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From Beeching to Boris – heroes and villains of Britain’s railways

27 March 2013
27 March is the 50th anniversary of the publication of 'The Reshaping of Britain's Railways', known as the Beeching Report.

The Campaign for Better Transport has marked this event by identifying its top three railway heroes and villains of the past half century. The villains include Beeching himself and Transport Minister Ernest Marples while Barbara Castle and Boris Johnson are named among the heroes.

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said

"In the last 50 years the fortunes of the railways have waxed and waned dramatically. Governments of both parties assumed that railways were outmoded and needed shutting down - now train travel is growing at a speed Beeching could never have imagined. This is testament to the arguments that have been fought and won since that time. The challenge now is to expand the rail network to meet our needs for the next 50 years, including reopening lines closed by Beeching and politicians after him."

Stephen Joseph continued

“Beeching’s cuts were driven by politics and ideology but many politicians have been among those standing up to protect Britain’s railway. What’s needed now is for politicians and rail managers to work together to grow our railways as a public service for everyone.”



  • Dr. Richard Beeching, Chairman, British Railways Board (1961 - 1965) and Ernest Marples, Minister of Transport (1959 - 1964) – for initiating a climate of ideologically-driven mass closures on the railways.
  • Tom Fraser, MP, Minister of Transport 1964-65 – for ensuring the Beeching cuts not only went ahead under Labour but gained momentum.
  • Sir Alfred Sherman, co-founder, Centre for Policy Studies – for actively promoting the converting railways to road capacity




  • Barbara Castle, Transport Minister (1965 – 1968) – for giving a large urban areas control of their rail systems, allowing effective urban transit system to flourish from lines earmarked for closure
  • Peter Parker, Chairman, British Rail (1977 – 1983) – for restoring the reputation and pride of the railways and laying the foundation of the growth which was to come.
  • Boris Johnson & Ken Livingstone, as Mayor of London (2008 - present & 2000 - 2008 respectively) – for showing how investment and locally-responsive management can transform rail services



Notes to Editors
1. Beeching at 50 - Heroes and Villains on the railways can be downloaded from the Campaign for Better Transport website.

2. Stephen Joseph will speak at 'Back on track' at the National Railway Museum, York on 27 March 2013 (6.30pm – 8.30pm)