Government plans to restore lost rail services across Britain to expand network and boost housing development

Rebecca Smith
The government wants to review lost services under cuts from the 60s and 70s
The government wants to review lost services under cuts from the 60s and 70s (Source: Getty)

The government plans to expand Britain's rail network, looking at restoring services that were lost to cuts in the 60s and 70s, to boost housing opportunities, and address the capacity pressures facing many train operators.

In a rail strategy set to be unveiled tomorrow, the government will unveil plans to identify schemes that could transform towns and regions, and will work with local partners to help them find the support they need to develop proposals.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said today he wants to find transport projects that will help to ease congested commuter routes and meet future demand, which could include rail services lost under the Beeching and British Rail cuts of the 1960s and 1970s.

Read more: Take a look at the new Paddington Elizabeth Line station taking shape

The Beeching cuts identified over two thousand stations and 5,000 miles of (mostly rural) railway lines for closure, in an effort to get a handle on large losses being suffered amid rising competition from road transport, and looked to focus on investing in major routes.

While some lines escaped closure, most of the recommendations were accepted, and over 4,000 route miles were chopped from the network.

One of the last major closures was the 98-mile long Waverley Route between Carlisle, Hawick and Edinburgh in 1969, with a stretch of the line reopening in September 2015, which is now known as the Borders Railway.

In the capital, Transport for London has restored most of the line that once connected Broad Street and Dalston as part of the Overground network.

Today, Grayling said: "Rail travel has transformed over the last twenty years and our railways are carrying twice as many passengers as they did before privatisation. Many commuter services are full and getting busier and passengers know how much pressure the network is under."

He added:

We need to expand our network to unlock jobs and housing growth across the country.

We’re already accelerating plans to reopen the railway line from Oxford to Cambridge.

Now I want to see how we can expand other parts of the network to help make Britain fit for the future.

The government is in the midst of establishing a firm to develop proposals, secure private sector investment and restore the rail link between Oxford and Cambridge.

However, Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers' union Aslef, said Grayling was merely "reheating a few old proposals" with the announcement.

"Where is the bold strategic vision for rail, and integrated transport links, in this country? And what has happened to the Tory promises on electrification which he promptly reneged on?" Whelan added. "We would be pleased to see the lines cut by Beeching restored. But we need something more, and someone better, to deliver the railway that people in this country deserve."

Meanwhile, Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said the announcement was welcome, "but it is desperately difficult to reopen a rail line".

"This announcement needs to be backed both with new investment and a commitment to guiding local authorities through the sometimes labyrinthine processes of the railway," he added.

Read more: Crossrail 2 crunch talks on funding set for next month with Chris Grayling

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