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‘Closed’ rail line still thriving as Beeching anniversary approaches
9:37am Monday 4th March 2013 in News
THIS month will mark the 50th anniversary of an infamous report which gave the English language a new phrase – “Beeching-style cuts” – with which to describe swingeing reductions.
The man behind the phrase was Dr Richard Beeching, who had taken over as British Railways chairman in 1961.
Dr Beeching released his bombshell report, entitled The Reshaping Of British Railways, on March 27, 1963.
He outlined about 2,300 stations for closure – about a third of the total – as well as about 5,000 of the 17,380 miles of track.
More than 2,000 stations were eventually closed, thousands of miles of track was shut down and about 67,000 jobs were lost.
However, a North Yorkshire rail line that fell foul of the Beeching cuts is now the busiest steam heritage route in the world.
Rail lovers were so shocked by the decision to close a section of the old Whitby and Pickering Railway in 1965 that they were determined to bring services back to that part of Yorkshire.
By 1973, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) was up and running with old steam locos travelling between Pickering and Grosmont.
Since 2007, passengers have been able to travel 24 miles on the route thanks to an extension to Whitby – a station which is getting a multi-million pound makeover.
Open about 260 days of the year, the NYMR carries about 350,000 passengers annually.
NYMR general manager Philip Benham, 63, said: “The Whitby-Pickering closure was quite controversial, given there was a general election in 1964.
“(Labour leader) Harold Wilson had referred to Whitby as a line that should not be shut but when he became Prime Minister the closure went ahead.
“One good thing was that British Railways was asked to keep the line intact after it closed and this certainly helped when plans were made to get it reopened.” Originally dating from 1836, the "second version" of the NYMR has an anniversary to celebrate this year - its 40th.