How The Beeching Report Transformed British Freight

Just over fifty years ago, the much disputed Beeching Report was rolled out across Britain. This highly unpopular report on railway cutbacks meant the closure of numerous railway stations and routes throughout the country, and some people think it even changed the culture of a lot of British towns.

What was the report about?

The report was put forward by Dr Richard Beeching on March 27th 1963 and was designed to make the British railway system much more economical. It was Dr Beeching’s belief that the small stations and winding railroad tracks that he suggested be closed were a drain on the country’s resources. It’s true that over 3,000 miles of railroad had already been decommissioned well before he even started to think about this report. After the railways were nationalised in 1948 after the war, the first beginnings of change for the railway system emerged.

The closures were approved by the then Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples, and they continued well into the 1970s. By the end of it all, around 4,500 miles of track, 2,500 stations and a shocking 67,700 jobs were done away with. And, ironically, the new privatised system that the UK runs today is much more expensive than the old system which was so heavily edited for costing too much.

The results of the report

The fact is that the Beeching Report did a lot more than put almost 70,000 people out of work and get rid of the classic steam engines that many people imagine in days gone by. It also pushed people towards the roads and into cars, and this was felt more so than ever in the world of freight transport.

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At one time, all freight, such as wood, coal, produce and pretty much all over materials, would have either been transported by river way or railroad. For many businesses and corporations, the railroad was the backbone of the country and was what helped to transport food throughout Britain. It was heavily relied upon throughout the early 20th century, whereas now freight is commonly transported short distances by road, and by air for longer distances.

Of course, you could even say that this has caused the country to be even more un-environmentally friendly. Everyone would surely agree that the steam engine was by no means eco-friendly, but the current railroad system simply isn’t capable to handling as much freight transport as we have nowadays. This increased level of road transport then has pushed Co2 levels up, and one can only imagine how they would be if the railroad of 1963 had been left complete.

However, the Beeching Report wasn’t all bad. Without it, the country would surely have been plunged into even greater levels of debt, so it certainly helped to solve the problem of the time. Of course, we are now dealing with the new economic recession that appears to be staying strong for the long haul.

It is very easy nowadays to criticise Dr Beeching’s famous report, as it certainly did change the landscape of many a charming English country town, but UK transport and freight has certainly survived.

How do you think the Beeching Report has affected freight?

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