Saturday, June 08, 2019

Andrew Adonis on the case for reversing Beeching

Andrew Adonis - Remain ultra turned Corbyn loyalist - has done his best to upset all sides recently, but he knows his stuff when it comes to railways.

Yesterday he gave a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research on 'Reversing Beeching'.

The first half dealt with HS2 - a project I find hard to love and one that may not long survive the arrival of a new Conservative prime minister.

Reading the recent Independent article  by Jon Stone, however, I suspect it is one I should try to love. Certainly, Stone makes a better case for HS2 than any politician has done.

It is the second half of Adonis's speech, where he turns to reversing Beeching, that appeals to me:
The case for a systematic – not piecemeal – policy of reversing the worst mistakes of Beeching is now overwhelmingly strong. 
Look at the last decade. London Overground, reinventing and extending the North London Line which was a designated Beeching closure which didn’t happen although the service became virtually non-existent, is one of the most successful public transport upgrades in history. 
The Welsh Government’s reopening of the Valley line from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff and the Scottish Government’s reopening of the Waverley line from Edinburgh to Galashiels and Tweedbank, have also been great successes. 
The problem on all three of these routes hasn’t been viability but overcrowding, with traffic greatly exceeding projections.
And who could resist this proposal?:
The Burton-on-Trent to Leicester line, goods-only since passenger services were withdrawn in the 1960s, would serve the towns of Coalville, Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Swadlincote among others. 
This line comes into Leicester through heavily built up districts where there could also be stations. With new and reopened stations in the towns and Leicester, this would serve a rail neglected population of about 150,000 on this line alone.
Adonis has thought of how this programme can be paid for too:
The M4 Relief Road has just been cancelled, saving £1.4bn. The ludicrious tunnel proposed for the A303 under Stonehenge, which I cancelled a decade ago but has resurfaced for political reasons at a projected cost of £2.3bn, should also be cancelled. 
Add in a few other politically motivated but unjustified road schemes and you have an initial £5bn Reverse Beeching fund. More if you can secure local contributions and other regeneration funding. 
That’s enough to make a bold start on the first set of Reverse Beeching projects, which should be agreed through a competitive evaluation next year.
He goes on to point out that there would be more money still for these schemes if Brexit were cancelled.

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