How the Beeching cuts left the city regions down but not out
Fifty years to the day since the publication of the Beeching report changed the shape of Britain’s railways forever, new analysis published today by pteg has revealed the extent of its impact on rail networks in England’s largest regional conurbations and how it left them down, but by no means out.
Cllr David Wood, who Chairs the group of six transport authorities that serve England’s six largest city regions outside London, said:
‘Fifty years ago Beeching set out a plan for the railways focused on finding a profitable core network by ruthlessly pairing down the railways to a bare minimum of modernised services. Many communities in our areas lost their rail service, whilst others were saved after political pressure. PTEs were set up in the aftermath of the meltdown of the rail network in the 1960s to help turn around urban services battered by Beeching and years of under investment. We are proud of our record in the decades since in transforming those networks, including through reopening routes and stations, and in seeing lines that Beeching wanted to close now booming as people turn to rail in ever greater numbers. In the years to come we want to put Beeching into reverse for more of the communities we serve. We can do this if we have a greater say in how our local rail networks are developed, and through gaining a fairer share of how national rail investment is divided up between the South East and the rest of the country.’
Beeching identified 2,363 stations for closure across England, Scotland and Wales. Some 9% (211 stations) of these were located within the English Metropolitan areas. Beeching proposed that Greater Manchester lose 66 stations, West Yorkshire 62, Merseyside 41, the West Midlands 21, Tyne and Wear 13 and South Yorkshire 8.
A number of stations (80 in total) earmarked for closure escaped the axe and remain open to this day. Many have seen passenger usage grow year on year. A number of the reprieved stations see annual passenger numbers in excess of one million, including Ilkley (in West Yorkshire) and Blundellsands and Crosby, Formby, Huyton and Waterloo (all in Merseyside). Kirkby railway station, also in Merseyside, welcomes two million passengers a year. The particular success of the Merseyside stations is a testament to the devolved Merseyrail Electrics network which, since it became the responsibility of Merseytravel, is now among the most punctual and reliable in the UK.
However, of the 211 English Metropolitan area stations identified in the report, 132 saw no such reprieve and subsequently closed – the majority (80%) doing so within the decade. Fifty years later, many communities still bear the scar of losing rail services that now would be flourishing.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Of the stations that did close, 23 were later reopened on the same site or very nearby, often with funding from the PTEs. 17 re-opened as heavy rail stations, five re-opened as heritage stations and one, Chorlton in Greater Manchester, reopened as a Metrolink station in 2011. The expansion of Manchester Metrolink to the suburb meant that residents could travel by rail into Manchester city centre for the first time in 44 years, their original station having been axed in 1967.
Altogether, of the 211 English Metropolitan area stations targeted for closure by Beeching, almost half survived either because they never in fact closed or because they have reopened in some form.
Furthermore, a number of places whose stations were closed under Beeching are now served by new rail or light rail stations on different sites. Droylsden in Greater Manchester, for example, lost its railway station in 1968 but, since February this year, has been served by a brand new town centre Metrolink station connecting to Manchester city centre. Future plans will see the line extended past Droylsden onto Ashton-under-Lyne.
In the years since the Beeching report, there have been 79 new or reopened railway stations in the English Metropolitan areas. City region rail networks are booming, with levels of growth that are greater than that in London and the South East.
In addition, spearheaded by the PTEs, we have seen the resurgence of the tram in many of our cities, providing light rail connections for many more places. As of March 2013, there were 196 light rail stations and stops across the Midland Metro, Sheffield Supertram, Tyne and Wear Metro and Manchester Metrolink networks.
And there’s more to come, both in terms of rail and light rail development. Apperley Bridge in West Yorkshire, for example, lost its railway station in 1965. Metro is working to re-open the station by 2014. A new station at Kirkstall Forge is also planned for the same year. Meanwhile, the multi-million pound Manchester Metrolink expansion project will see the creation of many new light rail calling points, including Didsbury Village Metrolink station. Passengers will be able to travel by rail to Manchester and East Didsbury for the first time since Didsbury railway station fell victim to Beeching in 1967.
These, and many other examples show that, despite the devastating impact of Beeching’s cuts, city region rail networks have fought back, growing and flourishing to levels Beeching never imagined.
The analysis of the impact of the Beeching report (and what has happened since) on the Metropolitan areas can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.
pteg is sponsoring a sold out event tonight at the National Railway Museum in York. Chaired by Transport Correspondent Alan Whitehouse and hosted by Campaign for Better Transport the lecture will focus on the UK’s community rail partnerships and explore the benefits of reopening lines. Panel members include Lord Faulkner of Worcester; Paul Salveson, Writer, Academic and founder of ACoRP; Keith Brown, Transport Minister for Scottish Government and Rob Warnes, Northern Rail Performance and Planning Director.
More information can be found on the National Railway Museum’s Beeching 50 micro-site:
pteg represents the six Passenger Transport Executives which serve eleven million people in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Merseyside, West Midlands and Tyne and Wear.
Rail patronage has increased in every PTE area, up almost 160% since 1995/96. In total, there are 175.5 million rail journeys in the PTE areas each year, that’s one in six of all rail journeys in England.
For more contact Jonathan Bray on 0781 804 1485 / 0113 251 7445