It’s 50 years since the ‘Beeching cut’ decimated the railway system across the UK. This brief extract from my book Wales since 1939 (Manchester Unievrsity Press, 2012) looks at the cut in Wales.

The 1963 Beeching inquiry responded to the impact of the car on rail lines by proposing drastic closures. Welsh local government, trade unions and political groups feared the cuts would result in ‘irreparable damage’ to Wales’ social and economic life, exacerbating unemployment and depopulation and hitting trade and commerce. However, as early as 1951, only six of the twenty-four stations in Breconshire had an average of more than five passengers using a train and five stations had an average of less than one passenger per train. By the time of its closure, one of the lines in Breconshire was costing the taxpayer £400 a year for every passenger who used the service. The ‘Beeching axe’ saw 190 stations and sixteen lines close in Wales, while another six lines had services reduced. As the Welsh Office concluded, Wales was ‘particularly hard hit’ but it was not being singled out: it just had a lot of little-used lines.[1] Indeed, things might have been worse. The closure of the Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury line had been muted and the mid-Wales line that linked Shrewsbury and Swansea might have gone too but for the fact that it passed through six marginal constituencies.[2] But that did not change the feeling that railway cuts were dealing rural Wales yet another harsh blow.


[1] Breconshire County Council, County Development Plan: Report of Survey (1954), 71. Railways in Wales, NA, PREM 11/4596.

[2] K. O. Morgan, Rebirth of a Nation: Wales, 1880–1980 (1981), 329.

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Author: HanesCymru

I teach history at Swansea University.

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