Beeching, friend or foe?
Part 2 of "The Reshaping of British Railways", 1963.
The infamous Dr. Beeching.
The Beeching report came out in 1963, was approved by Parliament and over the next five years was put into operation.
Another report in 1964 proposed rationalisation of duplicate trunk routes.
In 1966 the Keswick-Cockermouth section closed but the Penrith-Keswick section was saved due to a huge outcry.
By 1968 views had changed on railways a little and a system of grants was introduced for lines that did not make a profit, the Penrith-Keswick Railway was one of these.
The problems of losses by British Rail continued to cause political problems and on March 6th 1972 the Penrith-Keswick Railway was closed to passenger services. Goods services to Blencow kept the line open until the summer of 1972.
It has come to light since that the Keswick-Cockermouth section was earmarked for development of the A66 which now runs along a good length of the trackbed.
From Braithwaite to Embleton the road runs mostly along the old trackbed.
Better access to west Cumbria allowed the area to attract businesses like the Leyland Bus factory which is no longer with us.
The extra six years the Penrith-Keswick section was open was enough to save it from the A66 road building program.
Even now the A66 only crosses the trackbed in one place but at no point runs along the trackbed.
The trackbed goes under a flyover at Threlkeld and "big tunnel" is buried and intact beneath the flyover at Keswick.
The large earthworks at Penruddock (Beckses) was removed along with two associated bridges.
A number of other railway bridges have been removed.
The main viaducts and many other road/agricultural bridges are still intact and in good condition.
There are a few that are in poor condition but nothing to cause any concern.
I am advised that some parts of the trackbed have been simply abandoned, but I don't have details of this.
While the CK&PR was suggested for closure by Beeching, I am advised that the new road building program had more to do with the closure of the line.
The Penrith-Keswick section lasted until 1972, long after Beeching's report came out.
I am advised that the Penrith-Keswick section was deliberately run down to force it to close.
One witness of that period complained that in the last few months of operation that they could not get a through ticket to Keswick.
They could get a ticket to Penrith but they had buy another ticket to get to Keswick, which was a real nuisance.
They had to cross through the subway from platform 2, queue, buy a ticket, then make their way to platform 4.
This sounds like the line was already assumed to close well before any official announcements were made.
The previous outcry had to be appeased, so the line was made to look bad and the excuse given for closure was that the line was uneconomic.