Was Dr Beeching Wrong?

Back in the sixties, Dr Beeching changed forever the way that we travel in the UK….. or rather he didn’t. We had already changed the way that we travelled, he just did what was necessary and closed loads of train lines that didn’t get used enough.

Now that seems set to be reversed as 300 miles of line and up to 40 new stations are set to be opened, or reopened.

I have long had a problem with Trains. If you are traveling long distance go by air, it is faster, cheaper and as such more rewarding. If you are going short distances then how are you going to make the last part of your journey. Public transport is so poor in most areas of the UK that you are forced to finish your last part of the journey by taxi, or worse of all, to travel by the devil of all motorised transport, the public bus.

The main problem with trains is that they don’t go where we need them to. Fancy doing some shopping? How close will the train get you to your local retail park? And assuming you can get there, are you really going to struggle home on the train when you and your shopping can drive home from door to door?

The reason that Dr Beeching made such huge cuts is that outside of commuting and students going back to University for half price, nobody uses trains because the car will take you where you want to go, whereas a train will take you to the town nearest to where you want to go.

It is said that there is demand for these lines to be reopened, but I doubt it. If you asked the right people you could find a nostalgic bunch prepared to vote for the reinstitution of local rail lines, but not people who will actually use the trains once they are there.

Twenty years ago, we were providing a £1 Billion (inflation adjusted) a year subsidy to the trains, in 2009 it is £5 Billion and has been for a few years.

Is this the price we pay to get traffic off the roads?

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