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From the 'East Anglian Daily Times' of 15 November; 3, 9, 13, 20 and 22 December 1966
British Rail demands guarantee of costs
To the Editor,
Sir, - There is just a chance that the Sudbury-Cambridge section of the Stour Valley line, due to close on 31 December, may be reprieved.
A timetable which, while maintaining existing connections at Marks Tey and Colchester, would catch, instead of narrowly miss, potential connections at Cambridge and make daily commuting to and from employment in Cambridge a feasible proposition has been drawn up and submitted to Mr G. F. Fiennes, General Manager of British Railways, Eastern Region.
The proposed timetable would provide an approximately two hourly service to and from Colchester and Cambridge, with additional local morning and evening journeys in each direction between Long Melford or Sudbury and Marks Tey or Colchester.
But although the number of through journeys to and from Colchester and Cambridge would thus be increased, the suggested service is so arranged that only two diesel units instead of four would be needed to work it, and crossing stations on the otherwise single line would be reduced from five to one. Running costs and overheads, therefore, would be substantially less.
In a recent letter, commenting on the suggested timetable, Mr Fiennes concedes that it is 'attractive' and offers 'a prospect of making the line pay'.
But, unfortunately, he is only prepared to give it a trial subject to 'a society or active individuals of the councils coming together to guarantee reasonable running costs' and pooh poohs argument that: (1) conspicuous and persistent failure hitherto to apply the 'efficiency and economy of operation' prescribed by Section 3 (1) of the 1962 Transport Act to the Stour Valley line warrants a fair trial now of a timetable with an acknowledged prospect of making a profit; (2) such a prospect is, surely, a vastly better business proposition than the certainty otherwise of a whacking perennial loss from the compulsory retention of a Sudbury-Colchester passenger service by itself; (3) if, improbably, that prospect should fail, a loss amounting to less, or at worst, no more than that bound to result from a Sudbury-Colchester service alone would, of course, be no loss at all.
In these circumstances, is it not grossly unjust to expect local councils or individuals to 'guarantee' costs that, in any event, could not be accurately be calculated until a re-timed and more cheaply run service has first been put to the test it would appear unquestionably to merit?
Meanwhile, beware! The 'alternative bus services' that have been approved by the Minister of Transport in her letter of September 19 to the British Railways Board, giving her 'consent' to the withdrawal of the passenger train service north of Sudbury on December 31 are so utterly inadequate as to make a normal day trip to Cambridge for business or pleasure impossible, the 'approved' times of the 'alternative' buses being as follows:
Sudbury dep 6.40 12.13 17.05
Haverhill arr 7.40 13.13 18.05
Haverhill dep 7.45 13.15 18.15
Camb. arr 8.45 14.15 19.15
Camb. dep 7.40 11.40 17.10
Haverhill arr 8.40 12.40 18.10
Haverhill dep 8.45 13.15 18.20
Sudbury arr 9.45 14.15 19.20
Charles Douglas-Brown Godfreys Langham Colchester
15 November 1966
Representatives of Haverhill and other local authorities are travelling to London on Monday for talks with the General Manager of the Eastern Region of British Railways, Mr G. F. Fiennes, about the future of the Stour Valley railway line. The council, in a last ditch attempt to save the line which is due to close next March, are putting forward a proposed revised timetable suggested by Mr Charles Douglas-Brown, of Langham, near Colchester.
Mr Fiennes has agreed to the meeting following an approach by Haverhill Urban Council a fortnight ago.
Mr William Blake, Clerk to Haverhill Urban Council, said yesterday that among the other local authorities who would be represented at the meeting with Mr Fiennes in London were the West Suffolk County, Cambridge City, Melford Rural and probably Clare and Halstead Rural Councils.
DELEGATION OF SEVEN
In addition, Mr Douglas-Brown would be present as well as a member of the Sudbury Railway Action Committee.
Mr Blake said it was extremely difficult to get everybody in as he had just received a telephone call from British Railways restricting the delegation to seven people.
'But we are very pleased Mr Fiennes has agreed to this meeting to discuss Mr Douglas-Brown's theory on making the line an economic proposition to run' said Mr Blake.
Mr Fiennes, in previous correspondence with Mr Douglas-Brown, has described the suggested timetable as 'ingenious and economical' but he added that to be transformed into practical use it would 'require a management which liked running railways'.
It is the section of line between Sudbury and Shelford which is threatened with the axe. Mr Douglas-Brown, a rail enthusiast, has put forward a timetable which would give the line a two hourly service between Cambridge and Colchester, making important connections now being missed.
Mr Fiennes also said the initiative was with 'an active society or individuals or councils coming together and showing that retention would be profitable and economic'.
Haverhill Council made the approach to the railways manager and their neighbouring councils after a special meeting to discuss Mr Douglas-Brown's theory.
Mr Blake also announced yesterday that he had now received a reply to a resolution passed by his council asking Minister, Mrs Barbara Castle to reverse her decision to close the line.
The letter said the Minister had no powers under the Transport Act 1962 to reverse her decision. It added: 'The Railways Board are free to withdraw the passenger services when they can introduce the additional bus services required under the conditions of consent to closure'.
'The timing on this is a matter for the Board and in view of the heavy losses being incurred they will wish to close the line as soon as possible.
3 December 1966
Melford R.D.C. are prepared to meet other local authorities along the Stour Valley railway line to investigate a breakdown of costs if local authorities decide to subsidise the line.
The only hope of saving the section of line from Sudbury to Cambridge, due to close on March 6, would be for interested local authorities to guarantee a subsidy of £26,000 a year to cover the estimated losses.
Five local councils were told this earlier in the week when they met general manager of British Rail, Mr G. F. Fiennes, and discussed a revolutionary new timetable prepared by Mr Charles Douglas-Brown, of Langham.
Melford Council was the first local authority to discus the subsidy proposal yesterday, when they agreed to meet West Suffolk, Cambridge City, Haverhill Urban and Clare Rural Councils to investigate the possible cost to individual authorities.
It was unanimously agreed that this action must be taken before the council could make a final decision on whether or not to contribute to the line.
When the Chairman, Com. F. L. Whitehouse, said the subsidy could amount to a 1d rate increase, the Clerk, Mr J. A. Shaw, said it might be even higher.
It is expected that the meeting between the authorities will be in Haverhill before Christmas, as British Rail have asked for a reply about the guarantee by the end of December or soon after.
9 December 1966
Survival is up to the users
Sir, - The statement issued after the recent meeting between Mr G. F. Fiennes, General Manager of the Eastern Region of British Rail and representatives of the local authorities interested in keeping the Sudbury-Cambridge section of the Stour Valley line open could be, however unintentionally, a little misleading.
It is true that a figure of £26,000 was mentioned at the meeting but only in the context that the present estimated annual loss on the line is 'approximately £35,300', and the re-timed train service now under consideration, because it would require only two diesel multiple units, would lead to 'an annual saving of about £9,300' on current operating costs.
Certainly Mr Fiennes did not say that the proposals put to him 'would still lead to an estimated annual loss of some £26,000'. On the contrary, he restated his previously expressed opinion that a two hourly train service to and from Colchester and Cambridge would attract more passengers, so more revenue, and thus 'offer a prospect of making the line pay'.
British Rail, however, cannot themselves underwrite any risk, no matter how small, of that prospect being subsequently realised. 'Because', Mr Fiennes explained, 'Parliament in 1963 approved the report on Reshaping British Railways, commonly known as the 'Beeching Plan', which forbade speculative running of rural railways and decreed that unprofitable lines - including, specifically, the Stour Valley line - must be closed as soon as possible'.
So although Mr Fiennes, bless him, is perfectly willing to give a more economical and more generally convenient train service a fair trial, he can only do this providing the local authorities concerned intend to make good any financial loss.
A 'declaration of intent' is all he asks for. Not an undertaking to cough up £26,000.
If the people of the Stour Valley get a decent train service, and want and need it as much as they say they do, there will be no loss. So no problem.
Charles Douglas-Brown Godfreys Langham Colchester
13 December 1966
There will be no contribution from Clare Rural Council to a £26,000 subsidy which it is suggested would be the only means by which local authorities could persuade British Railways to keep open the doomed Cambridge to Sudbury section of the Stour Valley line.
At yesterdays meeting of the council, no one voted against a motion that while the authority was sympathetic to the aims of retaining the line, the council did not wish to subsidise from the district rate fund any losses to British Railways on the Stour Valley line.
The council was represented at talks in London last week when five local authorities were told by a railway chief that a £26,000 guarantee was the only hope of saving the line. This figure was the estimated losses of the line even allowing for a more realistic timetable suggested by Mr Charles Douglas-Brown, of Langham, near Colchester.
Mr H. W. C. Voysey, who represented the council at the London meeting, said that it seemed to him that British Railways was adamant that the line was going to be closed.
Point of principal
The motion of Clare's withdrawal from any further talks on the subsidy was proposed by Mr J. Mowbray. Seconding this, Mr K. F. Roberts said: "I do not think it is worth discussing. This poor little council has enough to do implementing services it has to maintain already".
On a point of principal he would not agree to subsidise a national industry that was not paying, from local rates.
13 December 1966
HAVERHILL U.D.C. TO TEAM UP
Talks are to be continued by Haverhill U.D.C. About a suggested subsidy for saving the Stour Valley railway line, although two local authorities whose areas would be affected by the threatened closure -- Clare Rural and Colchester Borough - have contracted out of the deal.
This was decided last night when the council, meeting as a general purposes committee, agreed to join with the remaining interested parties in having further discussions with British Railways to satisfy themselves that the railway authorities agree a suggested improved railway service was practicable and if so to examine further financial implications.
The Committee Chairman, Mr L. E. Mayes, in a statement said if the suggestions of Mr C. Douglas-Brown, a railway enthusiast, were adopted, local authorities would have to be prepared to guarantee losses of up to £26,000 a year.
Mr Mayes said "even at this late hour" the Stour Valley line could be reprieved if local people were prepared to make a contribution to it. If this opportunity were lost it would probably be lost forever, as the bridges and tracks were likely to be removed very quickly.
The Committee Chairman said although they had received replies from their local Chamber of Commerce indicating that they were not really in agreement with a suggested company rate for the railway line, he wanted to make it clear that what they were talking about was not a guarantee to retain a service as it was today with trains taking 40 odd minutes to do 18 or 19 miles and often missing vital connections.
Could be made viable
What they should have in mind, he said, were fast trains stopping only at important stations; the re-opening of the Bartlow to Audley End line, giving a direct link from Haverhill to London; the introduction of cheap day returns to London, Cambridge and Colchester; restarting Sunday trips to Clacton in the summer and the re-instatement of the passenger parcel service.
"It seems reasonable to suppose that if something like this were done and the people actually encouraged to use the line, the loss could even now be considerably reduced, and as the population of Sudbury and Haverhill areas grew, the line could be made viable in few years", said Mr Mayes.
20 December 1966
£26,000 SUBSIDY DISCUSSED
West Suffolk County Planning Committee at Bury St Edmunds yesterday expressed the view that the continuation of the Stour Valley rail line is of great importance to communications between the villages in the Stour Valley and Sudbury and Cambridge. They added that it is of great importance in the light of of population development already taking place in the county including the expansion of Haverhill.
The resolution expressing these views was carried by 11 votes to eight, and it will now go to the county finance committee to consider further financial implications.
British Railways estimated the annual loss on the whole line as £26,000, if suggestions made by Mr C. Douglas-Brown were put into force for running two diesel multiple units on an improved timetable to lead to more convenient connections at Cambridge and Colchester. They say a guarantee against this loss is necessary if the line, scheduled to close next March, is to be kept open.
British Railways' view, said the County Treasurer, Mr A. W. Mowbray, in a comprehensive report, was that the whole Stour Valley line was uneconomical to run, and therefore they would only be prepared to keep it open only if interested local authorities were prepared and had the power to guarantee the whole or some of the deficit.
His report, based on the proposal to keep open the whole length of the Stour Valley line between Cambridge and Marks Tey as a passenger line with unmanned stations, also stated that the Minister of Transport has already agreed to British Railways' proposal to close the section of the line between Cambridge and Sudbury, and subject to the present negotiations it would be closed in March next.
The section between Sudbury and Marks Tey is to remain open in any case as the Minister had not consented to its closure.
Dealing with the question of what powers local authorities have to make contributions towards the cost of running railway lines, the county treasurer said that under the 1963 Local Government Act any local authority could spend up to a penny rate (parish councils one-fifth of a penny rate) a year for any purpose in the interests of their area or its inhabitants.
It was also suggested that the 1948 Local Government Act gave authorities power with the consent of the Minister to contribute towards furthering the development of trade, industry or commerce.
British Railways gave figures showing that passengers on the Stour Valley line originated from stations in the following local government areas: West Suffolk - Haverhill 13.1%, Clare 22.7%, Melford 16.2%, Sudbury 35.7%; Cambridgeshire 3.7% and Essex 8.5%.
Vital to expansion
As part of the line ran very close to the borders of Essex and West Suffolk, it was reasonable to assume that some of those boarding the trains at stations in West Suffolk were Essex residents.
Local authorities concerned, therefore, said the report, might be said to be the county councils of Cambs. and Isle of Ely, Essex and West Suffolk, the boroughs of Colchester and Sudbury, Haverhill Urban District Council, South Cambs., Halstead, Clare and Melford Rural District Councils.
Addressing the committee in elaboration of this report, the County Treasurer said that when they were considering public subsidies they must be satisfied they were supporting the right form of transport for the area. The Eastern Regional Planning Council did not support retention of the line. He feared that the major cost of guaranteeing the deficit would fall on West Suffolk.
At least two members of the committee present urged that it was the committee's duty to do everything in its power to retain the whole of the Stour valley line in the interests of their development plans.
Another said that it had been said if the council subsidised the line they would have some say in the service provided, and once the line was profitable there would be a return of the subsidy. They must take into account the likely cost of improving road transport if the line closed.
Another speaker suggested that it was really a question of whether it was worth £26,000 a year to keep the line open for the benefit of Haverhill.
The County Surveyor, Mr Joun Heasman, in answer to a question, said that if the rail line between Melford and Haverhill were closed, it would be cheaper to make road improvements by going along the route of the line.
The Chairman of the council, Brig. J. R. T. Aldous, said that if there were a question of making a contribution he would call a meeting of the council.
22 December 1966
BR Passenger Timetable 18 April 1966 - 5 March 1967
The following shows: timings at starting points, destinations, crossing points existing in 1966 and the allocation of the four DMUs
'x' shows where two trains are booked to cross one another
'H' denotes 'hauled train'
DMU 2 3 1 2 1 2 H 1 4
Colchester 07.21 09.02 10.58 12.58 15.01 16.30 17.55
Marks Tey 07.29 09.10 11.06 13.06 15.09 16.38 18.03
Chappel 07x41 09.16 11.12 13.12 15.15 16.44 18.09
Sudbury 06.30 07.56 09.31 11.26 12.30 13.26 15.30 17.00 18.30
Long Melford 06.37 09x39 12.37 15x36 17.06 18x43
Cavendish 06x46 09.47 12.45 15.45 17.15 18.51
Clare 06.52 09.52 12.50 15.52 17.20 18.56
Haverhill 07.12 10.08 13.08 16x09 17.36 19.11
Linton 07.27 10.23 13.23 16.24 17.51 19.25
Cambridge 07.50 10.42 13.42 16.43 18.17 19.45
DMU 2 2 4
Marks Tey 19.04 20.08 21.58
Chappel 19x10 20.14 22.04
Sudbury 19.24 20.29 22.20
Long Melford 19.30 20.35
DMU 1 3 2 2 1 2 1 1 4
Cambridge 05.45 08.24 10.55 13.47 15.30
Linton 06.06 08.44 11.14 14.06 15.52
Haverhill 06.24 09.00 11.30 14.21 16x10
Clare 06.37 09.17 11.45 14.36 16.25
Cavendish 06x47 09.23 11.50 14.41 16.30
Long Melford 07.07 08.13 09x38 11.59 14.50 15x38 16.39
Sudbury 07.19 08.19 09.45 11.45 12.05 13.45 14.56 15.45 16.45
Chappel 07x38 08.34 10.00 12.00 14.00 16.00
Marks Tey 07.45 08.41 10.06 12.07 14.07 16.07
Colchester 07.52 08.48 10.13 12.14 14.14 16.14
DMU 4 H 4 2
Cambridge 17.35 19.58
Linton 17.55 20.17
Haverhill 18.12 20.32
Clare 18.27 20.46
Cavendish 18.33 20.52
Long Melford 18x42 20.45 21.00
Sudbury 17.07 18.52 20.52 21.08
Chappel 17.22 19x12 21.07 21.23
Marks Tey 17.28 19.22 21.14 21.30
Colchester 17.35 19.30 21.21 21.37
Charles Douglas-Brown's proposed timetable
The following shows timings at starting points, destinations, the only proposed crossing point (Cavendish) and the allocation of the two DMUs
'x' shows where two trains are booked to cross one another
DMU 2 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 2
Colchester 08.54 10.58 12.58 14.53 16.25 17.54
Marks Tey 07.45 09.01 11.05 13.05 15.00 16.32 18.01 19.08
Sudbury 07.35 08.04 09.20 11.24 13.24 15.19 16.51 18.20 19.27
L. Melford 07.40 08.09 09.25 11.29 13.29 15.24 16.56 18.26 19.32
Cavendish 07.47 09x35 11x39 13x39 15x34 18x38
Haverhill 08.05 09.53 11.57 13.57 15.52 18.56
Cambridge 08.35 10.23 12.27 14.27 16.22 19.30
DMU 2 1
Marks Tey 20.02 21.42
Sudbury 20.21 22.01
L. Melford 20.26
DMU 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 2 2
Cambridge 08.43 10.50 12.50 14.45 17.47
Haverhill 09.13 11.20 13.20 15.15 18.17
Cavendish 09x33 11x38 13x38 15x33 18x35
L. Melford 07.14 08.14 09.40 11.45 13.45 15.40 17.04 18.42 19.35
Sudbury 07.19 08.19 09.45 11.50 13.50 15.45 17.09 18.47 19.40
Marks Tey 07.38 08.38 10.04 12.09 14.09 16.04 17.28 19.06 19.59
Colchester 08.45 10.11 12.16 14.16 16.11 17.35
L. Melford 20.53
Marks Tey 21.17