Britain's most hated civil servant tore down beloved railroad sites

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Dr Richard Beeching has become one of the villains of British history for dismantling the railway network in the 1960s. But, Ian Hislop asks, how much did he really change Britain?
In lists of the worst Britons, a physicist from the Isle of Sheppey commonly ranks alongside Richard III, Robert Maxwell and Fred West.

Dr Richard Beeching's crime was to cut 5,000 miles of railway as boss of British Railways, and his sentence is having his surname as a byword for the senseless axing of public services.

Self-confessed train enthusiast Ian Hislop - an affection that turns to loathing on his daily commute from Kent - says Beeching had a huge impact on Britain.

"It marked the end of our romance with the train, the end of public transport and the rise of the car."...

Two years later he published his report, The Reshaping of British Railways. It called for the closure of more than a third of the country's 7,000 railway stations and the uprooting of 5,000 miles of track, saving £18m a year.

An outcry followed, with demonstrations, petitions and protests at Downing Street, with poet John Betjeman at the vanguard of opposition. Beeching was lampooned in Private Eye with his arms and legs cut off. But Transport Minister Ernest Marples, himself a road builder, remained unmoved.

Over the next 10 years, many of his proposed cuts were made, leaving ghost lines and phantom platforms across the UK. The British landscape was forever changed, thousands of jobs were lost and the railways never paid their way.

"There are a lot of people that hate him," says Hislop.

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