Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Richard Beeching

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Baron Beeching (1913–1985), physicist and businessman

1913 born on 21 April in Sheerness, Kent, son of Hubert Josiah Beeching, journalist, and his wife, Annie Twigg, schoolteacher.

Educated at Maidstone grammar school and at Imperial College of Science and Technology, London,

1934 First-class degree in physics

1936 worked at the Fuel Research Station in Greenwich

1937 Gained a degree of PhD for his research into electrons.

1937 recruited by William Griffiths to work at the new research laboratory set up by the Mond Nickel Co Ltd in Birmingham

1938 married Ella Margaret Tiley

1943 seconded to the Ministry of Supply to work in the armaments design department,

Post-WWII joined the technical department of ICI in London at the invitation of Sir Ewart Smith, technical director of ICI, who had headed the armaments design department during the war.

Worked on the development of man-made fibres as a member of the Terylene Council, which became the board of the ICI fibres division.

1953 In charge of building a fibres plant at Millhaven, Ontario

1955 Appointed chairman of the metals division of ICI.

1957 Technical director of ICI.

1960 Appointed as a member of the special advisory group on the British Transport Commission to advise on running the railways as a business.

1961 Appointed as chairman of the British Transport Commission and chairman-designate of the British Railways board proposed by the review group, at a salary higher than other heads of nationalised industries.

1963 After a 2-year investigation, published "The Reshaping of British Railways", which became known as the "Beeching report" which revealed that half of the 7000 railway stations generated only 2 per cent of the total rail traffic, one-third of the track carried only 1 per cent of the traffic, and only one-third of the stock of railway carriages was used all the year round.

A large number of stations and lines were closed under the "Beeching axe", generating much criticism from the railway unions and large sections of the public.

The report also promoted the development of those parts of the system which were economically viable, including liner trains for freight.

1965 Beeching produced "The Development of the Major Trunk Routes", a survey of how rail traffic could be concentrated on the 3000 miles of main lines. He also completely reorganized the management structure of British Railways, bringing in businessmen to middle and senior management posts.

1965 Retired one year before the end of his contract after the change of government

1965 Made a life peer. He returned to ICI as deputy chairman

1970 Moved to Redland Ltd, the building materials group, as chairman

1977 Retired from chairmanship but remained as a director until 1984 and continued to advise on research and development.

He was also a director of Furness Withy and Co. Ltd

1985 died on 23 March in the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, Sussex.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of Richard Beeching, ODNB