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Ernest Marples: The Shadow Behind Beeching

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Ernest Marples, having decided that the future was road, then cut back on the railway modernisation programme and, in December 1960, he announced that the British Transport Commission was to be abolished and its constituent parts replaced by separate boards and thus the British Railways Board came in to being.

His involvement in the road construction business Marples Ridgway, of which he had been managing director, led to concerns regarding possible conflict of interest. In 1975, Marples, who had by then been made a baron, fled the country in rather a hurry, not because of his hushed-up proclivity for prostitutes, his introduction of double yellow lines and traffic wardens, or the conflict of interest in building motorways at the same time as cutting Britain’s rail network (the infamous Beeching cuts were his work) but because of tax evasion. For at least two of his Labour successors the role proved to be a poisoned chalice, leading to an abrupt termination of their political careers. Harold Wilson seemed less than satisfied with his Ministers of Transport – there were four different occupants of the post in six years, in comparison with Ernest Marples’ five-year tenure.

It would make the design of these roads far too complicated to build ‘cycle tracks’ into them … It would be very expensive, and probably impracticable, to build a completely separate system of tracks for cyclists. Ernest Marples was born in Levenshulme in Lancashire, 9 December 1907, the son of Alfred Ernest Marples and Mary Marples. While the material is sound, the style is frustrating: I lost count of how many times we’re given a digressive preview of the future, e. Shortly after he became a junior minister in November 1951, Marples resigned as managing director of Marples Ridgway but continued to hold some 80% of the firm's shares. For example the Branch line to Hook Norton in Oxfordshire was so little used a person wrote in the Times that they had noticed that the ticket they had purchased at Hook Norton station had a consecutive number to one they had purchased 2 months earlier.

Marples Ridgway's subsequent contracts included building power stations in England, the Allt na Lairige dam in Scotland, roads in Ethiopia and (significantly) England, and a port in Jamaica. The automobile was seen as the future of personal mobility and the British road lobby was active in persuading the new Government of the need of a fast road network. Marples was Minister of Transport from 14 October 1959 until the Conservatives lost the 1964 general election on 16 October 1964. Also when we hear all those claiming that he destroyed much used and essential Branch Lines, when in reality many had long since become financially unviable with more employees than passengers.This book gives quite a lot of Marples’ personal story but also goes into quite some depth on the background of the railways at this time. The previous year he had been arrested for drink-driving and received a fine and a one year driving ban. In this role he oversaw the introduction of subscriber trunk dialling, the Atlantic cable and Premium Bonds. BR British Rail or British Railways could not then carry out the closure until the Committee had reported to the Minister who, having considered their recommendations on easing the resulting hardship, would consent to the closure with or without adopting them.

Following the implementation of the 1962 Act in September 1962, the closure of the Branch continued under the new simplified process. Unemployment 23 Nov 1971 It is a pleasure to follow the former Leader of the Liberal Party, who is a Scotsman, and my hon. It was the minister who made the decisions: initially Marples and then, after the Labour party won the 1964 general election, Tom Fraser (for 14 months) and Barbara Castle. Might also the same charge be laid at the door of Barbara Castle and Richard Marsh, who approved even more cutbacks until a viable rail network of 11,000 miles was established at the end of the sixties and the closures largely ended.

Within that Appendix, Sections 1-5 dealt with his own recommendations for 'new' service withdrawals and station closures. John Cooper organised a meeting between Marples, George Harriman, the Chairman of BMC and Alec Issigonis, the firm’s Technical Director. In fact, Marples enjoyed a remarkable political career, one that spanned almost thirty years and had a transformative effect on the landscape and society of modern Britain. These included the British Railways Board (BRB) which was to oversee BR British Rail or British Railways.

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