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From the 'East Anglian Daily Times' of Monday 6 March 1967 and follow up correspondence with the Minister of Transport
The sun was low in a serene sky behind the young man with the golden dog. Straddling in the corner of a field, he swiftly aimed his camera up the high railway embankment and snapped the passing train.
Someone might have done that at any time since about the turn of the century, though the old Great Eastern trains were different from the modern diesel and cameras have changed too.
None of the passengers took any notice. They were used to it by now. They had been ambushed by photographers all the way and it would be the same coming back. But for one more journey after dark ours was the last train on the Stour Valley line between Sudbury and Cambridge. After last Saturday night the tracks would be silent and empty, due soon to be ripped up.
The old-fashioned stations, on which weeds had already began their silent advance, took it variously. Cavendish sported a few drooping lines of grubby bunting. Haverhill insisted that this was not a festive occasion but a funeral. "THIS STATION", someone had chalked below its name, "DIED OF STARVATION".
Was the closure really necessary? There are, as always, two sides to the argument. One could not suspect the railway staff of apologetics, since 25 of them are now redundant. But the conductor had "been on some nights and only taken seven bob" all the way from Colchester to Cambridge - "Can't run trains like that".
Yet there was a silent reproach in the ticket collector's cap that someone was taking home as a souvenir. Even the rising new houses that look down on Haverhill Station seemed to signal the coming of many thousands of new residents and to cry out "Why now, of all times"?
When something the public is used to having is taken away there are always loud protests. The Stour Valley line has been fortunate to have knowledgeable champions as well. Mr Charles Douglas Brown, for one, worked out a plan for more economical operation of the route which was actually passed by the Movements Department of British Railways. Whereupon British Railways seem to have doubled the figure they first thought of, so that even Haverhill and other councils ready to stand the loss had to back down.
Mr D. F. Taylor, sometime assistant editor of the the Railway ABC, and quite as full of figures, went one better than Mr Douglas Brown, who had scaled down the estimated deficit to almost nothing, not counting the bus subsidy. Mr Taylor claims from British Railways' own figures that the line did and could make a substantial profit, though why in that case they should want to close it is not altogether clear.
Somehow neither the Prime Minister (busy, no doubt trying to keep his own party from going clean off the rails) nor the Minister of Transport got around to answering Mr Taylor's arithmetic paper before Saturday's closure.
We appeal to the Minister of Transport at least to listen to Mr Keith Stainton M. P., and others who seem to feel that British Railways has pulled a fast one. Will Mrs Castle insist on a temporary standstill? No track should be removed, no station or other railway property sold, until the Ministry has been into the disputed figures.
The result should be considered along with estimates of the transport requirements of the rapidly expanding population in this area over, say, the next 15 or 20 years. There must be a ruling, by someone more disinterested than British Railways, as to whether it might not be better to reopen the line, even at a modest loss, than to destroy what cannot be put back if the land is sold.
As to the alternative bus service (which does not run between Sudbury and Haverhill on Sundays) one glance at the wide open spaces in its timetable makes one wonder how long it will be before that too disappears. The best that can be said is that this is a quite inadequate stop-gap.
Letter to the Minister of Transport from the 'East Anglian Daily Times' on Monday 6 March 1967
Stour Valley Railway Line
We think it likely that you have had to bear with a great many representations in this matter. But we have reason to suppose that the leading article which we published this morning does speak for the greater part of public opinion in this area on the matter.
May we therefore ask you to be good enough to consider the appeal made towards the end of the leader for a standstill that would be to nobody's prejudice? We do this on the submission that there is a strong case for ministerial review of the facts and figures before the situation becomes irremediable as a result of sale of fixtures and land.
We would greatly appreciate it if you could let us know whether this step may in fact be taken in the next few days since otherwise it will very soon be too late.
Letter to the Minister of Transport from the 'East Anglian Daily Times' on Thursday 16 March 1967
The Stour Valley Line
On 6 March we wrote to you on this subject, enclosing a copy of our leading article of the same date. We are somewhat concerned that we have so far received no acknowledgement from the Ministry.
The matter is one of urgency. Our plea to you was that, in view of the very serious difference between the estimated loss figures from British Rail and those calculated independently from British Rail's own published data, steps should be taken to ensure that British Rail did not remove track or dispose of land and railway property on this line until your Ministry had an opportunity to consider the many representations on this matter.
There will be serious dissatisfaction in this area if, only ten days after the closure of the Stour Valley Line your announcement that the 'seemingly endless closures and contradiction' has ceased excludes reconsideration of this closure. Press reports today strongly suggest that, in a case where the figures area so much in dispute as they are here, the matter should be referred to the Joint Steering Group. The essential thing is that any reconsideration should not be prejudiced by action taken by British Rail in the interim.
As the morning newspaper for this area we feel a responsibility for informing our readers what is or is not to be done in this matter. We hope you will therefore excuse us for requesting an early and definite reply to our appeal of March 6.
Letter from the Minister of Transport to the 'East Anglian Daily Times' on Wednesday 22 March 1967
Stour Valley Line
I have been asked to reply to your letters of 6 and 16 March about the withdrawal of passenger services from the Stour Valley line between Shelford and Sudbury.
The Minister has no powers under the Transport Act 1962 to reverse a closure decision or to require the Board to reopen a closed line. Once she has given her consent to a closure proposal, the Railways Board are free to implement it as soon as they can comply with the conditions of consent. After closure the Board can remove the track and signalling equipment but they may not dispose of the formation and station sites and accesses without the Minister's prior approval. The attached copy of the press statement issued on 15 June 1966 explains the Minister's policy.
There is no question of there being any reconsideration of the Shelford-Sudbury closure by the Joint Steering Group or any other committee. Local concern about the correctness of the financial information is unfounded.
Comparisons appear to have been made between the details provided to the Minister by the Board and estimates relating to a modified service based on the plans put forward by Mr Charles Douglas-Brown. Although the direct movement costs of the type of service he suggested would have been lower than those of the service operated prior to closure, the Board have confirmed that the final deficit based on total costs and expected loss of revenue would still have been a very substantial one.
Under the conditions of consent certain additional, revised and extended bus services were introduced when the trains were withdrawn on 6 March. The Minister could arrange for these to be augmented or revised if this were found to be necessary. At the present time the Minister is in consultation with the Railways Board about some minor adjustments and additions to provide more useful connections to and from the trains at Sudbury.
Miss M. E. Barker