Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
even the daily mail is joining the 21st century!
Peter Hitchens - spot on!
Can Beeching be undone?
Under headlines suggesting that the famous Beeching Cuts of Britain's railways may be reversed, we learn that the 'Association of Train Operating Companies' wants to reopen a few closed lines and stations. It isn't sadly, the extensive reversal of vandalism that we need.
This is partly because so many of the lines were destroyed or built over very rapidly after they were closed. Some believed at the time that this was done to make the destruction irreversible. It often looks like it. But this is the kind of suspicion it is impossible to prove.
Even so, isn't it odd how much harder it seems to be these days to get finance or land for new railway construction, while new roads seem to be built , and land found for them, without major difficulty? In my new book, The Broken Compass, I devote a chapter to the curious prejudice of political Conservatives in favour of cars and against trains.
This leads them to a bizarre belief that the enormous subsidies provided for the building of (state-owned) roads, and the tax-breaks given to airlines, are in some way all right whereas it is a crime against Adam Smith to spend money on railways.
I rode my bicycle along most of the length of the destroyed Oxford to Cambridge line last autumn. It has always been a mystery to me as to why this line was ever closed. I remember when it still functioned, an endearing museum piece with gaslamps on station platforms, used until his death in 1963 by C.S.Lewis ( he called it 'the Cantab Crawler' on account of its meandering slowness) to travel between his Oxford home and his Cambridge college.
There is no good direct road on this route, or any viable rail alternative. Even Lord Beeching did not want to shut it, and it was one of the very few East-West tracks in the country, connecting the Paddington, St Pancras, King's Cross and Liverpool Street main lines about 50 miles north of London. Some parts of it seem lost forever. Others could easily be reinstated.
Under BR, though closed, much of the line still functioned for goods, and occasional passenger trains still ran between Oxford and Milton Keynes, a link that would be extremely useful when the Oxford to Birmingham lines are disrupted. Since privatisation - and perhaps because of it - much of it seems to have deteriorated quite badly and so would be very costly to recreate.
But I think the time is coming when this task will have to be addressed. Mass car ownership was never right for this crowded island, and it has just about run its course. The railway, the most advanced and efficient form of ground transport ever devised, is likely to come back into its own.
When that happens, we should consider just how we came to make the huge mistake that was the Beeching report, and teach it to children as an example of how wrong an entire generation can be about the future?Go to the original article for some REALLY silly 20th century dinosaur comments, and also some good ones re heritage railways and the future. I remember when I used to be cutting edge - now I'm mainstream!