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From the 'Suffolk Free Press' of Thursday 19 August and 2 September 1965
I was at the Stour Valley railway line enquiry at Sudbury Town Hall on the second day, which was reasonably peaceful in contradistinction to the first day, of which some of the account - at least of the opening - was given on the front page of the Free Press last week.
To me, as a complete stranger to the proceedings, the difficulty was to grasp the exact function of the Transport Users Consultative Committee, which I think is its title, and for a little while I thought it was somewhat unwarrantably "agin the line" which opinion I revised as time went on.
It is a committee which will convey to the Minister of Transport a digest of the evidence put before it. Its terms of reference bluntly concerned sticking to "facts".
I have been told that it operates all over the place in this regard and that ours was at least the strongest general public protest against a rail line closure it had yet had to review.
Well, I was in due course called upon to advance my "objection". I began in a mild manner with the cases of getting to Highbury (Arsenal F.C.), White Hart Lane ("The Spurs") or the ground of any favourite first division London club playing at home on a Saturday.
I pointed out that now it was quite easy to travel by the 9.45 a.m. train from Sudbury, do a very little shopping in the Holborn and Oxford Street shopping areas at least, have a "bite of something", and still have ample time to get to the selected game by the time of the kick-off.
One does not usually spend 17s 9d on a day return ticket to London without having a few things other than the main object to cover.
According to the present Eastern National Coach service timetable, one would have to start at 9.35 a.m. from Sudbury Market Hill and would not arrive at Kings Cross coach station until 12.37 p.m. and in a lost enough district at that - that is to say if all went according to programme - very unlikely on a Saturday!
In fact, one would be very lucky to reach the chosen ground at the start of the match, unless one went to it without food, or - what is much worse - without drink.
In mid-week, or on a Saturday, obviously one would have to "skate" round any art exhibition one went to see, and no time for any other than the main object would be possible were one alternatively going to a theatre matinee. There is also, in all cases, the long job of returning by coach, leaving Kings Cross 6.35 p.m. and reaching Sudbury 9.37 p.m. Over three hours instead of an hour and a half.
I stressed to the committee that it was the time factor which would be particularly important in getting to the Royal Ascot or Ascot Heath race meetings or to Epsom (Great Met. City and Sub, or Derby) or to Sandown Park or Kempton Park races.
Today's ex-Sudbury - Liverpool St trains enable a traveller to reach the desirable venue easily. As things are now, I can travel towards these places by train, leaving Sudbury Station at 9.45 a.m. and be in the grandstand easily in time for the first race, and after seeing the card through, leave by the 6 p.m. from Liverpool Street, arriving Sudbury at 7.23 p.m.
In the case of Ascot, perhaps, one would have to catch the 7.00 p.m. train ex-Liverpool Street, arriving Sudbury at 8.26 p.m. or on any weekday there is the 8.30 p.m. train ex-Liverpool Street Station to Sudbury.
Of course, did the railway, by closure, hand on free of charge to the bus company or bus companies its "disinherited" passengers (for which I expect Dr Beeching might have made some shrewd charge to benefit railway funds) the said companies would very probably lay on extra buses (in the case of Sudbury to Colchester) so that to catch a train at Colchester corresponding to Sudbury's present 8.10 a.m. to Liverpool Street, a bus would have to start from Market Hill at 7 a.m. at latest - particularly to allow time to all but cripples to run up the hill to Colchester North Station booking office plus perhaps overwhelming luggage.
As to the return journey and the connecting bus, well, in bad wintry weather at least, it would be open to doubt - also one's arrival back once more in "dear old Sudbury" far from certain that same night.
If you say all this comprises no technical hardship I would say that I and many others here with rather the same sporting, artistic and drama interests are as much entitled to our alleviations of the common round of life as others are to (for instance) TELEVISION.
The railways, according to the Rail News, are trying out a very special gadget to catch train wreckers. On Elm Park station, near London, scene of the disaster last March, has been erected an experimental "Big Brother" TV camera circuit to beat the hooligans with what is described as dawn to dusk vigil.
Mr Clive Rowbury, Liverpool Street divisional movements manager, has explained, "The main reason for the camera is to act as a deterrent".
May I, as chairman of the Sudbury and District Railway Action Committee take this early opportunity of thanking all those people, who in many cases at considerable inconvenience attended to make oral representations before the Transport Users Consultative Committee at the inquiry held at the Town Hall, Sudbury, last Tuesday and Wednesday.
My committee also wish me to thank our two local M.P.s, Mr Keith Stainton and Mr Peter Kirk, for their interest and for taking the trouble to attend the hearing. Also, Sudbury Town Council and Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, and others, for their financial help. Mr George Stow for the generous gift of his newspaper space in the Free Press, and last but not least, Mr A. C. Phillips who so ably conducted our case.
I also wish to make it clear that my committee was not in any way concerned with the interruptions made at the opening of the hearing, although I was well able, in the circumstances, to appreciate the strong feelings which led to these, but at the same time my committee places on record the extreme dissatisfaction with the manner in which the proceedings were conducted.
There were many who were denied opportunity to make their oral representations although they had made written objections.
This is the end of another phase of this fight for our railway but the beginning of the last phase which involves representations on any relevant grounds (not merely hardship) direct to the Minister of Transport. The minister stated in his letter to Mr Keith Stainton M.P., dated December 1 last, that this will be the time when he will be going into the detailed arguments for and against retention of the line with full regard to all the social and economic consequences of closure. My committee will hope to make a public statement shortly.
Many members of the public who attended the public enquiry in connection with the proposed closure of the Stour Valley line held in the Town Hall, Sudbury, on August 10 and 11, must have been profoundly disturbed by the attitude of the Chairman and members of the Transport Users Consultative Committee, East Anglian Area.
I suggest that all those who feel as I do should write to the Minister of Transport, St Christopher House, Southwark Street, London SE1, protesting at the unsatisfactory and undemocratic manner in which this public hearing was conducted.
What a sorry spectacle. About nine strangers under a chairman, who obviously was not chosen for his good manners, going through the motions of hearing evidence against closing the Marks Tey/Cambridge line.
This possibility should never have been considered, but instead a small panel of experts should have been considering suggestions for making the line more efficient, profitable and more attractive to the travelling public.
We have the awful example of the Inland Waterways. When the railways were nationalised, we had that collection of 'brains' called the Railway Board who promptly decided that British Railways were going to become so efficient that the canals would not be required and consequently were allowed to become derelict, silted up and an eyesore, and the barge owners were forced out of business.
No member of the Board had the sense to see even the potential of a substitute for the Broads at holiday time.
Now that the Lord Doctor has shunted the bulk of the goods traffic from the railways onto our congested roads, a committee has published a report claiming that we must now spend millions of the taxpayers' money reclaiming our derelict canals and building new ones, if our traffic is not to get completely snarled up.
What a world!
In Holland they have as many miles of beautiful canals as we have over-paid executives and their railways pay a handsome profit. Shall we never learn?
R. STUART SNOW
We were present at the hearing of objections to the closure of the Stour Valley railway before the Transport Users Consultative Committee on Tuesday August 10. The terms of reference of the committee confine it to taking note of objections based on hardship.
The chairman had great and understandable difficulty in making this clear to some members of the public. His task was not made easier by the unmannerly behaviour of some persons present. And he made for himself some further difficulties and antagonised many of those present by adopting a most undemocratic and dictatorial attitude.
For instance, it was not necessary to refuse - almost with contumely - to disclose what is well enough known - namely by whom the committee was appointed. Nor should a chairman place so much emphasis on his own powers and threaten to use them in such a way that would make the proceedings before the committee of no effect by suppressing the record of what displeased him.
The chairman declared more than once that he would only pass on to the minister such of the evidence given before the committee as seemed good to him. This power of selection does not appear to have been conferred upon him by the minister, and the assumption led to a feeling of unease amongst the public present.
G. E. FUSSELL
19 April 1965
Archdeacon of Sudbury, the Rev H. D. Barton, was "disappointed and disquieted by farcical nature of the so-called public inquiry" into the closure of the Stour Valley railway.
In this month's Parish Magazine he writes: "It was not altogether surprising that tempers were stretched by the restriction and limitation of evidence that the chairman saw fit to impose upon the proceedings, and, while we cannot condone the behaviour of the more vehement protestants, we have every sympathy with their revolt against the Gilbertian situation that a 'public inquiry' was not in fact a public inquiry at all".
The Archdeacon expresses the hope that the TUCC, despite their terms of reference, left in no doubt as to the sincerity and strength of the protest by the public about the proposed closure
He adds: "It was well that several Members of Parliament were present at the inquiry; perhaps they will seek opportunity to inform the Minister of Transport of the ludicrous manner in which the machinery for the closure of railway lines operates.
"In all ways the sensible proposal to adopt now would be for the minister to defer for one, two, three or even five years the implementation of the order. This would allow time to see if in fact the railway line would be so important a means of communication to the people we expect to come into these parts under the scheme of re-housing by the Greater London Council.
"I was glad to be given the opportunity to speak at the inquiry, and I myself offered the suggestion of staying the execution order for a few years."
The Rev Brian Bird of Edwardstone, told the Free Press this week, that he had established that Mr G. G. Goodings, British Rail Divisional Manager, was a director the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company.
Mr Bird described this discovery as an "extraordinary state of affairs".
Mr Goodings spoke on behalf of British Rail at the recent Stour Valley railway line inquiry at Sudbury.
Information regarding Mr Goodings and the fact that nearly a quarter of the Transport Users Consultative Committee (East Anglia) have interests in road transport, has been passed on by Mr Bird to Sudbury Railway Action Committee, who are expected to send the information to the Minister of Transport.
Mr Bird said that by being a director of Eastern Counties Mr Goodings was part of a firm that stood to gain by closure of the line.
One person, said Mr Bird, had written to him in biblical terms on the matter quoting: "No man can serve two masters".
He had received many telephone calls and letters stating that protests would be made to the minister regarding the conduct of the inquiry.
"Serious allegations have been made and the minister cannot just laugh them off", added Mr Bird.
2 September 1965