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Michael Portillo Discovers 5 Great British Railway Journeys that Survived the Beeching Cuts

In 1963 Richard Beeching wrote a report for the British government that identified  2,363 stations and 5,000 miles of railway line for closure; 55% of stations and 30% of route miles. Subsequently many small stations were closed. But some survived the cuts and some were even reinstated. Here, Michael Portillo celebrates five of the survivors.

Whitland to Llanelli

Where: South Wales
Distance: 22 miles

Michael Portillo ’s verdict: “At the beginning of the twentieth century, Britain had 20,000 miles of railways. In South Wales, they threaded up the valleys and linked the villages. Locomotives had exceeded 100 miles per hour.”

Michael portillo: whitland to llanelli
Michael at the historical Reedham to Lowestoft line

Reedham to Lowestoft

Where: East Anglia
Distance: 11 miles

Michael’s verdict: “Sir Samuel Morton Peto had designs on the riches of East Anglia, which required him to conquer the tough landscape. Part of the solution was a piece of Victorian engineering genius, the swing bridge, that allowed passage for traffic on both the river and the railway.”

East Grinstead to Sheffield Park

Where: East Sussex
Distance: 11 miles

Michael’s verdict: “When my Bradshaw’s guidebook was published and for about 70 years in total, the Bluebell Railway line continued on to Lewes via a few small rural stations. After being closed in the 1950s, it was raised from the dead as one of Britain’s first heritage railways with the beguiling name of the Bluebell Line.

bluebell railway
The charming Bluebell Railway

Ryde to Shanklin

Where: Isle of Wight
Distance: 8 miles

Michael’s verdict: “I used to take my summer holidays on the Isle of Wight every year with my family and we would travel on this rail service, which in those days was steam. But now the service is provided by trains taken from London Underground.”

Ackergill Tower, wick invergordon
See the grandeur of the Scottish Highlands as you travel from Invergordon to Wick

Invergordon to Wick

Where: Scottish Highlands
Distance: 80 miles

Michael’s verdict: “From my seat on this train I have gawped in admiration at Scotland’s grandeur. The railways in the Highlands brought not industrial revolution so much as continuity to enable communities to survive and traditional skills to flourish.”

Find more exciting railway stories in Michael’s latest book, Greatest British Railway Journeys, Headline Publishing, £14.70,

Buy now

Michael Portillo Great British Railway Journeys, £14.70,

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