27 March 1963: Beeching recommends cuts to Britain's railways

On this day in 1963, Dr Richard Beeching produced his infamous report that saw many railway lines closed in favour of bus services.

From the 1920s onward, the number of rail passengers declined due to the rapid growth in car ownership. By the 1950s, the newly state-owned British Rail consistently lost money, especially after it began to invest large sums in converting steam engines to electricity and diesel. This led many experts to predict that cars and buses would eventually replace most rail services. Such views would find a sympathetic hearing from transport minister, Ernest Marples, who had fortuitously set up a road construction company, Marples Ridgeway, before becoming a minister – clearly a conflict of interests.

Marples asked Dr Richard Beeching, a director of the chemical company ICI, to head a study group looking at how the rail network could be made more efficient. After public disquiet about the secret nature of the group's discussions, he was formally appointed as head of the British Transport Commission, which oversaw British Rail, in 1961 (the body was renamed the British Railways Board in 1963). Beeching would then produce the infamous "Beeching Report" in 1963. It argued that since a large number of stations had only a handful of passengers, it would make sense to close up to half the network.

While the report generated a huge amount of controversy, which was enough to save a few of the most prominent lines, it was largely implemented. As a result, over 6,000km of lines were closed from 1963 to 1970s. While the idea was to replace discarded lines with bus services, these were usually much slower and were quickly withdrawn in many cases.

However, increasing traffic congestion and population growth have led to a resurgence in passenger numbers since the early 1990s, which have nearly reached their pre-WW1 peak. As a result the trend is towards increased investment in rail, as shown by plans for High Speed Rail 2.

Recommended

How to cut your car’s fuel bill as the price of petrol hits a record high
Personal finance

How to cut your car’s fuel bill as the price of petrol hits a record high

The cost of filling the typical car’s 55-litre tank with petrol is now around £105. Here, Saloni Sardana looks at ways to keep your refuelling costs d…
5 Jul 2022
Saga’s figures are heading in the right direction – so should you buy?
Share tips

Saga’s figures are heading in the right direction – so should you buy?

Saga the over-50s travel and financial services specialist, has been struggling for years. But now, with the pandemic behind, it it is planning for fu…
5 Jul 2022
Director dealings w/e 1 July: what company insiders are buying and selling
Stocks and shares

Director dealings w/e 1 July: what company insiders are buying and selling

Directors’ share dealings can often give investors an insight into the sentiment of company insiders. Here are some of the biggest deals by company di…
5 Jul 2022
Is inflation about to drop as recession takes hold?
UK Economy

Is inflation about to drop as recession takes hold?

Central banks are raising interest rates in an attempt to curb soaring inflation. But will that push the economy into recession? John Stepek looks at …
5 Jul 2022

Most Popular

Ray Dalio’s shrewd $10bn bet on the collapse of European stocks
European stockmarkets

Ray Dalio’s shrewd $10bn bet on the collapse of European stocks

Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater hedge fund is putting its money on a collapse in European stocks. It’s likely to pay off, says Matthew Lynn.
3 Jul 2022
Persimmon yields 12.3%, but can you trust the company to deliver?
Share tips

Persimmon yields 12.3%, but can you trust the company to deliver?

With a dividend yield of 12.3%, Persimmon looks like a highly attractive prospect for income investors. But that sort of yield can also indicate compa…
1 Jul 2022
The income investor’s dilemma
Income investing

The income investor’s dilemma

Pay attention to dividend growth as well as initial yield when picking income trusts, says Max King.
4 Jul 2022