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From the 'Haverhill Echo' of 5 and 12 January 1967
Stour Valley Line - opportunity for private enterprise?
As one who has enjoyed travelling on the Stour Valley Line, off and on, for the past 30 years, and who has recently returned from abroad, there are a few questions I have not yet seen asked or answered.
When the railways were first requisitioned by the government, from the pioneers who built and financed the building of the railways, was the Railway Board given a mandate by the electorate to close down any railway which failed to show a profit?
Is public transport a profit making industry or a public service?
How is profit measured? By cash? Or convenience? Are trains deemed to show a profit when fare-paying passengers travel from London to Cambridge or Colchester standing in corridors because all the seats are occupied? If so, what happens to such profits? Does some of it provide extra half-empty trains to carry possible extra passengers? Why not half-empty trains for the convenience of Stour Valley passengers?
How many of the other nationalised industries or services show a profit or are judged by their profit making capacity? The state schools and subsidised universities? The National Health Service, coal mines, gas, electricity and telephones?
What does the government do with its profits? Does it tell the electorate the truth, for example about Rhodesia? About the cost of futile sanctions in cash, and in the loss of Southern African friendship and trade? And all for what? For the benefit of Communist Russia and China and their African stooges?
The Stour Valley Railway was, and could be again, as much a tourist attraction as the beautiful churches and thatched cottages of Essex and Suffolk. Why then is our railway dying, almost without a protest? Is it not because the Railway Board, for reasons of its own, has been deliberately murdering it for a number of years? By its unlighted, unannounced, uncared for railway stations, itís unwarmed or demolished Waiting Rooms, its unpublished timetables and its unreasonable fares?
It has been suggested that the nation would profit if travel on London Transport was provided free. Would not the nation also profit if tempting day return and excursion fares were offered to all travellers, to keep them off the dangerous, icy, fog-bound, congested, noisy, air-polluted, nerve-racking, frustrating and uncomfortable roads and instead encourage them to travel in the safety, comfort and convenience of branch line railways?
As an extra inducement wayside halts could be built and station-buses provided. The trains themselves could be regarded as buses on rails. Couldn't our government do all this without much trouble and then hand them back to private enterprise when they become a going concern?
N. T. Gill,
5 January 1967
A group of railway enthusiasts is trying to organise a take-over bid for the disused Bartlow to Audley End branch railway, to run their own diesel car service to link up with main line trains.
A retired schoolmaster, Mr. Dennis Welch, of Newport, near Saffron Walden is trying to encourage local business interests to join the venture.
This follows a decision by Saffron Walden Rural District Council to take no action on an offer from British Rail to sell the line, which was closed nearly two and a half years ago.
The branch line could form an important link with London and help traffic on the Stour Valley line - if local authorities eventually agree to provide a subsidy in order to save that line.
The Walden Railway Group, who fought desperately to save the line from the Beeching axe, are being asked for their comments. Commuters are invited to say whether they would prefer to go to Audley End by rail rather than by road.
12 January 1967