ONE BIG ROW: GOVERNMENT AND THE RAILWAYS, 1951-64
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This thesis places the work of Dr Richard Beeching as Chairman of the British Railways Board in the context of Government policy towards the nationalised railways 1951-64, and examines the popular myth that Beeching and the Minister who appointed him, Ernest Marples, initiated a policy of railway closures and contraction. The thesis argues that Beeching's appointment and policies need to be seen in the context of the failure of Government policy towards the railways during the 1950s. The background to the Transport Act, 1953 is analysed. It is argued that, through this Act, the Government increased competition in the transport field, but was unwilling to accept, and unprepared for, the logical consequences of this change. The discussion of the Government's subsequent policy towards the railways during the 1950s argues that by intervening in industrial relations and price-setting, Ministers not only forced the railways into the red, but hampered their own efforts to encourage the industry to increase its efficiency. Government involvement in industrial relations, price-setting, investment and the withdrawal of unremunerative services is discussed. The Government's tougher approach to railway finances after 1959 (apparent in the 1962 Transport Act, tighter supervision of investment and the closure programme under Beeching) is placed in two contexts. Firstly, the growing recognition within Whitehall that the rise of road transport would limit the railways' future role. Secondly, the reform of the relationship between government and the nationalised industries in general. This discussion leads to a re-evaluation of Marples' significance, and a rejection of the view that Beeching's closure programme arose from a study of the railways in isolation from transport as a whole. Finally, the presentation and implementation of Beeching's closure programme until the 1964 General Election is discussed. The thesis argues that the social and economic consequences of closures were not ignored.
AuthorsLoft, Edward Charles
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