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RAIL unions have attacked Tory PR spin after the government decided to reverse the closures of historic train stations with a measly £500 million fund.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps visited Fleetwood today with a pledge to put £100,000 worth of the fund toward a feasibility study into reopening the line linking the Lancashire town to Poulton-le-Fylde.
The line was shut in 1970 as part of the Beeching closures.
More than 5,000 miles of track and nearly 1,500 stations were closed between 1964 and 1970, following a report by British Railways chairman Dr Richard Beeching.
Mr Shapps said: “Many communities still live with the scars that came from the closure of their local railway more than five decades ago.
“Today sees work begin to undo the damage of the Beeching cuts by restoring local railways and stations to their former glory.”
However, those with knowledge of the network said that the Tory manifesto promise of £500 million to rebuild the lines was unrealistic and that the real number would be in the billions of pounds.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The idea that this is a reversal of the Beeching cuts is PR spin way out of control.
“This is a barefaced attempt to distract attention from the daily chaos on Northern, South Western, Trans Pennine and Britain’s other basket-case franchises.
“RMT welcomes any investment in our railways, but £500 million is a drop in the ocean compared with what’s really required to connect our abandoned communities and reverse decades of cuts to infrastructure and maintenance.
“The first step is to end the chaos, profiteering and fragmentation of privatisation. Anything else is just window-dressing, and no-one will be fooled.”
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes also slammed the move to restore closed railway lines as an “empty gimmick.”
He said: “The figures involved make claims of ‘reversing Beeching’ utterly meaningless and tell us that this government knows nothing about building railways.
“The truth is these plans won’t replace an inch of lost railway nor address the fact the Tories have been dismantling the rail network for years under privatisation, one way or another.
“What’s needed is serious public investment, not tinkering around the edges.”
Labour shadow transport minister Andy McDonald said: “Investing in the railway is a fantastic policy, but this is meaningless without a serious funding commitment of billions of pounds.
“The timing of this announcement is also suspicious and seems designed to distract from the imminent collapse of the Northern Rail franchise.”
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