A RAILWAY line axed during Beeching's brutal cuts 50 year ago this month has survived to become the world's busiest steam heritage route.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway was amongst 5,000 miles of track and 2,300 stations closed by Dr Richard Beeching following his report released on March 27, 1963.

The restructuring of Britain’s railways was viewed as so severe that the phrase 'Beeching-style cuts' has  has been used ever since to describe savage restructuring.

With cars becoming the main form of transport, the report was expected to contain some cut-backs on the loss-making nationalised railways.

But the scale shocked many, getting rid of about a third of stations and resulting in the loss of about 67,000 jobs.

Beeching pointed out that a third of miles of the rail route carried just one per cent of passengers.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway heritage railway was one of the first to reopen, in 1973, using old steam locomotives.

It is now the most popular heritage route in the world, ferrying passengers between Pickering, Grosmont and Whitby.

It carries about 350,000 passengers during the 260 days of the year it is open and employs about 100 full-time, paid staff and hundreds of volunteers.

General manager Philip Benham, 63, a former British Rail employee, was 13 when Beeching published his report.

He said: “One good thing was that British Railways was asked to keep the line intact after it closed and this certainly helped when plans were made to get it reopened.”

Plans are also afoot to reopen another stretch of railway axed under Dr Beeching.

North Yorkshire County Council is currently carrying out a feasibility study into reopening a stretch of railway from Harrogate to either Thirsk or Northallerton, with the most likely option being Northallerton.

There are hopes the line could eventually be extended as far as Leeds, opening up the dales and Hambleton to more tourists and commuters.

There is also a campaign to reopen Ferryhill Station in County Durham, which sits on the East Coast Main Line.

Former transport minister Justine Greening announced in July last year that a £20m fund had been created for building new trains stations or reopening old ones and communities were invited to apply for cash.