Rural rail lines closed in 1960s could be reopened
Plans described as 'difficult and 'unambitious' could reverse swathing cuts to the rural rail network by restoring services which were scrapped in the 1960s.
As part of the Beeching Cuts, thousands of stations and hundreds of branch lines were closed between 1964 and 1970 in the wake of a report by British Railways chairman Dr Richard Beeching.
But Transport Secretary Chris Grayling this week announced he wants to identify which routes would boost the economy, encourage house building and ease overcrowding.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has pledged to 'accelerate' the reopening of the rail link between Oxford and Cambridge.
In the Beeching Cuts the Dereham to Wells line vanished in 1964, followed by Dereham to Wymondham in 1969 and King's Lynn to Dereham in 1968.
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Services between Swaffham and Thetford stopped running in 1964.
Labour's shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald described the proposals to reopen lines as 'unambitious' and 'more jam tomorrow from a Government which has run out of ideas'.
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He went on: 'The Tories' record is of delayed, downgraded and cancelled investment, huge disparities in regional transport spending and soaring fares that are pricing passengers off the railway.
'This unambitious strategy stands in contrast to Labour's plan to upgrade and expand the rail network across the country.'
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, warned that it is 'desperately difficult to reopen a rail line'.
He said: 'This announcement needs to be backed both with new investment and a commitment to guiding local authorities through the sometimes labyrinthine processes of the railway.'
The charity identified a dozen rail lines which it claims have strong economic and social cases for reopening, and a further 200 being campaigned for locally.
They include King's Lynn to Hunstanton, Norwich to Wells, King's Lynn to Dereham, and the creation of a 'Norfolk Orbital Railway' to link Sheringham with Fakenham.
The announcement comes amid reports that the DfT will overhaul rail franchises and reform Network Rail.
In December last year Mr Grayling revealed that he wants the publicly owned company to share its responsibility for running the tracks with private train operators.