Beeching and rail franchising: Simon Burns and Christian Wolmar

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Railways are a "lifeline for all sorts of commuters" said the writer and broadcaster Christian Wolmar as a panel debated Dr Beeching's report on UK railways, which was published 50 years ago this week.

But Richard Wellings from the Institute for Economic Affairs said "we have the same problems now" as he claimed there were huge taxpayer subsidies and loss-making rural lines.

Rail Minister Simon Burns said there has been "considerable investment" in the rail network, as the panel looked back to the Beeching Report and to the future of rail franchising today, with the government seeking bids to run the East Coast Main Line, and extending Virgin's contract to run West Coast rail services.

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