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  • The Government has recently announced plans to fund the reopening of some rail lines closed in the latter half of the twentieth century. The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, has invited MPs, working with local authorities and community groups, to come forward with proposals.
  • However, the Labour Party has criticised the Government for overselling the extent to which the announced funding package of £500 million will support the reopening of lines.
  • To put the announcement in context, the UK’s rail network has roughly halved in length over the last 100 years. Line closures began after the First World War, but the pace of line closures increased dramatically following a report published in 1963. This report, entitled The Reshaping of British Railways, earmarked 2,363 stations and 5,000 miles of track for closure.
  • The name of the report’s author, the then chairman of British Railways, Dr Richard Beeching (later Lord Beeching), is now synonymous with the report’s recommendations and the following closures.
  • In recent years, there have been calls from across the political spectrum for some of the lines closed following publication of the Beeching report to reopen. This has been in the context of the increasing number of passenger journeys being made each year—now more than double the number 40 years ago.
  • This briefing provides background information on the length of the UK’s rail network and the number of passenger journeys made each year over the past 100 years, before providing a brief timeline of closures to add context to the figures provided. It then summarises the Government’s recent announcements and subsequent political reaction.

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