Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Monday, 15 June 2009 16:33 UK

Rail lines that connected communities

By Lila Allen
BBC News

Dr Richard Beeching at East Grinstead Station carrying a copy of his report, which advocated cuts in the railway system, 1962
Dr Richard Beeching's report led to the closure of a third of railway networks

The Beeching cuts of the 1960s saw a third of railway networks closed. Today, the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) has proposed some of these lines should be reopened.

But what of the communities living on them? Then, as now, it is the people in the area who will feel the direct impact.

Brixham in Devon is one of the lines suggested for reopening.

In its heyday, the line ran from Paignton to Brixham via Churston. Today, the line from Churston is the site of new homes and roads.

But in the 1960s, the impact of the Beeching cuts was felt dearly by a community reliant on the fishing industry.

"Utter dismay"

Torbay Councillor Mike Morey was still at school when the line was closed. His grandfather was a porter at Brixham station.

My sister had her hat thrown out of the window by one of the boys one year, I think it was Christmas time
Brian Cheesman

Cllr Morey remembers that the town felt "utter dismay" at the closure.

"It was a popular line," he said, known as the "six-penny train" taking the town's people to the main shopping centre in Torquay.

But passengers were not the only ones who relied on the service.

The town depended economically on the trains to import coal and export fish, the main industry of the area.

The trains carried fish directly to Billingsgate market in London, boosting the local economy - which until the railway line opened only served the local area of Torquay.

Hostility

In the Surrey town of Cranleigh, passengers were the main victims of the service closure.

By the time it closed in 1965, it was a main commuter line, taking people to London and also on holiday to the coast.

The decision to close the service was met with hostility by the local community.

Railway train tracks
Proposed rail expansion could see disused tracks back in operation

Michael Miller, chairman of the Cranleigh history society, says the locals were upset.

"Their link to London had gone. It was a friendly, local service and in those days not everyone had a car," he said.

Since then, Cranleigh's population has increased with people moving from nearby Guildford.

Mr Miller welcomes the proposal to reopen the railway line, but says some people have extended their gardens over where the trains used to run and so won't be happy to see it back.

Fond memories

But Brian Cheesman is keen to see it return. Having served for 33 years on the local council he is now vice chairman and has fond memories the railway line which he used to get to school.

The journey took just 12 minutes as opposed to 25 minutes on the bus.

"We had some genuine fun," he remembers. "My sister had her hat thrown out of the window by one of the boys one year, I think it was Christmas time."

Brixham port
Brixham in Devon relied on the export of fish to Torquay and London

When British troops came through Cranleigh during World War II, an enthusiastic signalman changed the points too soon resulting in half the train shunting forward and the other back, straddling the station at Cranleigh.

"That was a hoot," Mr Cheesman said.

But his are mixed memories. Two people were killed on the train after it was struck by German bombs. Mr Cheesman believes they were sisters.

The closure of the line in the late 1960s hit the area's economy hard.

Two coal merchants soon went out of business after the line was shut. The business was no longer financially viable after the merchants had to travel to Horsham or Guildford for coal.

Welcome development

The Atoc proposals could see the line to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire back in service.

Cllr Alan Melton remembers the railway line well.

"In the good old days, I like a lot of people travelled by train from March to the Isle of Ely college in Wisbech. It closed during my time," he said.

He remembers how unhappy people were, drawing up petitions before having to use buses and later cars to make the journey.

Ever since the closure, there has been a campaign to reopen the line.

Cllr Melton called today's news a "welcome development" which could help ease congestion in a town that has boomed since the 1960s when Dr Richard Beeching proposed his cuts.

Map of proposed new stations



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SEE ALSO
Rail links to the past
15 Jun 09 |  UK
Move to reinstate lost rail lines
15 Jun 09 |  England


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