From the 'Suffolk Free Press' of Thursday 12 and 19 August 1965 and the 'Haverhill Echo' of Friday 20 August 1965


Ugly scenes as Stour inquiry opens


Threat to adjourn proceedings

There were stormy scenes with constant interruptions from the packed floor when the Stour Valley railway line inquiry opened at Sudbury Town Hall on Tuesday morning.

The Rev. Brian Bird of Groton led the protests and other people sprang to their feet to add to the confusion.

It was almost ten minutes before the Transport Users Consultative Committee chairman, Mr L. A. Carey, could start outlining the terms of the inquiry.

During the storm Mr Carey threatened to adjourn the proceedings unless the hearing was conducted properly and not as a protest or publicity meeting.


It was over half an hour before the first objection was put and during the first unruly 30 minutes Mr Bill Atherton, of Burkitts Lane, Sudbury, advanced towards the chairman arguing with him on a point of order.

Ugly scenes looked imminent but Mr Atherton eventually sat down, although not before further spanners had been thrown into the works to delay the start of the evidence.

Later Mr Carey threatened to call the police as Mr Atherton began to speak again.

Earlier Mr Carey had refused a request from Mr Bird to declare his interest in a private transport organisation.

"We will not be accused of childish, irresponsible behaviour", declared Mr Atherton.

Giving evidence Mr Keith Stainton, M.P. for Sudbury and Woodbridge, referred it to the increasing commuter traffic at Sudbury and inadequate parking facilities at Colchester. He also spoke of the big population explosion in Sudbury and Cornard.


Mr John Marriage, counsel for West Suffolk County Council, said perhaps an answer would be to retain the Sudbury to Marks Tey and Haverhill to Cambridge section and close the line from Sudbury to Haverhill.

In this way both the overspill towns would still have an outside rail link, said Mr Marriage.

A full report of the inquiry will appear in next week's Free Press.

12 August 1965


TUCC Rail report out in a month

It will probably be more than a month before a recommendation is announced by the Transport Users Consultative Committee regarding the future of the Stour Valley line. The committee concluded their two-day inquiry on the line at Sudbury Town Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

Committee secretary, Mr F. E. Tyler told the Free Press that it would take the committee at least a month to make their draft report which would then be submitted to the Minister of Transport, Mr Tom Fraser. The draft recommendation would be released to local M.P.s and then to the public.

On the Tuesday morning, Mr John Marriage (for West Suffolk County Council) had suggested the retention of two spur lines leading from Marks Tey to Sudbury and from Cambridge to Haverhill.

"Throwing the rural parishes to the wolves" was how Mr H. E. P. Stokes, clerk to Halstead Rural Council, described Mr Marriage's suggestion.

Sudbury Borough and Haverhill Urban Councils' representatives said their town development schemes would be hit by the proposal.

Mr. W. C. Blake (Haverhill U.D.C. clerk) said millions of pounds had been invested in the town and if the development scheme failed local ratepayers would suffer financial hardship.


Com. F. L. Whitehouse, chairman of Melford Rural Council, said his district with four international firms established around Sudbury vitally needed a railway, especially as 1.5 m had already been spent on developing Cornard.

When the inquiry resumed in the afternoon Mr Carey appealed for the 'cheer leader business' after each witness to stop. "It is hardly dignified at an inquiry of this nature" he said.

However Mr Carey's request made no difference and applause continued into the afternoon.

"The liberty of people is being jeopardised" said Mrs M. A. Corps (Stoke-by-Clare Parish Clerk). "We may be villagers but we are not all cabbages and we like to get about".

Mr A. C. Phillips, legal advisor to Sudbury Railway Action Committee, said there would be a 10,000 population increase in Sudbury, Cornard and Long Melford in the next ten years - all potential rail users.


There was no opportunity to cross examine figures prepared by the Railway Board, said Mr Phillips. "The obvious object of the Board must be to bolster up a prejudicial atmosphere of high losses".

There were cries of 'dictatorship' when Mr Carey told Mr Phillips that he would not be allowed to call 25 witnesses on behalf of the Action Committee.

After a protest by Mr Phillips, Mr Carey eventually agreed to him calling witnesses which had travelled from London to give evidence. In the end Mr Phillips called ten witnesses - many of them not from London, and they included Mr John Taylor, a former editor of A.B.C Railway Guide.

Mr Phillips went through some of the suggested alternative bus services and described them as "an example of organised chaos".

Speaking for Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, Mr A. Moore said: "There has not been an attitude here today of sympathy and understanding. Many of us have been very disappointed".

Closure of the line would result in personal hardship to traders and would also disrupt postal services, said Mr Moore.


Group Capt. Leonard Cheshire and Mr Harold Ince spoke on behalf of the Cheshire Foundation Home at Cavendish. It was said there were 29 people in the home and plans were being made to accommodate a further 20 to 30.

Last protest was made on Tuesday by Father Thomas Tuomey on behalf of Clare Priory and Clare Historical and Archaeological Society.

When an objector stood to ask what would happen to the people who wanted to speak but could not attend the next day, Mr Carey said it did not matter as they already had their written objections.

"Why don't we paint stars on the ceiling and call it a Star Chamber" exclaimed Mr Michael Cornish as the proceedings closed.

Resuming on Wednesday, Mr Carey threatened to call off the proceedings if there was a repetition of the previous day's scenes.

"Such scenes will not be tolerated and I will terminate the inquiry forthwith. There has been a total misunderstanding, either accidental or intentional, of our purpose here", said Mr Carey.

Mr Alan Phillips, representing W. Armes and Son Ltd., Sudbury, said the firm relied heavily on the passenger parcel service.


In recent months the cost of the service had been increased by 70 per cent. This was one of the indications that British Rail had "deliberately run down the line in the past two years" said Mr Philips.

Mr John Taylor questioned Mr Carey on a remark made by him the previous day that if all the people present were season ticket holders there would be no need for an inquiry.

The general public were not allowed to speak on the finances of the line and therefore the chairman was out of order in making such a remark said Mr Taylor.

Mr H Eady of Vanners and Fennell Bros Ltd., put in a strong plea of hardship on the grounds of exports being hit.

Under proposed services to replace the present passenger goods service, deliveries would be delayed by 24 hours as they would go through Bury St Edmunds claimed Mr Eady.

The Rev Brian Bird also claimed the line was being run down intentionally as there were no timetables at any stations from Sudbury to Marks Tey.


"This adds to my serious misgivings that this inquiry is a mere formality". Mr Bird described the inquiry as the "peasants revolt of the 20th Century".

"We are here to create a disturbance and fight for our rights", he added.

"The rail board misdirected all their evidence to closing the line instead of seeking out ways and means to keep the line open for the benefit of the public", said Mr C. C. Firmin of Chappel, representing 88 signatories.

The Rev A. R. Woolley of Gestingthorpe, asked, "Will this mean that there is a new qualification for rural district councillors to become car owners?"

Mr Woolley is a member of Halstead R.D.C. and said he uses the Stour Valley line to attend meetings and attend to other business. He added that he is neither a car owner or driver and the closure of the line would be a great personal hardship to him.

Free Press "Wayfarer" Mr John Garratt, spoke of the horse-racing enthusiasts, like himself, who used the trains to get to meetings the other side of London quickly and in time for the first race. Later, when the bus companies said they run excursions to London which run past some of the race courses, he said, "What good is it getting to the races after 3 p.m. when you have the winner of the 2.30?"


Mr Garratt also spoke on behalf of all those art and drama lovers who travel regularly to London to attend matinees and enjoy the exhibitions in the large city galleries.

Sudbury County Councillor Mr Aubrey Herbert said that not only was the Sudbury-Colchester bus service not truly an alternative, but the buses set one down at the bottom of the slope at Colchester North Station minutes before one's train is due to depart.

"I defy an olympic sprinter set down at the bottom of the slope, in two minutes flat to get his ticket and catch the train."

He added that mothers with young children as well as their luggage would find it impossible to sprint up this slope in time to catch the train. Also, he added, that one only had this two minute margin only if the buses were running on time, as often they did not.

A bus service could only be called a true alternative if it guaranteed a certain and easy connection with seven or at least six London bound trains from Colchester every day, said Mr Herbert.


Speaking for Mrs P. Cooper of Gestingthorpe, Mr Alan Phillips said that her daughter was a student nurse at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, and if the Stour Valley line was closed she would be unable to come home and visit her parents in her limited time off.

Mr E. F. Willer of Assington, ended his objection on a note which raised laughter from all quarters. He said it seemed the Rail Board had mistook the word "undertakers" mentioned in one of the acts relating to the provision of rail services.

He said he felt the Rail Board did not realise that the duty of "undertakers" of the railway was to provide a public service, not bury the lines.

"It would be better to bury the undertakers than allow the undertakers to bury the line", added Mr Willer.

Mr Willer had told the committee there was no daily bus service from Assington to Colchester, but there was a daily service to Sudbury. To get from Assington to Colchester by bus, one had to go to Sudbury and then to Colchester, or wait for the two weekly buses from Assington to Colchester, which did not go until after 1 p.m.

Mr Willer, who said he had to go to London five days a week to work explained that he could only afford to run an old car.

"If my car beaks down, I will have to wait half a week for a bus to Colchester - and that at the wrong time", he added.

Divisional Manager of British Rail, Mr G. C. Goodings said that any extra intended service "will never connect with every train from Colchester to Liverpool Street". He added that such a rail-bus service would be impossible to formulate.


After saying that there was no evidence of any inadequacy in the parking facilities provided at Colchester, he admitted that after 9.30 a.m. the three car parks - holding 400 cars - were already full.

Mr Goodings gave details of the extra travelling time and expense involved for monthly season ticket holders travelling to London each day. When asked what the extra cost would be for a casual day travelling, he said it would be 2s 6d, and added to this was the extra travelling time of 48 minutes on a return journey.

"Is it not true that the Rail Board, deliberately as a matter of economic policy ran down the Stour Valley line?" Mr Phillips asked Mr Goodings, who denied this was so.

"I don't believe you", declared Mr Phillips to a background of "hear, hear" from the other objectors.

Speaking on behalf of the Eastern National Omnibus Company, Mr J. M. Wilson said, better rail-bus connections would only be provided by his company if the line was closed. Until then, he said, there was no need to supplement the services provided.

Spokesmen for the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company and Premier Travel gave details of the services they provide, and said that they would provide additional services if directed to do so by the Minister.

19 April 1965



At the two-day inquiry at Sudbury into the proposed withdrawal of passenger services from the Stour Valley railway line, an objector declared that the line had already been allowed to run down and the hearing was merely a rubber stamp to give an appearance of democracy.

The objector was the Rev. Brian Bird of Edwardstone who had figured in an unruly opening to the Transport Users Consultative Committee's inquiry. He said there were no timetables, no posters and no advertisements and the closure was a foregone conclusion.

Mr. Bird said there was no guarantee that the privately run bus services would attempt to meet trains from Colchester, if the Stour Valley line were closed, to take people to the Stour Valley area. "The general public have no guarantee they will reach their destinations".

He said British Railways had written to him about the closure, pointing out that certain areas in the country had never had railway services, but had flourished as communities.

"With that argument we are back in the Middle Ages," declared Mr. Bird. He exclaimed: "Take away all our amenities and we will flourish".

Great hardship

He said in 25 years as a clergyman he had seen a large increase in traffic on the line. Its closure would mean great hardship to many people in the Stour Valley.

"We are not here to create a disturbance but to fight for our rights to have the civilised amenities of the 20th Century," Mr. Bird went on.

"We are a happy, prosperous and expanding community and we would like to have reasonable facilities".

Mr. Bird drew an analogy between his reaction to the proposed closure, and the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, which, he pointed out, was led by poor country clergy.

"I consider this is a sort of peasants' revolt of the poor of the 20th Century," he said.

In his statement to the inquiry, Mr. William Blake, clerk to Haverhill Urban District Council, said if the closure of the Shelford-Marks Tey line was approved by the Minister of Transport, it would mean the expanding town of Haverhill - with a present population of 7,800 and planned to grow to about 18,000 by 1971 - would be without any railway service at all.

This would cause hardship to people in many sections of the community. One example Mr. Blake gave was seaside trips. He said: "With the cessation this summer of the very popular excursion trains to Clacton on Sundays which have run for many years throughout the summer - and I will not here speculate on why they were stopped - many people, including children, have been deprived of a day at the seaside. In the past, as many as 100 to 150 people used to go by these trains to Clacton from Haverhill alone on a fine Sunday, and more were picked up en route. At the present time trains still run from Haverhill to Clacton on weekdays but if the service were to be withdrawn this facility would also disappear. It is true that people could still go to Clacton on Sundays by a bus run by Premier Travel, providing they have booked a seat in advance and providing they are prepared to spend a long time on the notoriously overcrowded Colchester by-pass road on the outward and return journeys. Many people have obviously decided that the bus journey is just not worth it - especially parents of young children - as last Sunday, a nice day, only one Premier Travel coach went from Haverhill to Clacton".

Family holidays

Mr. Blake said a family with small children wishing to travel for their annual holiday to any part of the country, where, at some stage, a train journey is involved, would also suffer. Some luggage containing items not needed for a day or so before, and a day or so after the journey, could be sent 'luggage in advance'. But there were many articles, which are required immediately before, during and after the journey especially where there were young children. Such luggage may well be bulky and was often heavy, and if the journey was via Cambridge, buses from Haverhill did not run to the railway station. Passengers would therefore be faced with two alternatives: either they could get off the bus in Cambridge somewhere within the vicinity of Station Road - if indeed they were permitted to do so - and carry their luggage to the railway station; or they would have to go to Drummer Street and wait for a Town Service bus to take them to the railway station, thus greatly adding to the time taken on this, the first stage of their journey, to say nothing of the additional cost.

"And what of the family with a young baby where a pram is an essential item of luggage," he asked. Buses cannot take prams - not ordinary prams. So if the train service were to be withdrawn presumably these people would never have a holiday at all - anywhere - unless they were prepared to carry the baby everywhere they went; and this would apply even when the families wanted to go to London, where so many Haverhill people have recently moved from and where many of their close relations still live".

Financial hardship

Mr. Blake said the success or failure of the Expansion Scheme depended largely on the ability of the Council to attract industry and people to Haverhill, and in this field there is competition from many other towns. The residents and ratepayers of Haverhill stood to suffer financial hardship if the Haverhill Expansion Scheme did not succeed. The success of the scheme depended on the ability to attract industry, and the availability of adequate rail facilities was a vital factor in attracting industry to Haverhill or, for that matter, to any other town.

"The purpose of this hearing, is to assess whether or not the withdrawal of the passenger train service from Shelford to Marks Tey would cause hardship. I trust that what I and others have said will convince the committee that it would cause hardship to the residents of Haverhill and that that hardship would not be alleviated by the introduction of a bus service - either the one suggested or any others.

"I am convinced that the solution to the problem, both from the point of view of British Railways and of the people living in this area, is for British Rail to greatly improve the existing rail service - not withdraw it".

20 August 1965