DfT moves ahead with plans to reopen axed Beeching rail lines
Grant Shapps vows to 'undo the damage' of 1960s Beeching rail cuts with £500m fund to reopen axed lines
Dr Richard Beeching holds a copy of his 'The Reshaping of British Railways' plan in London in 1963. His plan led to the closing of around 5,000 miles of track and over 2,300 stations. Photo: PA
The government is to press ahead with a £500m fund to restore a string of railway lines controversially closed in the 1960s.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps will vow to "undo the damage" of the Beeching cuts by reopening some of the lines culled after a major report on the railways commissioned more than half a century ago.
The Department for Transport is already drawing up plans to reopen Northumberland's Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line and restore the Fleetwood route in Lancashire at a total cost of £1.6m.
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Shapps, who will visit Fleetwood to launch the fund, said: “Many communities still live with the scars that came from the closure of their local railway more than five decades ago. Today sees work begin to undo the damage of the Beeching cuts by restoring local railways and stations to their former glory.
"Investing in transport links is essential to levelling up access to opportunities across the country, ensuring our regions are better connected, local economies flourish and more than half a century of isolation undone."
The DfT has asked local authorities and community groups across England and Wales to propose ways the £500m pot could be used to reinstate axed services, with the department saying it would also pump £20m into developing new stations and restoring old sites.
Departmental guidance says it will hold events providing advice on how to bid for funding,
"The department will listen to proposals, prioritising projects that offer the greatest potential, viability and economic benefits," it said.
But Labour said the £500m allocated to the fund would pay for "just 25 miles of railway" to be reopened.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said that the pledge was meaningless without “a serious funding commitment of billions of pounds” and highlighted that the announcement was being made on the same day the government is set to confirm that it will take over the running of Northern franchise services.
Shapps said earlier this month that the department’s own operator of last resort could take over the franchise due to financial difficulties at operator Arriva. It is expected that this move will now be confirmed today.
McDonald added: "The timing of this announcement is also suspicious and seems designed to distract from the imminent collapse of the Northern rail franchise."
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT rail union said: "RMT welcomes any investment in our railways but £500m is a drop in the ocean compared to what's really required to connect our abandoned communities and reverse decades of cuts to infrastructure and maintenance."
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