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BBC TV Programme

TV programme - Broadcast on Sunday 26 October 2008 on BBC 1

Press Release:           (Rebroadcast as “Beeching’s Tracks” on BBC4 TV on Thursday 27th November 2008)

Travel journalist Simon Calder takes a journey from Portishead to Minehead in Down The Line, a BBC West documentary exploring the legacy of the Beeching railway cuts, which was broadcast on BBC One West on Sunday 26 October.

 Down the line

Simon examines the arguments for reopening some of the branch lines axed by Dr Beeching in the Sixties.

His journey begins in Portishead where he hears the frustrations of commuters who have to endure the daily grind into Bristol. He hitches a ride with Lisa Metcalfe, who uses her car every day to get to work as a marketing officer with the Soil Association in Bristol.

The journey would have taken just over half-an-hour on the Sixties railway service but on the day Simon joins Lisa in the traffic queues on the "Portbury 100" it takes more than two hours.

Lisa says: "It's just a nightmare… if they had a rail network from Portishead I would not drive."

Simon concludes that there's now a pressing need to reopen the railway line. His view is shared by one of

Britain's leading travel consultants, David Henshaw.

David says: "The Beeching report was much tougher on the railways than perhaps it should have been and we're regretting it now like crazy."

Simon's journey continues by bicycle along the Strawberry Line between Yatton and Cheddar. Then he crosses the Somerset Levels to Taunton. Although the tracks remain in place, there are no longer any rail services from Taunton out to the seaside resort of Minehead. It means that holidaymakers heading to Minehead have no choice but to use their cars.

Angela Lamplough, from West Somerset Council, says: "We would actually like to get a commuter train running from Taunton to Minehead if the local people can demonstrate that, yes, they would use that service.

"Plus it would give people an opportunity to travel down from the Midlands all the way through to Minehead for a holiday without having to use their own vehicles."

At Bishops Lydeard, Simon can finally rejoin the rail network on the hugely popular steam train to Minehead. The heritage line has become one of the area's biggest tourist attractions.

He concludes: "I reckon salvaging the wreckage left behind by Dr Beeching is taking far longer than it should because of politicians looking no further than the next election."

Down The Line with Simon Calder has been made by Yeovil-based Grace Productions for the BBC.

BBC West Down The Line is one of 10 regional programmes each looking at the impact of the Beeching cuts on their areas.