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Best and Worst Ministers/SoS of Transport for the Railways

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Lankyline

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The future of the railways has always been ultimately in the hands of the numerous Ministers of transport / Secretaries of state.

So who do you think have been the best and worst Ministers looking after the railways and why?

Worst - Barbara Castle, closed 2437 route miles in nearly 3 years, more than Marples did, along with her predecessor Fraser and as "directed" by Harold Wilson went back on the Labour party election pledges to stop the Beeching cuts. Only saving grace was the introduction of the social deprivation grants for rural lines

Best - Michael Portillo, for one reason only, he officially saved The Settle to Carlisle line
 
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Railsigns

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Worst has to be Marples. Not only did he initiate the Beeching cuts but he was corrupt to the core, even by Conservative standards.

Where is it "officially" on record that Portillo was responsible for saving the S&C?
 
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Lankyline

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Worst has to be Marples. Not only did he initiate the Beeching cuts but he was corrupt to the core, even by Conservative standards.

Marples certainly wouldn't be allowed to hold office today and was without doubt guilty of fraud, that was one of the reasons he did a flit, but the actual route miles he closed wasn't as much as Castle.

The major issue with Marples is that he had powerful civil servants that were pro road along with himself, this continued throughout successive govts, Castle was moved to Ministry of Labour for standing up to the civil servants because Wilson had no backbone
 

A0wen

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The future of the railways has always been ultimately in the hands of the numerous Ministers of transport / Secretaries of state.

So who do you think have been the best and worst Ministers looking after the railways and why?

Worst - Barbara Castle, closed 2437 route miles in nearly 3 years, more than Marples did, along with her predecessor Fraser and as "directed" by Harold Wilson went back on the Labour party election pledges to stop the Beeching cuts. Only saving grace was the introduction of the social deprivation grants for rural lines

Best - Michael Portillo, for one reason only, he officially saved The Settle to Carlisle line

Stephen Byers - without a doubt. Deliberately and maliciously sent Railtrack under and used 9/11 as a "good excuse to bury bad news" - a truly dreadful individual who is unfit for high office of any sort.
 

DarloRich

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Stephen Byers - without a doubt. Deliberately and maliciously sent Railtrack under and used 9/11 as a "good excuse to bury bad news" - a truly dreadful individual who is unfit for high office of any sort.

not sure about that......................

( surely you don't suggest that Railtrack could have carried on)
 
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FordFocus

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Adonis in recent years kick started the need for electrification again.

Railtrack was botched and needed to go.
 

TheEdge

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Castle, can't add anything more to what has been already said. She pips Marples just because the U-turn on stopping the closure and the fact she just kept on closing.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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The SoS usually just carries out party policy.
BR was a sitting duck most of the time with the subsidies needed.
Barbara Castle at least formalized the deal.
In recent times Ruth Kelly was widely derided for inaction or worse (the Eddington Report, anybody?).
Adonis and McLoughlin have given rail a good run lately, but the railway keeps finding ways of getting up HMG's nose at just the wrong time.
Don't forget HS2 is not being delivered by "the railway" as we know it.
 
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JohnR

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Castle, can't add anything more to what has been already said. She pips Marples just because the U-turn on stopping the closure and the fact she just kept on closing.

Castle wasnt the minister responsible for the U-turn on stopping closures - that was Tom Fraser. To be expected really, as he was backed by the T&GWU.
 

quantinghome

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This may be being deliberately contrarian, but Castle made probably the most important government decision on the passenger railway in the 20th century: that public subsidy was required. As for the track miles closed, it's hard to argue that some lines should have stayed open. However, with all civil service opinion firmly behind the closures, I guess it was hard to stop, particularly when they were in full flow in 1964-65.
 

Dr Hoo

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We do have Marples to thank for re-starting the West Coast electrification after it had been 'paused' at quite an early stage by his predecessor because of balooning overspend. Arguably without him Britain might never have gone on to have a long distance/main line 25kV network. Beeching wanted to investigate the diesel option.

Marples also turned down some of Beeching's closure proposals, such as the North Lakes (but subsequent Labour ministers allowed BR to have another go).

To suggest that Marples and Beeching agreed on everything is to make a major mistake.

(But Marples did have his flaws, e.g. In relation to his tax affairs, so certainly not pretending that he was a saint!)
 

yorksrob

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This may be being deliberately contrarian, but Castle made probably the most important government decision on the passenger railway in the 20th century: that public subsidy was required. As for the track miles closed, it's hard to argue that some lines should have stayed open. However, with all civil service opinion firmly behind the closures, I guess it was hard to stop, particularly when they were in full flow in 1964-65.

I think that's a fair assessment. Given that someone had to implement a policy to support socially necessary lines, institute PTE's and cancel some of the BR debt for this to happen and it was she. In terms of non-rail, I believe that the introduction of the breathalyser and the 70mph speed limit were important for road safety.

For me, Marples was the worst villain for obvious reasons and Tom Fraser little better - seemed to have no vision for the railway whatsoever, other than more closures.

Honourable mention has to go to Norman Fowler who consolidated the policy of not having another round of closures during the early Thatcher Government. Michael Portillo for his part in saving the Settle Carlisle. Patrick McLoughlin seems to have kept the investment going and seen off the McNulty threat. Lord Adonis for recognising the need for investment.

Dis-honourable mention, John MacGregor, for instituting a botched rail privatisation (particularly the infrastructure), the upheaval of which resulted in the network's nervous breakdown a decade later. And Nicholas Ridley for bus de-regulation.

Should have done better - Richard Marsh and Fred Mulley - not sure how they divide between the two, but some of the closures during that period were the most damaging. Should have got their red pen out more.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Marples also turned down some of Beeching's closure proposals, such as the North Lakes (but subsequent Labour ministers allowed BR to have another go).

Perhaps he had something going for him then !
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Should have done better - Richard Marsh and Fred Mulley - not sure how they divide between the two, but some of the closures during that period were the most damaging. Should have got their red pen out more.

Richard Marsh was amazingly SoS 1968-69 (following Barbara Castle), and then Chairman of BR 1971-76.
The latter was the time of HST and APT development so wasn't all bad, but I don't think he is viewed very favourably on either side of the fence.
Just not very capable, I think, and certainly had no charisma.

I'd also say that some of the most malign people in the railway loop are those at the Treasury, and the senior civil servants of both departments.
I'm still waiting for Philip Rutnam to get his revenge for the embarrassments heaped upon him by ICWC in 2012 and Network Rail's CP5 fiasco in 2015.
But it was fun seeing Sir Humphrey squirming in front of the Transport Select Committee (another very mixed bunch).
 
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yorksrob

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Richard Marsh was amazingly SoS 1968-69 (following Barbara Castle), and then Chairman of BR 1971-76.
The latter was the time of HST and APT development so wasn't all bad, but I don't think he is viewed very favourably on either side of the fence.
Just not very capable, I think, and certainly had no charisma.

Yes, I think Marsh did a commendable enough job as Chairman. Must have been interesting to see things from both sides of the fence.

I'd also say that some of the most malign people in the railway loop are those at the Treasury, and the senior civil servants of both departments.
I'm still waiting for Philip Rutnam to get his revenge for the embarrassments heaped upon him by ICWC in 2012 and Network Rail's CP5 fiasco in 2015.
But it was fun seeing Sir Humphrey squirming in front of the Transport Select Committee (another very mixed bunch).

In their book, "Holding The Line, How Britain's Railways Were Saved", Richard Faulkner and Chris Austin describe some pretty underhand machinations by cliques in the Department of Transport during that (the closure) period as well.
 
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kevconnor

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Can anyone recall what Alistair Darling was like as transport minister regards to the railways. I recall he was the minister who cancelled many of the light rail schemes around the UK (including the Metrolink 'big bang') but cant remember his record in other areas.
 

yorksrob

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Can anyone recall what Alistair Darling was like as transport minister regards to the railways. I recall he was the minister who cancelled many of the light rail schemes around the UK (including the Metrolink 'big bang') but cant remember his record in other areas.

One of the labour Ministers at around that time was talking about trains in the North carting around "fresh air" which got my back up. Think it might have been one of Darling's underlings.
 

ivanhoe

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The railways were in a dreadful state early 60's and whoever got the poison chalice in the Dft was going to be bowled a googlie. Decisions had to be made which many on here would find uncomfortable. Doing nothing was a non starter. For some reasons, the DFT never seem to attract the best Civil Servants nor Secretary of States. I've never truelly been impressed with anybody, to be honest.
 

highdyke

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A safe pair of hands determined to keep costs down and do the minimum. Blurted out at the Nottingham tram opening that 'this will be the last of these overpriced tram schemes', although kept the Edinburgh one going. Thought planes were a better option than HS2. That didn't get talked about until Adonis.
 

Busaholic

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A safe pair of hands determined to keep costs down and do the minimum. Blurted out at the Nottingham tram opening that 'this will be the last of these overpriced tram schemes', although kept the Edinburgh one going. Thought planes were a better option than HS2. That didn't get talked about until Adonis.

Could keeping the Edinburgh scheme going have been because the Scot Nats were then totally opposed to it? Darling and the Scot Nats loathe each other. Nobody's mentioned another Scot, Brian Wilson, the last Labour minister to support re-nationalisation of the railways : about two weeks after that statement his ministerial career was over. Good Vibrations?
 
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highdyke

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For best and worst:

Best

Lord Adonis, Patrick McLoughlin, Micheal Portillo

Worst:

Marples (Escaped to Monto Carlo on Night Ferry Train), Ruth Kelly, Stephen Byers, Thomas Fraser.

The rest were pretty average.
 

Hadders

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Wasn't Ruth Kelly the SoS who told the Transport Select Committee that there was a mothballed railway between London and Birmingham waiting to be re-opened?
 

LNW-GW Joint

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A safe pair of hands determined to keep costs down and do the minimum. Blurted out at the Nottingham tram opening that 'this will be the last of these overpriced tram schemes', although kept the Edinburgh one going. Thought planes were a better option than HS2. That didn't get talked about until Adonis.

Alistair Darling was Chancellor when Andrew Adonis approved the new electrification schemes in 2009, ie he agreed to (let Network Rail) pay for it.
I think he did support rail then, although he did seem uninterested while SoS.
After all their efforts to keep NR's debt off the government's books, it came full circle last year.
It was Philip Hammond (as SoS, now Chancellor) who broke the mould and said he was "completely indifferent" whether NR's debt was on the government books or not.
So the NR cash registers have kept ringing (till now).

Darling also put the boot in on the arms-length SRA (after they and the ORR forced extra spending out of the Treasury for NR) and took most of the functions into DfT directly.
The SRA let the "no growth" round of franchises and cut many services "to improve performance", but that was under tough (Labour) Treasury spending limits.
 
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LNW-GW Joint

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Norman Baker was outstanding.

I liked him, but he once directed the TOCs to cut the number of useless on-board announcements.
Fat lot of notice they took.
There's a new one on Northern (or is it TPE) to the effect that passengers are now asked to "board trains quickly to avoid delays at stations"...
 

steamybrian

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For best and worst:

Best

Lord Adonis, Patrick McLoughlin, Micheal Portillo

Worst:

Marples (Escaped to Monto Carlo on Night Ferry Train
The rest were pretty average.

I fully agree
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Norman Baker was outstanding.

Sorry- disagree.
As MP for Lewes he campaigned to get the Lewes- Uckfield line reopened. When in power all we got was another consultants report

:roll: ..we are still waiting..!
 
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moggie

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Teresa Villiers, so good nobody else remembers she was ever at the helm.

But if I were to finger one particularly poor incumbent and we have certainly suffered many it would have to be McGregor - a clueless poodle of the lowest form.

The best in recent times? Byers because he rid us of Railtrack and the mindset that came with that arrogant, inept and dangerous organisation and replaced it with something that, despite it's failings has achieved so much more since. Adonis because he 'got it' when it came to railways. Maclaughlin because he showed genuine interest, leadership and the ability to secure treasury funding.

Now, who's in charge since he left..........?:roll:
 

Lankyline

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One of the labour Ministers at around that time was talking about trains in the North carting around "fresh air" which got my back up. Think it might have been one of Darling's underlings.

It was attributed to Darling, referring, I think, to empty seats on peak time services.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
In their book, "Holding The Line, How Britain's Railways Were Saved", Richard Faulkner and Chris Austin describe some pretty underhand machinations by cliques in the Department of Transport during that (the closure) period as well.

Totally agree, I've read this on numerous occasions, an excellent book, also try the "The Great Railway Conspiracy" by David Henshaw which is in a similar vein to the above mentioned and is equally well researched and evidence supported.
 
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