From the 'Suffolk Free Press' of Thursday 15 October 1964

 

(HAVERHILL EDITION)

Blow to Haverhill on eve-of-poll

STOUR RAIL SHOCK

Labour say 'We would save it'


Haverhill's last passenger railway link may soon go. British Railways are now almost ready to go ahead with the proposed withdrawal of all passenger services on the Stour Valley line.


It is understood the proposals will lead to 66 employees becoming redundant and a meeting between railway management and staff is due to take place at Cambridge next Thursday.


The N.U.R. say that, to their knowledge, no meetings have taken place or are contemplated with the Eastern National Bus Company regarding alternative services.


It is understood that following discussion with the staff, British Railways will go to the Transport Users Consultative Committee for the proposal to be confirmed. No date has been given for this.


SAVING


Figures that have come into the hands of the Free Press indicate the annual saving by withdrawing passenger services on the Cambridge - Haverhill - Sudbury - Marks Tey line would be in the region of 48,000. This includes both savings on staff and equipment, rolling stock, etc.

The line last year is said to have cost 98,174 to run, while gross receipts stood at 49,809. The 66 staff who will be made redundant are paid a total of about 46,000 a year.


A senior official of British Railways has refused to deny or confirm these figures and has said that discussions at the meeting next week are confidential.


THREE DAYS

Mr Mick Cornish, Labour candidate for the Saffron Walden division and secretary of Sudbury and District Railway Action Committee, said he had been told that three days after the election an announcement would be made and the line would be closed.

He told one of his meetings this week that while fully understanding that a nationalised industry should not bring up contentious matter during an election campaign, it was still desirable that people should be aware of what would happen if the Tories were returned.


Labour was pledged to halting such closures until a national transport plan had been worked out.


He added: "By voting Labour on Thursday, we can save the Stour Valley line".


"It seems absolutely absurd to be closing a railway line in an area which is scheduled for very large development over a period of ten years", commented Mr Noel Insley, Labour candidate for the Bury St Edmunds division.


It was typical, he said, of the lack of an adequate conception by the government of what regional planning means.


He added: "One thing is quite certain, and that is that a Labour government would suspend this as soon as it got into office".


Commenting on the possible redundancies, he said: "Obviously we do not want men out of a job, but the main issue here is the closing of an important means of communication".


BACKWARDS


Liberal candidate for the Bury St Edmunds division, Mr Richard Afton, said he thought the Haverhill problem was being "tackled backwards".


"They make it an overspill town and bring in more people and new industries and then close down the railways. There is no sense to it", he commented.


Mr Afton said he was not making the issue part of his campaign, but would oppose the proposed closure whenever possible.


Commenting on the 66 men who, it is said, may be redundant, Mr Afton said he hoped British Railways would at least try to find them alternative employment.


INQUIRY


Mr Eldon Griffiths said: "If the people of this constituency can show that there is a good case for retention of the line then I shall go to any inquiry personally and fight their case for them".


He added, however, that he would first have to be persuaded that passenger services on the line were necessary and freight services were economically justified.


"Mr Insley has made various remarks about the line closing but it is quite extraordinary to hear what the Labour chairman of Haverhill U.D.C. has to say", added Mr Griffiths.


He pointed out that in a recent newspaper article the chairman had been quoted as saying the railways in Haverhill were "not essential, but psychologically desirable".


Added Mr Griffiths: "We are not concerned with psychology, but with the taxpayers money".

____________________

(SUDBURY EDITION)

Rail shock news on eve of the poll

STOUR LINE THREAT

Only Labour can save it claims Mick Cornish

British Railways are now almost ready to go ahead with the proposed withdrawal of all passenger services on the Stour Valley railway line. This shock news on the eve of the poll sparked the local election campaign into life.

It is understood that the proposals will lead to 66 employees becoming redundant and a meeting between the railway management and staff is to take place at Cambridge next Thursday.

Figures that have come into the hands of the Free Press indicate the annual saving by withdrawing passenger services on the Cambridge - Haverhill - Sudbury - Marks Tey line would be in the region of 48,000. This includes both savings on staff and equipment, rolling stock, etc.

The line last year is said to have cost 98,174 to run, while gross receipts stood at 49,809. The 66 staff who will be made redundant are paid a total of about 46,000 a year.

Mr Mick Cornish, Labour candidate for the Saffron Walden division and secretary of Sudbury and District Railway Action Committee, said he had been told that three days after the election an announcement would be made and the line would be closed.

He told one of his meetings this week that while fully understanding that a nationalised industry should not bring up contentious matter during an election campaign, it was still desirable that people should be aware of what would happen if the Tories were returned.


A pledge


Labour was pledged to halting such closures until a national transport plan had been worked out.


He added: "By voting Labour on Thursday, we can save the Stour Valley line".


Tory candidate for Sudbury and Woodbridge, Mr Keith Stainton said he had confirmation of a meeting next Thursday, and he would not be surprised if the subject was the closure of the line. This was not new, he said, and had been under discussion at previous meetings.


He added that a senior official had refused to deny or confirm the figures quoted. The spokesman had said discussions at the meeting were confidential.


Some reserve


In the meantime, in the absence of figures, he suggested that they should be treated with considerable reserve.


In the past he has emphasised the need to consider carefully hardships that might be caused by the closure of the lines, and possible damage on the economic life of the area they serve.


Will fight


Labour candidate for Sudbury and Woodbridge, Mr Frank Woodbridge, told a reporter this week he would be prepared to fight for a "stay of execution" on the Stour Valley line.


He commented: "If Labour comes to power on Thursday, as I believe we will, those fighting the closure of rail services will receive a far more sympathetic hearing than they do now".


Under a Labour government, he said, there would be a far greater possibility of a stay at least until they had prepared their plan for the whole of the transport system of the country.


"We have got to try and make these lines pay", he added, "but if a line does lose money and yet still provides a useful service to the community, I would be prepared to see it subsidised".


Mr Woodbridge also said that proposals to close lines serving expansion areas, was the "economics of bedlam".


'Just folly'


Liberal candidate, Mr Michael Wheeler was "completely opposed" to the withdrawal of the passenger link between Sudbury and Colchester, but as far as the rest of the line was concerned, a careful enquiry was needed - not an enquiry from an economic viewpoint only.


The Liberals, he said, had always emphasised the need to give deep thought to social use of the railways and in considering any line in the area, it was necessary to consider the present and future communications of East Anglia in general.


Stressing the importance of retaining Sudbury's link with London, he said that population expansion was the dominant factor.


He regarded it as "transport folly" to take away such an important link during a time such as this, "nonsensical" was his view of the matter.


"My initial reaction to the news", he said, is that we should, with others, press for a very thorough inquiry into the whole proposal".


Mr Geoff Kisby, a former Mayor of Sudbury and chairman of the Sudbury and District Railway Committee, said on Tuesday: "The news has come as a great surprise, particularly at this time. I am calling a meeting of my committee at an early date. We shall oppose this by every means available".


The closure threat was also discussed at Tuesday night's meeting of Sudbury Borough Council and a full report will appear next week.

____________________

 

Letter to the Minster of Transport dated 21 October 1964


The Minister of Transport

LONDON


Dear Mr Fraser


I imagine you are, or soon will be dealing with the closure of branch railway lines as proposed by Dr Beeching. I can well understand the difficulty of reconciling economics with social needs, but I would be interested to know the thinking behind the following situation.


The branch line from Colchester to Cambridge - and presumably points west, leaves the main line at Marks Tey. The next station (Chappel) is a junction where the Colne Valley line joins the Cambridge line. Passenger traffic on the Colne Valley line has been closed for some time now and only a few goods trains use it. The next station is Bures and after that Sudbury. Bures is not a junction, but has a loop where trains going in opposite directions may pass. The line is otherwise single track and passengers are carried in diesel railcars.


There are twenty trains a day through Bures plus the odd goods train. This works out at about one train every three quarters of an hour. It takes a train seven minutes to get from Sudbury to bures and eight minutes to do the journey from Bures to Chappel. In five years I have only seen trains pass at this station on one occasion although I do not spend much time there I confess!


At Bures station there is a station master, at least two signalmen, and one or two porters. No tickets are issued at Bures (they are issued by the conductor on the train), no goods traffic is handled there and frankly I find it hard to imagine how this staff occupies their time - apart from gardening. I am only an old sailor but I suspect it would be possible to arrange things so that only one train was on the Sudbury/Chappel section at any one time and in fact I imagine that is the present situation in any case.


I hasten to assure you that the staff at Bures are a pleasant and helpful team, but their salaries hardly seem justified. The station could easily be modified to become a halt or at most one porter during the day would be adequate staff. I do not know how much the present staff draws in wages, but I guess it must be around 3,000 a year.


You will no doubt be aware that there are another fourteen stations between Marks Tey and Cambridge and much the same situation must apply at several of them. It is therefore not too difficult to see why this line is losing money in spite of it being quite well patronised. It will probably become busier with the development of Sudbury and Haverhill as 'overspill' towns.


I must apologise for taking up so much of your valuable time with this letter - please do not waste more of it in a reply. My only hope is that 'the onlooker may see most of the game'


Yours faithfully


B. H. Clinkard Lt. Cdr. (Retd)