From the 'Suffolk Free Press' of Thursday 25 August and 1 September 1966



Two clergymen protest

The Vicar of Edwardstone, the Rev Brian Bird, a well known local railway campaigner, has written to the Minister of Transport, Mrs Barbara Castle, saying that a check by her on what is being done to the Stour Valley line by British Rail "would seem to be imperative".

Last week the Stour line became a complete bus-stop railway with all passengers getting single tickets from the guard until they reached the main line at Marks Tey.

In his letter, which was sent off last week, Mr Bird wrote: "The sudden withdrawal of booking facilities and of freight services on this line came as a surprise to us all. To do this for 'overspill' towns such as Sudbury and Haverhill where Londoners are pouring in, and new factories (many involved in the export trade) are springing up, seems incredible.

"Please check on the details of the inquiry into this line, held last year.

"The report in the 'Suffolk Free Press' of August 11, that this Stour Valley line will have to stand or fall on its passenger traffic in the future, is disturbing. This would seem to be in contradiction to your own assertion contained in the White Paper on Transport Policy published on July 20 last, of the principle that transport resources, railway lines in particular, should be maintained or improved to meet broad social needs.

"Your White Paper states that (1) commercial viability is important, but secondary (2) socially desirable but unprofitable services will get an open and continuing subsidy and (3) transport systems will be managed as an integrated whole.

Direct reversal

"This is all a direct reversal of previous thinking on our transport problem. To have converted the treasury to this doctrine in 1966 is certainly an achievement on which you are to be congratulated.

"We all hope that you will maintain this position and keep these promises that have been made".

On the Stour Valley line, all tickets will now be issued on trains by the conductor-guards, who will, however, not be able to provide return tickets.

Mr Bird told the 'Free Press' the machines with which they had been issued cost £200 each and were designed to supply return tickets.

At least one conductor-guard he had spoken to had been 'infuriated' by the order NOT to issue returns. This he had said , was not logical in view of the equipment that was being used.

In any event, tickets that are issued on local trains will be valid for the Stour line only and passengers will have to re-book at Marks Tey or Shelford for journeys to other destinations.

Another protest this week comes from the Rev. A. R. Wooley of Gestingthorpe.

He writes: "It is bad enough that the booking offices should be closed at such important places as Sudbury and Haverhill, but it is ludicrous that passengers may now take only single tickets to other stations on the branch. Must we re-book at Marks Tey for Colchester as well as London? Is it supposed that the conductor-guards have insufficient intelligence to be capable of issuing return tickets to Liverpool Street? Or is it a reflection upon their honesty? Or is the scheme designed to add to the pin-pricks which more and more deter people from using the Stour Valley line?

Plot to destroy

"An outstanding absurdity in the timetable introduced only since nationalisation, and a most serious deterrent to passengers, is the fact that would-be travellers to London or Colchester and beyond from Clare and Long Melford etc. have to wait at Sudbury for an hour or an hour and a half before going on, on two of the afternoon trains. In the reverse direction people arriving at Sudbury at 11.28 have to wait over an hour before going on and, in consequence, lose precious time in Cambridge, which they reach at 1.42, just an hour too late for lunch.

"The thing is incredible except on the supposition that it is a plot to destroy the traffic and so close the line".

25 August 1966





M. P. s asked for help after new restrictions

More than a year after the bitter battle at the public inquiry into its future the Stour line remains open but in recent weeks it has become a stormy existence.

Attempts by British Railways to whittle away its services and amenities have met with sharp reaction and this week after verbal protests and a 'scene' at Liverpool Street Station, local M. P. s have been asked to intervene.

Lt.-Col. G. P. Stockwell of Cockfield, has been in contact with two M. P. s - Mr Eldon Griffiths (Bury), whom he knows well, and Mr Keith Stainton (Sudbury and Woodbridge).

Campaigning against the ban on day returns on the 5 p.m. from Liverpool Street, he telephoned both M. P. s and on Mr Griffiths' suggestion, put his comments in writing, a copy going to Mr Stainton and another to Mr Kenneth Keith, chairman of the eastern region planning council.

In a reply received on Thursday, Mr Griffiths promised to take action.

Lt.-Col. Stockwell commented to the 'Free Press' that the 6 p.m. is more crowded than the 5 p.m. train from London. He said he could appreciate a need to restrict passengers on what was essentially a commuter train, but he did feel it would be an advantage to issue the 18-20 people who used the Stour Valley line at that time with a token to allow them to continue travelling on the 5 p.m.

Real hardship

"The new system", he said, "is causing considerable hardship. I know one man from Lavenham who takes his wife to London for treatment and this now means she has to wait an extra hour for the 6 p.m."

Colonel Stockwell added that the only official notification of the new scheme at Sudbury had appeared on a blackboard usually giving details about day excursions to Clacton and so forth.

"The majority of people never even look at it", he said.

This bad public relations work has meant that the vast majority of local people have not been aware that cheap day return tickets to London do not allow the traveller to return on the 5 p.m. from Liverpool Street.

Causes a stir

Among these was Mrs David Alston, of Lodge Farm, Lavenham, who last Wednesday caused something of a stir at Liverpool Street.

She said she boarded the outgoing train at Sudbury, bought her ticket from the guard, and under the new system re-booked for London at Marks Tey.

On the way back with her cheap day return ticket in hand, she was ready to board the 5 p.m. train, but at the barrier she was stopped and turned back.

An argument with the ticket collector then developed and then a policeman suggested she saw the Station Master. She went to his office, and although she did not see the Station Master himself, her arguments and determination eventually meant a railway employee escorted her to the 5 p.m train, on which she returned to Sudbury!

She was due to go to London again yesterday - and she was as determined as ever to come back on the same train again!

Any decisions about railway freight services are purely management matters for the decision by the Railways Board, a Ministry of Transport civil servant has informed the Rev Brian Bird.

Mr Bird, Vicar of Edwardstone, wrote recently to the Minister, Mrs Barbara Castle, saying that a check by her on what was being done to the Stour Valley line by British Rail "would seem to be imperative".

In a reply from the Ministry, Miss M. E. Barker said the provision of freight facilities and the withdrawal of those lightly used, were matters for the Railway Board.

'Please Barbara'

Mr Bird has written again with the comment: "From this, it would appear that you are merely 'passing the baby!' Surely the Railways Board comes under your authority.

"Please Barbara, take a look at the Stour Valley line, a promising infant, but one starved of nourishment and attention!"

1 September 1966