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From the 'Suffolk Free Press' of Thursday 4 April 1963
ALL AGREE THAT DR BEECHING'S PLAN MUST BE FOUGHT TO THE BITTER END
Will cause great hardship
Mr W. A. G. Suddaby, Cambridge Area Traffic Manager, has said that he doubts very much if any proposed rail service withdrawals could be put into effect before the end of the year.
He told a press conference at Cambridge last week that if the Beeching Plan received support from the government, the first East Anglian branch lines to go would be the Bartlow - Audley End and Marks Tey - Shelford lines.
He laid stress on the fact that stations closed to passenger traffic could not necessarily be closed for freight too.
Stopping passenger trains were out, he said. Generally they were not wanted and on the whole the same service could be provided more cheaply by buses.
"We shall try to reduce the network of local services but improve the long distance fast services", he added.
Mr Suddaby, one of East Anglia's most quoted men over the past week, spoke of the jeopardised Haverhill Station.
He commented: "I do not see that Haverhill's development is going to offer me very much, certainly not enough to keep the line open".
The economic set-up, he summed up coldly and probably more bluntly than he intended, when he said, "By and large passengers are poor payers and we want to get rid of them".
Mr John Hare M. P. made the following statement to the Free Press on Monday:
Dr Beeching's proposals for modernising Britain's railway system are sweeping and far-reaching. Any drastic scheme of re-organisation is bound to be painful.
But in principal these proposals are imaginative and offer Britain a railway service designed to serve our needs during the 20th Century.
Rural areas will suffer the inconvenience of some drastic line and station closures. This constituency is no exception. The safeguard to rail users is that each closure proposal can be placed before the T. U. C. C. This committee must report to the Minister of Transport the degree of hardship which the closure will cause.
The minister must take hardship into consideration and also the provision of adequate bus and road facilities before deciding that the closure shall be proceeded with.
It would therefore be wrong to prejudge this issue locally until this procedure has been gone through.
So far as possible redundancy will be dealt with on a planned basis by wastage and transfer rather than by dismissals. Where dismissals cannot be avoided the government will do all they can to re-train in new skills and place in new jobs.
For long service men, special redundancy arrangements are being negotiated with the unions.
Now it is up to the government to decide whether to accept such a stark business like view of the railways or be influenced by the demands for continued subsidies to a public service.
Among the first to comment on the report was the Mayor of Sudbury, Mr G. C. Kisby, who told the Free Press:
Closure of the Stour Valley line would not help future development and expansion as planned. We hope to receive some 5,000 people from London, taking Sudbury's population to a total of over 15,000.
Surely most of these will expect facilities to visit friends and relations?
At present we have first-class station facilities with friendly and courteous service and a splendid service of trains, London being only 1.5 hours away. This is being increasingly used by businessmen and students at Colchester and Chelmsford.
Travel by car gets more congested and parking in towns more difficult. Closure of the railways would tend to greatly increase traffic on the roads.
In this area the collection of fares on the trains has currently been tried and the opportunity should be given to let this experiment prove its worth.
There always seems to be a lot of smaller packages - particularly perishable goods coming into the town for the shops and I am sure that local industries which manufacture small goods - silk, corsets, mats, engine propellers etc. - use the local service to distribute their goods more quickly.
Our most vital link is to London and if the line were to close in part, it would remain of enormous benefit for the line to Marks Tey to be retained.
However, my council has always opposed the closure of lines in this district. Some are already closed, but with Suffolk County Council's development plan stating: 'British Railways have already indicated that they have no major proposals which will affect West Suffolk'.
President of Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, Miss Mildred Head, told us:
The Chamber of Commerce will give all the support we can to the Borough Council in their efforts to retain Sudbury's rail link. When I think of the town's railway, I think in terms of the line to Marks Tey. The Sudbury to Haverhill line is not so important.
The blow that the report has delivered is a moral and psychological one. Not many shoppers come in by train, but people come into the town to stay and for holidays. Businessmen and students are frequent and regular users of the line. More people are using the service to Colchester and London now that has been improved. The passenger and freight service, which takes so many light parcels from the town, is extremely important, although I do not know if it pays. If our railway does go, it is essential that a comprehensive road service offering similar facilities to the railway should be provided.
However, I feel our railways should be made a social service and it is up to everyone to take the firmest possible stand.
Mr. H. E. P. Stokes, Clerk to Halstead Rural Council said he did not think the council would put up an active fight to save the line, but they were still very sorry to see another rail amenity go, just as the move of population into the area from London was starting.
When the Colne Valley line closed it seemed the Stour Valley line had been saved, but now the axe was coming down on both of them.
In the case of the Colne line they met with success when meeting the local Consultative Council, but their plea was thrown out when it reached London.