13 May 2013: Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, in my speech this afternoon I intend to concentrate on transport, with particular reference to the gracious Speech's very welcome confirmation that the Government are proceeding with a paving Bill to allow work to proceed on plans for the construction of High Speed 2. I wish them well with that and with the hybrid Bill, which I hope may pass before the end of this Parliament.
I should remind the House of my relevant interests. I serve as an unpaid member of First Great Western's stakeholder advisory board. I am president of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group and the Heritage Railway Association. I am also the co-author of a recently published book called Holding The Line: How Britain's Railways Were Saved, which contains a political and social history of the railways, particularly since the publication of the Beeching report 50 years ago.
Perhaps I may start by picking up a theme that runs through that book. It is sometimes hard to recall how massive the turnaround in the public's attitude to rail travel and the fortunes of the industry has been. In the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, the railways appeared to be in terminal decline. The process of retrenchment and cost-cutting, which had started at the time of Beeching, appeared remorseless and inexorable. Numerous plans were hatched to reduce the size of the network further by line closures, cuts in services and fare increases.
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