Friday, March 29, 2013

Doctor Beeching got his way because of my dad

It's been fifty years since the Beeching Report proposed scrapping a huge proportion of the railway network.

I'm a big user of public transport and I can get as sentimental as the next Englishman about the passing of the Slow Train.

I'm also old enough to remember the world the Beeching Report was published into and it was a world which believed profoundly, passionately that the future was all about the motor car.

We hardly ever travelled by train as kids, partly because they were dirty and had a reputation for not running on time but also, I suspect, because our parents associated them with wartime.

In the sixties the family car went from being an unimaginable luxury to a basic right. It was the mobile phone of its day but its consequences were much more far-reaching. My father's preferred family entertainment was taking us all "for a run", which meant going for a drive. Driving was something he only ever associated with pleasure and freedom.

If it did enter anyone's head that even the massive number of motorways being built in the 60s and 70s would never be enough to accommodate the exploding number of vehicles in private hands or that petrol would ever be as costly as it is now, they didn't say anything about it. Had they done so I suspect they would have been shouted down.

That's the problem with planning for the future. People can only ever imagine a slightly better version of the present.


  1. Petrol is cheaper now than in 1966. I recall it was then 4/6d per gallon.

  2. In the early 1970's our family would go on a run to a country pub. Mum and dad would use the garden and we kids would have to stay in the car with a bottle of Cresta and a packet of crisps - each.

    When did being 'A Motorist' stop being something a man would claim as a hobby I wonder?