Hope, so it seems, springs eternal, the sentiment underscored by those really believing transport secretary Grant “Spiv” Shapps will magically reopen lots of rail lines, many of which closed more than 50 years ago. “Today we've announced a £500m Beeching Reversal Fund to start re-opening rail lines axed under Harold Wilson's govt. Ultimately this saw 5,000 miles of rail & 2,363 stations closed. Our plan will help re-connect towns & villages to the rail network” he claimed, demonstrating retention of his sense of humour.
Would you buy a non-existent train from this man?
The Great And Good Doctor
Richard Beeching submitted his report to a Tory Government. He was appointed by Ernest Marples, a Tory whose family had interests in road building. Still, someone out there believes the Shapps spin. Like Andrew Pierce. “Govt to announce £500m plan to reopen rail lines shutdown by Beeching in 60s. Much more sensible than grandiose HS2”.
But he didn’t know what he was talking about, either. Nor did any of the Ron Hopefuls lining up to peddle their own pipe dreams, like David Campbell Bannerman. “Reopening lines closed by Beeching is a noble adventure which helps economic development, quality of life & the environment. I would spend 10% net EU fees (£1.2bn) for 15 yrs = £18bn on this”. Won’t happen. Nor will “Would love to see the Burscough Curves re-opened, to restore direct rail travel between Southport and Preston, and Southport with Ormskirk”.
West Midlands (Tory) Mayor Andy Street suggested “I've got quite a shopping list for our share of the £500m! Kings Heath, Moseley, Stirchley, Darlaston, Willenhall, Aldridge, Tettenhall, Coundon, Binley/Willenhall (Coventry), Foleshill, the Fort, Castle Vale, the Sutton Park line and more!” Nope. “Fleetwood railway line could re-open”. Or could not.
How about “Rebuilding the Cirencester to Kemble railway has taken a step closer to reality”? No it hasn’t. Or “Get on with #Portishead rail link!” Won’t get on any quicker. Why? “£368 million much needed to reopen Skipton Colne line”. But there’s only £500million for the whole country. Remember, as the BBC’s Norman Smith has, it’s “worth noting only rail line re-opened so far (Waverley line) cost a cool £350 million”. And only part of it.
So the welter of criticism and cynicism should have surprised no-one, with Paul Prentice kicking off with “I don’t care if it’s the PM and that it’s a disused railway. You never, ever publish photos showing someone standing on railway tracks”. Certainly not without a hi-vis on. Damon Evans added “If anyone believes the Tories will reverse the Beeching cuts - or, indeed, that it’s even possible, given that large swathes of tracks abandoned in the 60s are now built on - I have a ‘£350m a week for the NHS’ bus for sale”. Quite.
And some had, as they say, done the math, like the Parody Boris Johnson. “This generous fund should help to reopen about 25 miles of the 5,000 miles of railway track that Beeching closed. So that’s 0.5% of the funding required to actually do what we are pretending to do”. Dave Gould put that in perspective. “This is like me claiming I’m seriously contributing to our house move by putting £20 in the savings account”. Indeed.
It’s not a new announcement. And it is, effectively, a con. All those new Tory MPs rocking up in London with their Northern Wall begging bowls might as well not have bothered.
Anyone believing the Shapps spin is not dealing from a full deck. Sad, really.
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