lancashire Railway
  • Skelmersdale Branch
  • Blyth and Newbiggin Branch Line,
  • Durham – Washington – Pelaw line.

In popular culture

The BBC TV comedy series Oh, Doctor Beeching!, which ran in 1995–1997, was set in a small fictional branch line railway station threatened with closure under the Beeching Axe.

Flanders and Swann, writers and performers of satirical songs, wrote a lament for lines closed by the Beeching Axe entitled " Slow Train". Michael Williams' book On the slow train takes its name from the Flanders and Swann song. It celebrates 12 of the most beautiful and historic journeys in Britain, some of which were saved from the Beeching axe. It perpetuated the myth that the Beeching cuts were concerned solely with sleepy rural branch lines, but they concerned well-used "industrial" and commuter lines.

In the satirical magazine Private Eye, the "Signal Failures" column on railway issuesis written under the pseudonym "Dr. B. Ching".

The lyrics of the I Like Trains song "The Beeching Report" are a criticism of Dr Beeching and the Beeching Axe.

Closures by year

The list below shows 7000 miles of closures:

Year Total length closed
1950 150 miles (240 km)
1951 275 miles (443 km)
1952 300 miles (480 km)
1953 275 miles (443 km)
1954 to 1957 500 miles (800 km)
1958 150 miles (240 km)
1959 350 miles (560 km)
1960 175 miles (282 km)
1961 150 miles (240 km)
1962 780 miles (1,260 km)
Beeching report published
1963 324 miles (521 km)
1964 1,058 miles (1,703 km)
1965 600 miles (970 km)
1966 750 miles (1,210 km)
1967 300 miles (480 km)
1968 400 miles (640 km)
1969 250 miles (400 km)
1970 275 miles (443 km)
1971 23 miles (37 km)
1972 50 miles (80 km)
1973 35 miles (56 km)
1974 0 miles (0 km)

After this period "residual" Beeching closures did occur: Bridport to Maiden Newton (in 1975), Alston to Haltwhistle (1976) and others.

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