Last Trains: Dr Beeching and the Death of Rural England

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“The debate about Dr Richard Beeching will rage until the Second Coming – and probably beyond. But in Charles Loft’s careful examination of the Beeching Report, we have as fine a study as we are going to possess in the meantime.” – Peter Hennessy

“Loft’s great strength is his judiciousness. He understands the political processes and assesses them fair-mindedly. And his verdict will, I suspect, hold up better than any of Beeching’s judgements.” – Matthew Engel, Financial Times

“Prepare to be impressed, shocked and saddened … This is undoubtedly one of the best books of the year – a riveting read.” – Railways Illustrated

“Lucid, to the point, thought-provoking at every turn, Last Trains is a volume that everyone should read before making judgements about the rail closures of the Sixties.” – Heritage Railway

“Thoughtful and well-researched analysis.” – Edinburgh Evening News


During the course of the 1950s England lost confidence in its rulers and convinced itself it must modernise. The failing steam-powered local railways, run by Colonel Blimp, symbolised everything that was wrong with the country – surely the future lay in motorways and high-speed express trains? Along came Dr Beeching with his diagnosis, and suddenly branch-line Britain was gone for ever.

The debate about the Beeching cuts has raged ever since. In this superbly researched examination, Charles Loft exposes the political failures that bankrupted the railways and lays bare the increasing alienation of bureaucrats from the public they were trying to serve. The result is a fascinating study of a nation grappling to come to terms with modernity.