TV star recalls axing of his local Sheffield rail line

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RAIL enthusiast and TV presenter Michael Palin, who grew up in Sheffield, has spoken of his shock when he learned what the infamous Beeching Report would do to his local line.

The British Railways Board, chaired by Dr Richard Beeching, published the first of two reports 50 years ago this month.

Palin’s beloved line in Sheffield was one of thousands of miles of track marked for the axe by Beeching as he sought to stem big losses on the railways.

“I well recall the report coming out,” said Michael, president of the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

“Not only were they planning to get rid of the line I had grown up with but they also proposing to axe the station as well.

“Three tunnels that were amazing pieces of construction were just going to be got rid off and then they were going to spend a huge amount of money on a road instead.”

Speaking shortly before a CBT-organised talk on Beeching, Palin said: “We later moved to north London and I could see that the north London line was being allowed to moulder. It was unmanned and badly lit.

“There seemed to be a lack of morale in the railways. This was the railway that I had grown up with and was proud of.”

Beeching thought cars were the answer to Britain’s transport problems and had no affection for the railways, Palin said.

“Beeching had been brought in to do a job. The railways were in bad shape. I don’t think he was dictatorial and I think over the years he has become less of a hate figure. The railways have had a great revival in the last 10 years.”