PRETTY soon, they’d have the Cuban missile crisis to worry about, but at the beginning of October 1962, what was most vexing ordinary people was a national one-day rail strike.

Transport Minister Ernest Marples had tried and failed to avert it, and with overnight long-distance trains cancelled, main-line termini in Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and other cities were almost deserted on October 3.

Police and the motoring organisations made elaborate preparations to cope with the extra traffic expected on the nation’s roads. In Glasgow (including Jamaica Bridge, pictured here) as elsewhere, the traffic flowed smoothly. “I’m happy enough,” mused one Glaswegian taxi driver. “We should be busier than ever.”

The strike involved 317,000 railway workers. Marples had arranged a meeting between the British Transport Commission chairman Dr Richard Beeching and rail unions, which were demanding to know the extent of the Commission’s consultation with workers over its policies for streamlining the railways. The meeting broke up without any positive results.

The Pedal Club, a club of cycling officials, said that workers could cycle 10 miles to work in little more than an hour, and that one million bikes were currently lying idle.

The strike achieved a complete stoppage of trains, apart from a few London Tube services driven by non-NUR members.

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Herald Diary

Five months later, in March 1963, the Beeching report, by British Rail chairman Dr Beeching, proposed a far-reaching reshaping of the country’s rail network.

The report, in the later judgement of The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century British Politics, was “challenging but statistically fragile.”