Government, the Railways and the Modernization of Britain: by Charles Loft

By Charles Loft

Greater than forty years after its ebook, the 1963 Beeching file on British railways is still debatable for recommending the closure of a 3rd of Britain’s railways. during this booklet, Charles Loft examines: why the nationalized railways have been in such dire monetary straits by means of 1963 how govt paintings on destiny shipping wishes ended in conclusions which might have minimize Britain’s railways down by means of millions of miles what problems finally halted makes an attempt by way of Conservative and Labour governments to enforce those cuts. This e-book should be precious to someone drawn to how delivery coverage is made or the way it has arrived at its present country and sheds attention-grabbing new mild at the operating of presidency, the financial system and the temper of the days lower than Churchill, Eden, Macmillan and Wilson.

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102 Although there was more to the reform of rail policy in 1958–63 than mere cost-cutting, that reform was framed in the context of a deficit apparently spiralling out of control. There are several reasons for this financial decline. Clearly the railway industry entered the postwar era in a difficult position, but one similar to that it had been in for much of the inter-war period. Constructed and regulated on the assumption of a transport monopoly, it faced a challenge from road transport which, even without the private motor car, had the potential to offer an alternative service which was cheaper and more convenient in many circumstances and for general merchandise freight and short-distance passenger services in particular.

96 From 1955, unwilling to pursue legislative curbs on trade unions, a formal incomes policy or to abandon the commitment to full employment, the Eden 34 The railway problems Government attempted to ‘educate’ workers on the need for wage restraint and to take the heat out of wage claims by stabilizing prices. The Government attempted to create a wage and price plateau; but while ministers could only exhort private sector employers and the trade unions to show restraint, they could impose such policies on the nationalized industries (albeit informally through discussion with their chairmen).

87 Encouraging local opponents of closures to make their voice heard at TUCC hearings, the Hastings MP Neil Cooper-Key questioned whether it was right for the BTC ‘to divest itself of a responsibility to serve outlying districts in the country’ just The railway problems 88 33 because such services lost money. 89 The same conflicting objectives were at work on a larger scale when it came to setting the railways’ price and wage levels. The greatest restriction on the railways’ commercial freedom in the 1950s was the Government’s tendency to treat the railways and other nationalized boards as the ‘handmaidens of other policies’,90 in the Treasury’s phrase, by constantly involving itself in the Commission’s pricing decisions and industrial relations.

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