Beeching: The Definitive Guide: Britain's Railway Closures and Their Legacy (Gresley)

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By Robin Jones. Once described as the most hated civil servant in Britain, Dr Richard Beeching was the infamous chairman of British Railways in the early 1960s whose remit to cut soaring losses led ultimately to wholesale line closures. His landmark 1963 report “Reshaping of Britain’s Railways” was the catalyst for a huge contraction of Britain’s railway network. But was Dr Beeching truly the villain that he is often portrayed?

The 1950s had seen the start of a mass shift from public to private transport, as lorries, cars, buses and motorbikes replaced trains as Britain’s most popular means of travel. So often pilloried by the press and public for closing numerous picturesque and romantic country branch lines, leaving even many large towns cut off from the railway network, Beeching might also be seen as merely streamlining a process that was already under way.

Beeching: The Definitive Guide looks at the forces that were shaping the railway’s fortunes at the time of Beeching’s appointment and examines the reasons why his notorious report came to its fateful conclusions. It also looks behind the scenes at Beeching’s planning team and their top-secret “Blue Book of Maps” which predicted not only the closure of railway lines, but also those of coal mines and steelworks that came to pass decades later.

Repercussions of the Beeching report that are still relevant in the 21st century are discussed, as is the rise of the railway heritage movement, with closed lines revived by enthusiasts now making a sizeable contribution to many a local tourist economy. Lines that narrowly escaped the Beeching axe and those that have subsequently reopened are also examined.

Beeching: The Definitive Guide takes an objective look at Dr Beeching’s actions and asks if he really was the villain of popular legend, or the architect who made Britain’s railways into a slimmer, leaner machine far more capable of tackling the challenges of the future. 256 pages of text plus 32 pages of illustration plates. Hardback.

Special Note: This book was previously published as “Beeching: 50 Years of the Axeman” in 2011 and “Beeching: The Inside Track” in 2012. This edition published 2020.

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