It was on this day – Wednesday 23rd December 1964 – that it was announced by Mr Tom Fraser, the Labour Minister of Technology, that a certain Dr. Richard Beeching was to leave his post as Chairman of the British Rail Board and returned to his old job at Imperial Chemical Industries – better known as ICI – but not until June 1965!
It had been in 1961 that Dr Beeching had been ‘borrowed’ from ICI to ‘do some work’ for British Railways. In these three years he had significantly reorganised the railway network with a closure programme known by all as ‘the Beeching Axe’.
So what had he done? Well, this depended on who you were, where you lived and how you used the railways. A great many of the railway users thought it was high-time the whole network was sorted out – but many others, including many of those who were all for the change, were appalled by what he did actually do.
In his report ‘The re-shaping of British Railways’, published on Saturday 16th February 1963, Dr Beeching had announced that of the 7,500 miles of trunk railway through Britain only 3,000 ‘should be selected for future development and be invested in’.
When the report was presented to Parliament the proposals were soundly rejected by the government.
As a result of this rejection Dr Beeching’s secondment ended in June 1965 as noted above. But was he pushed or did he jump? As I noted above, Tom Fraser had put a date of June 1965 for Doc Beeching’s departure! In this June Frank Cousins, the Labour Minister of Technology, repeated Tom Fraser’s statement. Dr Beeching denied this, stating that he had returned early to the ICI because he would not have had enough time to undertake an in-depth transport study before the formal end of his secondment from ICI!
You pay your money and you take your choice about who’s right / who’s wrong. Me? I rode a bike to work at the time all this was happening!
Oh – by the way – Dr. Richard Beeching was made a Life Peer in 1965!