There are plenty of books about Beeching, but only one has been completely updated to mark 50 years since the Beeching report was published.
In The Great Railway Conspiracy, David Henshaw tells the story of Britain’s railways from the late 1940s to the present day. Was there really a conspiracy to humble the rail industry in the 1960s? Leaving the way open for profiteering by car manufacturers, road builders and other member of the so-called ‘road lobby’?
A sorry tale emerges of lost opportunities, deliberate running down of busy services, ‘cooked’ account books and opportunistic intervention by road groups. These pressures left the railways struggling by the early 1980s. Fortunately, the tide was soon to turn, and today passenger numbers are higher than they have ever been, with most lines bulging at the seams, including many that were saved from the Beeching holocaust by political expediency, dedicated campaigners, or – in a few cases – sheer luck.
Henshaw makes the point that without the deliberate run-down of the 1960s, the railway map would look very different today, and the railways even busier than they are. Many lines have reopened in recent years, and these are all identified and discussed, together with potential reopening targets for the future.
Updated for a new era
First published in 1991, ‘The Great Railway Conspiracy’ was reprinted in 1993, and completely revised in 2013. Only the 3rd edition has this cover. Railway enthusiasts will recognise Bombardier’s Class 172. But full marks if you spot that this is Tavistock station, taken from a 1972 photograph. This was four years after closure. Tavistock, of course, is high on the potential reopening list, either as a branch line from Plymouth, or as a major stop on a reopened inland trunk line linking Plymouth with Exeter. Will we see this? Henshaw puts it at No. 4 in his top 30 targets in Chapter 10.
- A Seminal book on Dr Beeching and his aftermath
- Fully rewritten and updated to include details of the latest rail re-openings
- Clear lessons from the success of reinvigorated and reopened branch lines
- Top 30 Potential Rail Reopenings identified, listed and analysed
- Central message – Conspiracy or not, Britain’s railways are thriving as never before. Despite 50 years of cuts, hostile governments and muddled thinking
- 304 pages, plus numerous maps and photographs, many previously unpublished
- This is the author’s web page. All copies are signed, with a personal message if required!