►► Marples’ vision for Britain: Flyovers in Los Angeles Picture: NGerda, Wikipedia◀◀

A new book about the man who masterminded the butchery of Britain’s railways while his firm made millions of pounds from the resultant road building may soon be published.

Ernest Marples, who died in disgrace abroad after being accused of fiddling his British taxes, was Tory Minister of Transport from 1959 to 1964 and let loose Richard Beeching on the railways. Britain had an enviably comprehensive network of railways but the Beeching Report recommended closing one third of the route miles and closing 55% of the stations.

Marples Ridgway built the Hammersmith Flyover, now in need of expensive repairs, and many new roads, while running down the railways.

The Beeching review went too far, and ignored the social and environmental benefits of railways. It was also flawed in that much of its research on passenger numbers took place in the depths of the harsh winter of 1962/63, giving unusually low numbers for usage.

Even in 2014, the official passenger count, overseen by the Office of Rail Regulation, is sadly flawed, often underestimating use of smaller stations.

If the Marples programme had been implemented in full, there would be many fewer railways, and Britain’s large cities would be scarred by massive highway projects.

British justice and the taxman never caught up with Marples and he died in Monte Carlo in 1978.

“Ernie Marples was, no doubt about it, a rogue,” said Lewis Baston, author of the Marples biography, who is looking for a publisher for his book.

You can read an article about Marples by him at Conservative Home