Tory pledge of £500m to reopen railways would build ‘a meaningless 25 miles’

A Government plan to reverse historic railway cuts is "meaningless" and will only see 25 miles of track reopen, Labour have claimed.

Tory Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today will announce plans to "undo the damage of the Beeching cuts" fifty years ago which shuttered stations across the country.

But Andy McDonald MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary said the government's commitment was doomed to failure after they announced they were investing just £500million in the project.

Mr McDonald said: "The funding pledged by the government would reopen just 25 miles of railway.

“The Conservatives claim to have been reversing Beeching cuts since 2017 despite not reopening an inch of track.

“Investing in the railway is a fantastic policy but this is meaningless without a serious funding commitment of billions of pounds.

“The timing of this announcement is also suspicious and seems designed to distract from the imminent collapse of the Northern rail franchise.”

Sim Harris, managing editor of industry newspaper Railnews echoed Labour's concerns and said that reopening many of the lines which fell victim to the Beeching cuts would cost "billions".

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Mr Shapps will make the announcement in Fleetwood where he will pledge to give £100,000 towards a feasibility study into reopening the train line linking the Lancashire town to Poulton-le-Fylde.

The Fleetwood line was shut in 1970 as part of a ripping-up of Britain's tracks, as recommended by the Beeching Report.

More than 5,000 miles of track and nearly 1,500 stations were closed between 1964 and 1970, following a report by British Railways chairman Dr Richard Beeching.

Another area that could benefit from the £500 million fund designed to restore passenger services is Blyth, with Mr Shapps granting £1.5 million towards generating ideas for re-establishing the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line in Northumberland.

The announcement comes after Blyth Valley elected a Conservative MP for the first time in its history at the December election.

Mr Shapps said: "Many communities still live with the scars that came from the closure of their local railway more than five decades ago.

"Today sees work begin to undo the damage of the Beeching cuts by restoring local railways and stations to their former glory."

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