Beeching: 50 years after

There has been much coverage this week of the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Beeching report. Interesting given that Beeching was only one stage of a very long period of closures which really got going in the 1950s and continued until the 1980s. A very timely reminder that things and views can change very quickly: what is received wisdom for a long time suddenly shifts.

Now if today a passenger, on the way to the station, bumped into Dr Beeching – what would they say? Maybe ‘services are mostly OK, crowded at times but the fares just keep rising and rising.’

Passenger numbers are booming so the rail industry has the problems of success rather than decline. But the other challenges remain the same as the ones Beeching faced – cost and capacity. That is, providing the right sort of capacity, in the right place, at the right time and at the right price.

As ever with history the underlying themes and forces remain the same. A European Germany or a German Europe? Recent events indicate familiar historical themes are popping back up again in broader spheres.

The key for government and the rail industry is to now really focus on what passengers say the priorities are: more trains, more space on the trains, more reliable trains and better value for money fares.

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