Railway use at record high

Date: Tuesday 2nd April 2013

Sir, Dr. Beeching got it right in part; the operation of many minor railways he proposed for closure could not be justified. But he went too far, and the Labour governments of 1964-70 went much further.

Railways were too often closed without any attempt to reduce their operating costs, and it is known that the truth was sometimes distorted to justify the case for closure.

My first political act, as a 12-year-old, was to write letters of protest against the closure of a railway that ran past my granny’s house in Scotland. Looking at the 1968 timetable now it’s obvious that trains were timed to make it as inconvenient as possible for anyone to use them, so the case for closure was made.

The line was reopened five years ago at a cost of £90 million, now carries 500,000 passengers a year, and is soon to be electrified.

I will not be alone in regretting the opportunities lost from the closure of lines across the north west of England such as Penrith-Keswick, but I suppose it could have been worse.

Use of our railways is at a record high, and with main lines being electrified, the Manchester hub sanctioned and a high speed line planned, I cannot complain about a lack of rail investment in the North West.

Yet there is more to do. The Halton curve should provide services from Liverpool to North Wales. The Colne-Skipton line needs rebuilding to provide a new east-west link and stimulate the East Lancashire corridor.

Money will remain tight for years to come, but plans need to be made and councils need to protect the routes of closed railways from development so that the vision of better transport links can one day become reality. Yours etc,


(Liberal Democrat MEP for the North West)

Castle Street,