Many people speak as if Dr Beeching was the man who single-handedly destroyed our railway system. In reality, he was merely the culmination of a process that had been under way for more than half a century. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES delves into the background of route closures.
When, in 1963, the notorious Reshaping of British Railways report was published, it sent shockwaves throughout the nation. Every national newspaper carried a full-page list of all the stations that were to be closed and the public was incensed. Campaigns were mounted, protests were held and MPs were lobbied but all to no avail, with the result that around 4,500 route-miles of railway, about a third of the country’s total, was lost. Ever since then the term ‘the Beeching Axe’ has come to be used when referring to the closure of any railway, whether or not the Doctor had any input to that actual site.