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From the 'Suffolk Free Press' of Thursday 29 April and 6 May 1965, the 'Haverhill Echo' of 30 April 1965 and the 'East Anglian Daily Times' of 14 June 1965
RAILWAY BATTLE IS ON
Massive fight for passenger services
If no objections are received - an inconceivable situation - the Stour Valley Railway will close to passenger traffic on September 12.
British Railways can expect to meet the toughest possible opposition to this long awaited move. Objections have to be received by the Transport Users Consultative Council at Norwich by June 11.
Stations affected are Sudbury, Haverhill, Bures, Long Melford, Cavendish, Stoke, Glemsford, Clare, Sturmer, Chappel & Wakes Colne, Linton, Bartlow, Pampisford, and Shelford. Notices of the proposed closure went up at these stations on Friday.
Passenger receipts at Sudbury have shown a steady increase over the last year and it is believed senior railway officials have considered retaining the Sudbury-Marks Tey link with the main London line.
Sudbury Railway Action Committee formed to oppose any closure, was due to meet this week. Its chairman, Mr Geoffrey Kisby, commented: "This has come as something of a surprise. A lot of us thought that by this time we had got away with it. But in any event, I believe we have the population at large behind us and our M.P. (Mr Keith Stainton) has promised us his support.
Mr Kisby added that he hoped some form of joint committee representing all the areas affected would be formed.
Legal advisor to the Sudbury committee is Mr Alan Phillips, who commented the committee would be meeting to discuss the position, which in any event had changed in the past few weeks with the signing of the "overspill" agreement between Sudbury Borough Council, Melford Rural Council and the Greater London Council.
"In the face of this prospect the proposed closure simply does not make sense", he said, "The committee has already received offers of help from a number of quarters, including Felixstowe Urban Council, who had experience last year of opposition to the closure of the Felixstowe Beach Railway Station and appeared before the Transport Users Consultative Council in connection with this".
Sudbury M.P. Mr Keith Stainton plans to press for an adjournment debate in the House of Commons and about this he is "reasonably optimistic". He is also intending to ask the Minister of Transport, Mr Tom Fraser, why he does not consider the Stour Valley line of potential importance to national or regional planning. This view was indicated by Mr Fraser on November 4.
Sudbury Borough Council, Haverhill Urban Council and other local authorities whose areas are affected by the proposed closure are ready to fight.
The Borough Council has for some time been subscribing to both the Branch Line Reinvigoration Society and the National Council on Inland Transport.
Commented Town Clerk, Mr G. C. Mountstephen: "We shall be getting in touch with them and I expect an approach will be made to the Greater London Council to enlist their support".
Mr John Wardman, president of the Sudbury Chamber of Trade, commented that emotional displays would not serve much purpose in keeping the line.
He said: "If I were to march down Whitehall carrying a banner and leading the traders, each waving their till roll in the air, I don't think we would further the cause very much!"
He added that making an appeal on statistical grounds was difficult because the Railway Board had all the figures and produced only those that supported their case.
The withdrawal of any communications service, he suggested, lead, through no fault of their own to a poorer service by the traders to their community.
Mr Wardman added the Chamber would support the Railway Action Committee and if necessary hold a referendum among the town's traders.
Bury M.P. Mr Eldon Griffiths, recalled he had said all along that if Haverhill, one of the centres in his constituency, could show the line should be kept open on commercial grounds, he would be glad to press for its retention as hard as he could.
But he added he could not do so without being presented with a case to put forward. It was now up to all those who wanted the line kept open - business people in particular - to give him such facts.
He commented: "Whatever happens, I shall certainly press for the track to be kept in place. Ripping up the lines for scrap is only marginal economics and precludes the line being re-opened if circumstances change".
With the closure of the coal depots at Hadleigh, Halstead and Bures, Sudbury has become a coal concentration centre and it is anticipated the 20,000 tons going through Sudbury Station each year will increase over half as much again.
While it has been stated freight and parcel services will be continued at Sudbury, Moys, biggest coal merchants in the station yards, have been give no assurance about future tenure.
They have, however, been given the go-ahead for expansion in the yards and they are at present mechanising much of their coal handling.
Reaction in Haverhill has been sharp and bitter. Not only is the threatened closure regarded as a severe blow to expansion hopes, but also as a breach of faith by the Minister of Transport.
Haverhill Urban Council is sure to be fully backed in their fight by the Greater London and West Suffolk Councils. Mr William Blake, the Town Clerk, said his council would be most disappointed and amazed at the announcement.
Mr Blake said: "In a statement in the House of Commons last November the Minister said he had arranged for details of each passenger closure to be sent to him when the Railways Board was ready to publish it, that he would examine it in consultation with the other ministers to see if it was unacceptable in view of its potential importance to national and regional planning, in which case he would ask the Board to defer publication.
"The Stour Valley line is now the only rail link serving Haverhill and Sudbury and Cornard - all of which are being considerably expanded. In addition, the Haverhill council and other local authorities concerned are discussing with the Ministry of Housing the possibility of Haverhill being expanded to a population of 50,000. For a town of that size not to have a railway station is unthinkable".
Mr Blake said he had no doubt the council would decide if the proposal would be opposed by every means within their power.
Mr Fred Pues, chairman of the Transport Sub-Committee of Haverhill Chamber of Commerce which is investigating local transport problems, said he was "utterly surprised" the notice of withdrawal had come at this stage.
"The Labour Party pledged to suspend rail closures awaiting a national transport plan. There has been no such plan so far yet here we have a vital line threatened to be axed".
Mr Pues said he understood British Rail claimed they would save £50,000 a year by the closure of passenger services on the Stour Valley. "If they have been loosing that much it is their own fault for not chasing more business. As a Chamber we have offered to co-operate with the railways in improving business at Haverhill by canvassing local industrialists".
The staff side of the railways say that about 100 railwaymen would become redundant if the line is closed.
29 April 1965
INDIGNATION AND ANGER MEET RAIL AXE PROPOSALS
A wave of anger and indignation has been aroused at Haverhill by Friday's official announcement that passenger services are to be withdrawn from the Stour Valley line. The closure is planned to take effect on September 12 and objectors have six weeks - until June 11 - in which to lodge complaints with the Transport Users Consultative Committee for East Anglia.
Objections are sure to come in thick and fast. A local action group is planned to link up with one at Sudbury, on the other edge of the valley, the council is already building up a strong case and local commerce and industry, who see the closure as a threat to their vital communications are expected to join in the fierce battle campaign.
The Stour Valley line is about 90 years old and its 45 miles serves the town and village stations at Shelford, Pampisford, Linton, Bartlow, Haverhill, Sturmer, Stoke, Clare, Cavendish, Glemsford, Melford, Sudbury, Bures, Chappel and Wakes Colne and Marks Tey.
The staff side of the railways claim that 100 railwaymen would be made redundant by the closure. The Railways are understood to claim that they would save £50,000 a year if passenger services were withdrawn.
Although Haverhill Urban District Council has not met since the announcement, they would be "disappointed and amazed" said the Clerk, Mr. W. C. Blake, when asked to comment.
Mr. Blake said: "In a statement in the House of Commons last November the Minster said he had arranged for details of each passenger closure to be sent to him when the Railways Board was ready to publish it, that he would examine it in consultation with the other ministers to see if it was unacceptable in view of its potential importance to regional and national planning, in which case he would ask the Board to defer publication".
Mr. Blake said he had no doubt that the council would decide the proposal would be opposed with every means within their power.
A Haverhill councillor and railwayman, Mr. Horace J. Eves is hoping to take the lead in forming a local Railway Action Committee to fight the threatened closure of the Stour Valley line.
Mr. Eves said he hoped to call a meeting very soon and to invite along Mr. Mick Cornish, who had formed an action group at Sudbury, to discuss how their efforts can be co-ordinated.
"I think we shall have to concentrate on collecting hard evidence of hardship which would be created if the passenger services were withdrawn" said Mr. Eves.
"The Transport Users Consultative Committee is not concerned with sentimentalities - they want the facts and it is up to us to give them. We have only got until June 11 to get in objections so that we need the support of the whole town and district.
"If there are industrialists or individuals with genuine hardship cases to present we would be delighted to hear from them".
Mr. Eves deplored the British Rail's policy in its "deliberate run-down of the line". He said: "Every rail worker on the line, from Station Masters downwards, would support me in saying that moves have been introduced that could only result in the services being less used. As a railwayman all my life it makes my blood boil to see it".
He said that during the weekend the local branch of the N.U.R. had met and expressed its concern at the proposals, which would result in re-settlement or redundancies of about eighty personnel.
"Town must show hardship" - M.P.
Mr. Eldon Griffiths, the M.P. for Bury St. Edmunds, said this week that it was a challenge to the industries, local authorities and individuals at Haverhill to show there were good economic reasons for the Stour Valley line being kept open.
"Haverhill must show its hardship and put forward a case for the line's retention better than the Railway's case for closure" he said. "The country has to have an efficient railway system and this means it has to be as far as possible a system which does not run at a loss. Therefore in general I support policies which will make the railways economic.
"Then you have to look at each specific case and I maintain if there is a sound case either on social or economic grounds for the Haverhill line to be kept open, I regard it as my responsibility to go before the T.U.C.C. and even the Minister himself to make a case in support of keeping the line open".
Mr. Griffiths added that whatever the decision, he opposed taking up tracks as this removed any possibility of lines being re-opened at a future stage.
The chairman of the Transport Sub-Committee of Haverhill Chamber of Commerce which has been investigating local transport problems over the past year, Mr. Fred Pues, said he was "utterly shocked" by the announcement.
"We shall fight it tooth and nail. The gloves are off and we are ready to do battle" he said. Mr. Pues said he was annoyed to think that the Labour Party had pledged to suspend closures until the formulation of a big transport plan.
"The country was given this promise but here we are now threatened with the loss of a vital line". He also said if the railways had been loosing so much money it was their own fault, as they had not gone out to chase more business. "As a Chamber we have offered to co-operate with the railways in improving business at Haverhill by canvassing local industries".
30 April 1965
British Rail announced on Monday that objections had been received to the closure of the Stour Valley line. The closure is now deferred until all the objections have been heard by the Transport Users Consultative Council. At this stage no date has been fixed for the hearing.
6 May 1965
More than 750 objections to rail closure
By the weekend, when objections against the proposed closure of the Stour Valley railway passenger line were due to be in, over 750 written protests had been received.
This is regarded as a heavy volume of opposition to the British Railways' case for axing the line between Shelford in Cambridgeshire and Marks Tey in Essex. Local feeling has been expressed in many forms, from individual hardship cases to resolutions and representations from local authorities.
BLOW TO EXPANSION
Haverhill Urban, Sudbury Borough, West Suffolk County and the Greater London Councils are among the objectors, as the closure is regarded as a blow to the expansionist moves in West Suffolk, especially at Haverhill and Sudbury. Many local parish council protests and signed petitions have gone in to the Transport Users Consultative Committee in Norwich.
The T.U.C.C. will hold a public hearing of objections at Sudbury Town Hall on Tuesday July 13, and the measure of opposition is certain to necessitate a hearing of at least two or three days. The function of the T.U.C.C, said a spokesman, is to assess the extent of local hardship and to make representations accordingly to the Minister of Transport.
This is a process likely to take some weeks after the public hearing. Objections to the proposal by British Rail to close the passenger services on September 12 has already won a reprieve. Should the Minister uphold the case for closure, the Stour Valley line is unlikely to be affected before the end of 1965.
14 June 1965