Lay off Beeching

Contrary to what Alex Burgon (Letters, 28 March) and many others think, Dr (later Lord) Beeching did not close a single inch of railway line. Every closure proposal was subject to a public inquiry, and the final decision was taken by the minister of transport of the day.

Journalists and politicians are also unprofessional and lazy to mention the “Beeching Report”, as there were in fact two reports. The second report proposed investment in the railways, including liner trains and the “merry-go-round” system used for moving coal between pitheads and power stations.

Cowardly politicians and senior civil servants have hidden behind Beeching for decades.

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Many line closures took place before Beeching was appointed and some date back as far as the First World War when a number of lines were closed and not re-opened when peace ­returned.

Where Beeching did go wrong was in his methodology. He used station receipts as an initial measure of line revenue and, ultimately, profitability.

This meant that railway lines to resorts were amongst the first to be closed as passengers travelling to these destinations normally purchased return tickets, for which no credit was given to the resort station.

Far worse than Beeching’s first report was a later report by a permanent secretary at the ministry of transport, Sir David Serpell. This would have seen the east coast main line terminated at Newcastle.

In case Scotland felt unfairly picked upon, Serpell would also have left the south-west of England without railways, and ­almost all of Wales. The profitable main line from London Waterloo to Portsmouth would have stopped at Havant. Fortunately, Serpell was rejected.

Beeching also failed to look at ways of reducing costs, for which he was even criticised by one of his regional general managers, who was sacked for writing a book about it.

David Wragg


South Queensferry