Saturday, 4 October 2008

Dr Beeching Got it Wrong

6 Locks, 4½ Miles. Now moored by Bridge 22 Middlewich Branch, Shropshire Union Canal

It has been a glorious day for cruising with a cool breeze just to spoil it all. Now it's the end of the tourist season things are starting to get very quiet on the cut with just a handful of boats on the move. Where we are moored is above what I presume you would call the Weaver Valley with the river Weaver wending its way towards Northwich and a large lake or Flash as they call them around here which has been created by subsidence from the salt mining. Very picturesque.

Now last night on BBC4 there were 3 programme's about British Railways and the aftermath of Dr Beeching's 1963 report on reshaping British Railways. It would appear that he wielded his axe too far and about 1/3rd of the lines that got the chop should have been retained and then perhaps there wouldn't be the congestion on today's roads. Talking about roads, this is where MP Mr Marples comes along and is only too happy for the railways to be closed as it gives him the opportunity to build roads and motorways and amass his fortune. Nice one if you can get it. Now politicians have come to their senses and are starting to talk about rebuilding the railways.

Another of last nights programme's was about walking the tracks along old disused railways lines and last night the young lady presenter was walking the Peak District. This showed that most of the infrastructure of the line was still in place,bridges and tunnels etc: (she had to get special permission to go through he tunnels as they are all sealed up and locked) and it looked as if it would only take replacement of track for the line to be re-opened. An interesting thought when David Cameron of the Conservative party is talking about a high speed line from Heathrow, London St Pancras, Manchester and Leeds instead of building runway 3 which would prove to be quicker and more environmentally friendly. With the problems the Aviation industry are having with fuel prices and airport congestion is sounds like a good scheme to me. Bring back the railways!

The final programme was of Victoria Woods the comedienne travelling from Crewe to the very top of Scotland and back via the East coast lines. This was both enlightening and entertaining as she had to change trains many times and from main line operation to single track lines . The scenery was stunning at times and something you can never enjoy driving along a motorway at 70 MPH. There is something to be said for train travel. One observation that came out which I thought very apt was that train travellers moaned about late trains or non arrivals back in the 60's and poured out onto Britain's roads when cars became more affordable. Now they moan and grizzle about the traffic congestion and delays, can't win can they! At least on the train you can read the paper or work on your laptop, you can't do that driving your car. Its all a matter of priorities.

It has been a well known fact for decades that freight on railways is the money maker and passenger services are just a public amenity running at a loss so what's so different with buses that Dr Beeching was so much in favour of running instead of trains. They are subsidised by tax payers, so should they be axed? I think not but as the old saying goes it doesn't pay to have all your eggs in one basket, so as far as public transport is concerned there is a place and need for road, rail and air to spread the load evenly. Politicians need to start thinking outside the square and not about personal gain, after all they are in parliament to represent the people, aren't they?

1477 locks, 3105 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006


Jim said...

At the same time that the government was closing the railways they were also proposing the closure of most of the canal system. Proportionately much more of the latter has remained open and continues to receive subsidy even though it fulfills no "transport" purpose. Perhaps we should transfer some of the money to re-opening railways?

Derek and Dot said...

Hi Jim
We could be controversial here and say transfer more monies from the roading budget to the railways now couldn't we. Some companies are now relooking at the canals for transport.

Jim said...

I would support that view - I'm no fan of road transport - were it not for the fact that after privatisation the railways are already costing three times as much in subsidy as when they were publically-owned!

Chas and Ann said...

Hey, we do not realy want too much freight on our lovely canals do we? Those deep boats would run aground! Rivers are deeper.

Derek and Dot said...

Hi Chas
Yes I agree after just coming off the River Weaver they are more suited to canal traffic but not our canals. Take care while Ann is away. Might catch up again during the winter.

Unknown said...

Hi you two, the walk along the Monsal trail is on our doorstep, we live just over a mile from Millers Dale. The line was closed on 1st July 1968, thanks to the government of the day. What a bunch of plonkers! The film crew missed out some of the best views; perhaps we will be able to show you when you get onto the Trebt & Mersey.