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Ernest Marples: The Shadow Behind Beeching

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The conspiracy theory is that Marples, in cahoots with the road lobby, deliberately ran down the railways. The Transport Act 1962, which came into force in September of that year, dissolved the BTC and established five new public corporations to carry out the 'overseeing' role for each of the nationalised transport services. The dataset was opened up on 1 April 2010 following support from many people, including MPs, [31] [32] and Code-Point Open can now be downloaded free with data. Unfortunately he is only remembered by many for his introduction of parking controls, railway closures and questionable business practices which culminated in a midnight flit to Monaco on the Night Ferry in 1975 to escape the taxman.

A regular contributor to rail related TV programmes, he seems to have lost his objectivity and believes in a Marples/Beeching conspiracy to destroy the railways. He planned to avoid paying tax on his properties by involving a Liechtenstein-based company with which he had been involved for more than ten years.With the relatively empty A roads, and even emptier Motorways, I’m sure people would have paid to use them. At one stage, he was seen as a rising star while a Prime Minister later wrote of him as a man of outstanding loyalty, great ingenuity and untiring energy.

One problem with expecting more people to drive was the provision for parking in inner cities soon being outstripped, though all the thinking was done when cars were still a status symbol. Cyclists were the first group in a generation to use roads and were the first to push for high-quality sealed surfaces and were the first to lobby for national funding and leadership for roads. Was a railway network really necessary in the post-war world when newer technology such as the internal combustion engine offered a viable alternative?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. But with all the rumours of Marples’ shady business dealings, perhaps there was more than meets the eye to his use of a car supplied by Britain’s biggest motor manufacturer?

They revealed that from humble beginnings, Marples became a man of substance by 1938 through property dealing, albeit with the support of an older business friend. While Traffic in Towns predicted the end of transport cycling the cycle touring Ernest Marples – who had done so much to encourage motoring and therefore knew what it takes to boost a transport mode – said in 1968: “There is a great future for the bicycle if you make the conditions right. Alfred Ernest Marples, Baron Marples of Wallasey, is very happy because the Ordnance Survey have released free postcode data.

Another weapon used to beat Marples was his dubious business practices, which caught up with him in his later years. The question for Marples was whether the rail network had a realistic future in the face of competition from the road? He both oversaw significant road construction (he opened the first section of the M1 motorway) and the closure of a considerable portion of the national railway network with the Beeching cuts. Marples was lucky not to be implicated in the Profumo Affair which rocked the Conservative Party but his political career was over soon afterwards. Among the other closures in Section 7 was "* Kidderminster-Tenbury Wells" with a note "* Withdrawal already implemented", suggesting this Section was included in his report for completeness rather than as his personal recommendation.

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