What if these lost lines hadn’t closed at all?

York to Beverley 

Here’s a bizarre situation. Recently, a campaign group was trying to protect the trackbed at Market Weighton from being sold for development, with a view to ensuring that the line stood a chance of being reopened. It lost its case, so houses can now be built there instead. 

Thus we have a situation where the population of Market Weighton, a town popular with people commuting to York, Hull and Leeds, will increase. Yet the ability to (easily) reinstate a railway to serve them is being lost. That smacks of shortsightedness of the highest order!

Market Weighton was actually a junction town, and the intersection for the lines from York to Beverley (and on to Hull) and from Selby to Driffield (and on to Scarborough). 

If both of these lines had survived, there would have been great benefits to the populations in East and North Yorkshire. It would have opened up more opportunities, and addressed congestion in York and Hull. 


Northallerton to Church Fenton

Staying in Yorkshire - if the East Coast Main Line is closed north of York, the railway is stuffed! Short of going via Leeds and Carlisle, there’s no obvious way north.

And imagine if the ECML was incapacitated for any length of time? For London to Scotland journeys there is the option of the West Coast Main Line, but could that cope? Probably not.

Had this line survived, then not only would it serve the sizeable community of Wetherby (20,000), it would also have carried on north via Melmerby and joined the ECML at Northallerton - allowing trains to head either direct via Darlington or head to Middlesbrough and Sunderland. 

The lines through Wetherby closed on January 6 1964 and through Melmerby on March 6 1967. Much of the trackbed is untouched, but (like so many closed lines) the areas close to conurbations are often built on.

Like the Bere Alston to Meldon line, this route would have made an excellent diversionary and alternative line, rather than a duplicate route. 


Padstow to Boscarne

Have you ever been to the delightful harbour town of Padstow, in north Cornwall, in the summer? It’s gridlocked. The nearest car park to the town is ironically on the land of the old station. If only there was still a railway there!

Padstow was served by the London and South Western Railway, with a line from Exeter via Crediton, Okehampton, Halwill Junction & Beaworthy, Launceston, Camelford and Wadebridge. At Wadebridge the line from Bodmin also came in. 

Closure came in 1967, while the line from Bodmin Road to Bodmin General, Boscarne and Wenfordbridge was retained for freight until 1983 - after the section for Boscarne Junction to Wadebridge had closed in early 1979, again having been retained for freight. 

The trackbed of the majority of the ten miles from Padstow to Boscarne Junction is still intact and used as a cycle way, although the section where the railway once went through Wadebridge has been lost to development.

The Bodmin & Wenford Railway, which currently runs from Bodmin Parkway to Boscarne via Bodmin General, has aspirations to relay the line to ‘just outside’ Wadebridge. However, the current plan would fall half a mile short of the surviving station, now in private use. 

Realistically, getting the railway any further than the outskirts of Wadebridge is ‘unlikely’. And just a footnote here: isn’t it time the railway to Fowey was revived for passenger use? 


Carmarthen to Aberystwyth 

Wales was ravaged by closures in the 1950s and 1960s. The result was a number of ‘very long’ branches from the borders: from Chester to Holyhead; from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli; and from Swansea to Fishguard, Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock.

With the exception of the Llanelli-Craven Arms ‘Heart of Wales’ line, there was nothing to link any of these routes - and the ‘Heart of Wales’ barely did that. To the west of the country there was nothing.

The line from Carmarthen ran via Pencader (the junction for the Newcastle Emlyn branch), Lampeter (with a branch to Aberaeron), and north through Strata Florida to Aberystwyth (where it met with the line from Shrewsbury).

The route closed on February 22 1965 (flooding was the reason for suspending the services, which never restarted), although the lines to Newcastle Emlyn, Lampeter and to Felin Fach and Port Llanio were retained for freight (mostly milk). This naturally dwindled as road haulage became cheaper, and the line was closed in 1973.

There is a campaign to reopen the line to Lampeter, but because the populations in the area are slim it would seem unlikely. That said, the sparse habitation does mean much of the trackbed is still intact.

This is a classic line where while there is no case for reopening, if the line had survived it might today be viable - especially given that it travels through some superb scenery. 

A few miles of the line north of Carmarthen have been relaid as the Gwili Railway. 



Another line which closed to passengers but lingered for freight.

Peterhead closed to passengers on May 3 1965, and Fraserburgh followed shortly afterwards on October 4. Peterhead then stayed open for freight until 1970, when the line from Maud Junction was closed. Fraserburgh fared slightly better, with traffic surviving until 1979. 

Both terminus towns have relatively sizeable populations (about 19,000 and 13,000 respectively). Meanwhile, Ellon (north of Dyce and on the route) is another growing town of over 10,000.

The biggest issue is that nearby Aberdeen is growing. And like any growing conurbation, there is always a demand for transport options for those people who have moved out of the city and who are looking to live further afield and commute into their jobs. And as we all know, commuting is often better done by rail. 

While much of the trackbed to Fraserburgh is still intact and free of development, as is that to Peterhead until you get to the town itself, this is arguably a borderline case for reopening.

This is certainly the case for all of the 38 miles from Dyce to Peterhead and the 15 miles from Maud to Fraserburgh. However, the 40-mile Dyce to Fraserburgh line certainly has a degree of merit.


This feature was published in RAIL 823 on 25th March 2017

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  • Rob - 29/01/2018 10:32

    I'm opposed to hs2 because of its escalating cost,length of time and the fact when its finished it will be like concorde the majority wont be able to afford to use it.except for Mr barrister who wants to fall out of bed in Birmingham at 7am x stroll thro the front doors of the old bailey at 9..this isn't nimbyism spend the money repairing beatings fuel up .

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    • robert - 06/07/2021 20:44

      im afraid your wrong beeching set the ball rolling ,now we need hs2 look at leeds no proper transport wetherby nothing.

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  • Marius Dickinson - 08/10/2018 17:59

    I am from South Africa What was the recommended railway route about 1849 from Louth to Plymouth Regards Marius Dickinson

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  • David Hawkins - 07/07/2021 14:27

    'the biggest single oversight of implementing Beeching’s plan, or indeed any railway closure, was not protecting trackbeds once the rails had been lifted. ' I don't think it was an overnight at all. The Conservative Government at the time saw Road Transport as the future and nobody even considered the environmental impact. Car owning and freight transport by road was part of the Conservative vision. They wanted to destroy the railway infrastructure and couldn't conceive it would ever be needed.

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  • Gary Scorgie - 22/09/2021 17:31

    Beecham rail cuts was the biggest disaster to modern day Britain which resulted in a hughed lost skilled workman shop of all trades and employment as well. This being the main reason that so many school leavers are being pushed in academic education to keep unemployed figures down at huge cost to the tax payers.

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