Key questions over new Beeching reversal rail fund

The Government has unveiled a £500 million fund to “kickstart the restoration” of lines closed in the Beeching cuts.

Here the PA news agency looks at nine key questions surrounding the announcement.

– Who was Beeching?

Dr Richard Beeching was chairman of British Railways when he published a report in 1963 recommending that around a third of the network should be axed due to low demand and high costs.

Goverment historical rail cuts reversal plans
Richard Beeching looking at a large map (PA)

– What was closed?

Between 1964 and 1970, some 1,400 stations (33%) and 5,200 miles of track (15%) were closed.

– What is the current extent of the network?

The Office of Rail and Road says there were 2,600 stations and 9,800 miles of railway open for traffic in 2018/19.

– What is the £500m fund?

The investment is to help develop proposals for reopening lines which were victims of the Beeching cuts.

Rail timetable changes
The departure board at Poulton-le-Fylde railway station (Nick Potts/PA)

This includes funding studies into resurrecting the Lancashire line linking Fleetwood with Poulton-le-Fylde, and the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line in Northumberland.

– What has the Transport Secretary said?

Grant Shapps says many communities “still live with the scars” from rail closures more than five decades ago, and claims the new fund will begin to “undo the damage of the Beeching cuts”.

– Have we heard this before?

In November 2017, then-transport secretary Chris Grayling announced that a new development programme would identify opportunities to restore some of the routes axed under Beeching.

– How much has been done?

Three stations were added to the mainline network in the 12 months to the end of March 2019.

Rail stock
Marylebone Station, central London (Nick Ansell/PA)

One of the last major additions to Britain’s rail network came in December 2016, when Chiltern Railways began operating trains between London Marylebone and Oxford city centre on a newly established rail link.

This included upgrading a 20-40mph branch line to a 100mph main line.

– How much does it cost to reopen closed lines?

Sim Harris, managing editor of industry newspaper Railnews, says rebuilding rail lines costs “millions for each kilometre”.

The London-Oxford project cost £320 million.

– What does that mean for the £500m fund?

Railway engineer Gareth Dennis says it would only cover the cost of reopening around 25 miles of track.

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