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1965: Beeching plans for 'bloated' railways
A second report from the British Railways Board chairman, Dr Richard Beeching, has outlined transport needs for the next quarter of a century.

The report follows his first controversial review of the state of Britain's railways, published two years ago.

In that report, he said the railway system was uneconomic and under-used, and recommended that a quarter of the railway system should be shut down.

Today's report, called "Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes", elaborates on those conclusions.

Dr Beeching's rail modernisation scheme is to cater for a growing population and freight movements, increasingly served by alternative means of transport such as cars and aeroplanes.

Speaking at a press conference to unveil his proposals he said it was "necessary to establish how the through-route system can best be developed to match the future pattern of rail traffic demand."

Not a prelude to closures
Dr Richard Beeching
The 100-page report explained the "bloated" network is a legacy from the private foundations of the railways but is no longer cost-effective.

It estimates savings of 50-100m by closing down selected, superfluous lines.

There are currently five routes over the Central Pennines, three routes between London and Glasgow, and two between London and Birmingham.

The document emphasizes: "This report is not a prelude to closures on a grand scale," but its author anticipated controversy.

Transport Minister Tom Fraser has refused to commit the Government to Dr Beeching's proposals and issued a statement to say the report would be "subject to constructive criticism".

Dr Beeching was head of British Railways from 1961, but is set to return to his old job at ICI in June after being sacked by the government at the end of last year.

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Railway station scene
The railway system faces major changes


In Context
The cuts recommended by Richard Beeching became known as his "axe".

His two reports led to the closure of a quarter of the rail network including over 2,000 local stations at a cost of nearly 70,000 jobs.

The British rail network was privatised in the mid-90s, with the first franchise for a private passenger service going to South West Trains in February 1994.

Railtrack - the organisation responsible for the track, stations signals and their maintenance - was also established in February 1994.

It was put into administration by the Labour Government in October 2001 with expected operating losses of 700m.

In January 2002 the Government announced a 10 year rescue package - worth 67.5bn - for the UK rail network.

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