From the 'East Anglan Daily Times' of 10, 16 and 25 February 1967

 

THREE WEEKS REMAIN


Last chance to save the Stour Valley line


To the Editor


Sir, - The report in Wednesday's 'East Anglian Daily Times' that closure of the Shelford to Sudbury section of the Stour Valley line in inevitable is presumptuous. It is inevitable on March 6 but not before. It is the responsibility of everyone who cares about justice to do everything possible to prevent the closure in the three weeks that remain.


I cannot remember when there has been such an obvious fiddle and blatant distortion of facts on the part of the railways to secure a closure.


The volume of traffic on British Railways during the first nine months of last year decreased by 2.8% passenger and 6.4% freight. This despite electrification of the Euston to Manchester line which British railways would have us believe increased passenger carrying by 66%.


The policy of the Eastern Region of British Railways has contributed to this decline of traffic. The withdrawal of parcels and freight services from the Stour Valley line has decreased receipts on the line and has helped Mr Fiennes strengthen his case for closure. It was Mr Fiennes decision to withdraw those facilities. Also as Mr Fiennes has been at length to explain in the 'East Anglian Daily Times' and in correspondence he is 'governed' (he chose the word carefully) by Sections 3(1) and 18(1) of the 1962 Transport Act. I wonder has he ever considered the possibility of operating the railways with efficiency and economy in order to make them pay their way?


When the public did the railways' job for them on the Braintree branch the line paid its way. How about postponing the closure of the Stour Valley line and doing your job properly, Mr Fiennes? I don't like being swindled any more than the next chap and unless Mr Fiennes can justify his region's four different sets of figures for the Stour Valley line, one set shows a profit on passenger services, I for one will not be satisfied that justice has been done.

D. F. Taylor, Bracknell House, Station Road, Long Melford.

10 February 1967

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MISLEADING


Stour Valley line


To the Editor


Sir, - Mr Stephen Swingler, Parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Transport, has confirmed that 'there is no question of the Minister's approval being required' to stay the threatened closure of the Sudbury-Shelford section of the Stour Valley line on the 6 March.


Thus it is, at least, still open to Mr G. F. Fiennes, General Manager of the Eastern Region of British Railways, to stop the closure and give the more attractive, efficient and economical through train service between Colchester and Cambridge, which he most kindly was ready to bring in, had not the talks with the interested local authorities broken down, the trial it unquestionably deserves.


Meanwhile, let us not forget that but for his own personal and voluntary intervention, the line north of Sudbury would have closed on December 31 last, and all hope of saving it would have been finally lost.


What is really wrong is that the Minister's consent to the closure was founded on materially misleading information. The figures officially put to the Minister were at fault in these very vital respects:


Revenue. Shown as 53,000. But British Railways have confessed since that 'details of income originating at intermediate stations' were 'not available' (which may explain the recent increase in the estimate of revenue accruing to the Sudbury-Marks Tey section, namely from 19,900 to 28,000)


Expenses. (a) Train movement. Shown as 52,400. Meanwhile it has been officially confirmed that a more efficient and economical service of through trains to and from Colchester and Cambridge, permitting a 'direct decrease of total train movements costs to 30,000' and 'offering a prospect of making the line pay' would be 'workable'.

(b) Terminal. Shown as 21,000. Whereas British Railways have lately acknowledged that the sum entered under this heading includes a 'contribution to system costs' amounting to 10,000, the Beeching Plan sanctioned by Parliament expressly prescribed - a 'revenue against direct costs of operation' formula as the exclusive test of viability for determining closure proposals (see 'Reshaping of British Railways', page 18)


Deficit. Shown as 35,300. In fact the above-mentioned saving of 22,400 on train movement costs would, of itself, more than cover the officially estimated annual deficit of 22,100 apportioned to the Sudbury-Shelford section; and, coupled with the 10,000 'contribution to system costs' to be deducted for the reason stated, would reduce the total officially estimated loss on the whole of the line to only 2,900 (i.e. 35,000 less 32,400).


Having regard also to the 6,800 bus subsidy to be incurred if the Sudbury-Shelford section closes, and the expected loss on the Sudbury-Marks Tey service if retained (as it has to be) and operated by itself, there could scarcely be any question that the Minister, had she been correctly and fully informed in the first place, would never have consented to the closure.

Charles Douglas-Brown, Godfreys, Langham, Colchester.

16 February 1967

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PREMIER ASKED TO SAVE RAIL LINE


Former 'Railway Guide' man's letter


A Long Melford man has asked the Prime Minister to intervene in order to save the Sudbury to Cambridge section of the Stour Valley Railway line which closes officially on March 6.


Mr D. F. Taylor, former assistant editor of the A.B.C. Railway Guide said yesterday he had written to Mr Harold Wilson on Wednesday and was awaiting a reply.


Mr Taylor said that in his letter to Mr Wilson he had claimed that British railways had put forward false figures in order to back up their case for closing the line.


He told the Prime Minister that at the time of the public inquiry in 1965, the line could have been making a yearly profit of 2,300 on passenger traffic. Mr Taylor said he had worked this figure out from figures released by British Railways since the inquiry.


If the figure was correct and if a timetable worked out by Mr Charles Douglas-Brown and which would save 22,400 on existing costs, were put into operation, the line would now be making a profit of 24,700, claims Mr Taylor in his letter.


Connections missed


Speaking of the new Sudbury-Colchester timetable, Mr Cornish said the new trains speeded up connections with London but, in all but one case, missed connections at Colchester for Ipswich, Yarmouth, Norwich and Felixstowe.


"I estimate about 20% of people using the line wish to travel in the opposite direction to Liverpool Street and an attempt should be made to cater for them", continued Mr Cornish.


"I rang Mr H. W. Few, the Assistant General Manager at Liverpool Street, several weeks ago to ask if he would be prepared to revise the tables. His comment upon me pointing out that most of the connections were missed by four minutes was: "That's rather silly isn't it?"


"He has not supplied me with an official reply and I have been waiting for six weeks. He said he was going to look into it and write", added Mr Cornish.

25 February 1967

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Letter to the Minster of Transport dated 20 February 1967


Mr Swingler

The Minister of Transport

LONDON


Dear Sir


May I please protest against the closure of our lovely Stour Valley line.


I do so as a regular user in the knowledge that the figures put up by B.R. are misleading and bear no relation to present running costs and income. Apart from a few signalmen, the station personnel between Sudbury and Shelford have disappeared. The cessation of freight trains and proposed limitation of diesel trains to two each way per day by Mr Douglas-Brown's timetable makes it imperative that actual costs on this basis be published and a six months trial allowed.


As it is, with every station merely a halt, we are not getting a square deal.


Yours faithfully


Harold Ince