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Old 18th November 2016, 21:34   #31
coppercapped
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Just for reference... I'm aware that Beeching was just symptomatic of Marples and the gov't at the time, but when I created my profile here, Beeching was the only name I could think of! I hate them all
Welcome to the forum Jimbob_Notts! While I understand your nostalgia, I'm afraid that you are shooting the messenger, rather than understanding the message!

While Marples was a very shady character the roads would have been built anyway. It may be difficult to understand for anyone born in the last twenty or thirty years how few cars were on the road after the war and how quickly the numbers grew:

Year No. of cars registered
1939 2,034,000
1950 1,979,000
1960 4,900,000
1970 9,971,000

In the 10 years from 1950 to 1960 the number of cars doubled and doubled again in the next 10 years. There are now some 30,000,000 cars on the road...

...so, from your point of view, the real villains of the piece are Karl Benz, Herbert Austin, William Morris, Henry Ford, Adam Opel, Louis Renault and others.

Whether run by Richard Beeching or Fred Bloggs, the railways would have had to have adapted to the changes in circumstances.

A pity - they did look nice!
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Old 19th November 2016, 21:29   #32
edwin_m
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Originally Posted by coppercapped View Post
Welcome to the forum Jimbob_Notts! While I understand your nostalgia, I'm afraid that you are shooting the messenger, rather than understanding the message!

While Marples was a very shady character the roads would have been built anyway. It may be difficult to understand for anyone born in the last twenty or thirty years how few cars were on the road after the war and how quickly the numbers grew:

Year No. of cars registered
1939 2,034,000
1950 1,979,000
1960 4,900,000
1970 9,971,000

In the 10 years from 1950 to 1960 the number of cars doubled and doubled again in the next 10 years. There are now some 30,000,000 cars on the road...

...so, from your point of view, the real villains of the piece are Karl Benz, Herbert Austin, William Morris, Henry Ford, Adam Opel, Louis Renault and others.

Whether run by Richard Beeching or Fred Bloggs, the railways would have had to have adapted to the changes in circumstances.

A pity - they did look nice!
I've quoted this graph before on here but I think it's important:

https://www.gov.uk/government/upload.../tsgb-2015.pdf (page 2).

This shows that there was a huge increase in travel after WW2, nearly all of it accounted for by car, but passenger-km by rail stayed reasonably constant right up until the 1990s when it started to grow. Viewed from this perspective Beeching made very little difference.
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Old 19th November 2016, 22:23   #33
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I've quoted this graph before on here but I think it's important:

https://www.gov.uk/government/upload.../tsgb-2015.pdf (page 2).
That's actually a very useful resource. Of course statistics can be misused rather easily but nevertheless this a handy source of background for many a discussion on here. I would highly recommend it for bookmarking.

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This shows that there was a huge increase in travel after WW2, nearly all of it accounted for by car, but passenger-km by rail stayed reasonably constant right up until the 1990s when it started to grow. Viewed from this perspective Beeching made very little difference.
Except of course by having those numbers carried on a much smaller network means a much more efficient use of that network. Or perhaps a reduction in the inefficient fringes, which is the most obvious part of the Beeching outcome. So maybe he was right?!
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Old 19th November 2016, 23:47   #34
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Originally Posted by edwin_m View Post
I've quoted this graph before on here but I think it's important:

https://www.gov.uk/government/upload.../tsgb-2015.pdf (page 2).

This shows that there was a huge increase in travel after WW2, nearly all of it accounted for by car, but passenger-km by rail stayed reasonably constant right up until the 1990s when it started to grow. Viewed from this perspective Beeching made very little difference.
Interesting that the number of passenger km stayed reasonably constant from 1954. Suggests that the political myth prevalent in the 60's and 70's that the railway was in decline was a fantasy put forward by the motor-centric establishment.

In order to obtain a realistic view of the political situation regarding the contraction of the railways, I would advise the OP to read "Holding The Line: How Britain's Railways Were Saved" by Richard Faulkner and Chris Austin.
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Old 20th November 2016, 04:09   #35
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Interesting that the number of passenger km stayed reasonably constant from 1954. Suggests that the political myth prevalent in the 60's and 70's that the railway was in decline was a fantasy put forward by the motor-centric establishment.

In order to obtain a realistic view of the political situation regarding the contraction of the railways, I would advise the OP to read "Holding The Line: How Britain's Railways Were Saved" by Richard Faulkner and Chris Austin.
Also possible that gradually increasing affluence was allowing people to afford longer journeys and to make them more often but thanks to increasing car ownership there were fewer people actually choosing rail for those journeys. So one cancels the other in terms of passenger km.
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Old 20th November 2016, 09:49   #36
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Also possible that gradually increasing affluence was allowing people to afford longer journeys and to make them more often but thanks to increasing car ownership there were fewer people actually choosing rail for those journeys. So one cancels the other in terms of passenger km.
Possibly true, but given passengers (certainly in those days) tended to pay more for longer journeys than shorter ones, so in this respect income from the passenger sector would have been holding up. It certainly suggests to me that it was a mistake to concentrate on shrinking the passenger network in the way that occurred in the 1960's. Who knows, the steady rate of passenger km's might even have shown an increase, had a wider range of destinations still been available.

It suggests to me that for all it's faults, the modernisation plan of dieselising local routes was a far more sensible strategy than the continual network shrinkage of the 1960's, and might have proved fruitful had the development of the basic railway occurred more quickly.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
In a way, it's hardly surprising that Beeching chose the slash and burn strategy for the passenger railway. Read any of his reports and two thirds of them are about freight with the passenger business as an afterthought.
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Old 20th November 2016, 11:33   #37
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Also possible that gradually increasing affluence was allowing people to afford longer journeys and to make them more often but thanks to increasing car ownership there were fewer people actually choosing rail for those journeys. So one cancels the other in terms of passenger km.
Increased car ownership and useage would be a combination of increased affluence and the availability of reasonably reliable and comfortable cars at affordable prices. Also the car made a whole range of journeys possible that were never realistically achievable by train.
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Old 20th November 2016, 14:50   #38
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Taking the initial premise from the thread, namely that a lot of investment was 'lost', in fact Beeching and others both before and afterwards realised that a great deal of it was in fact at the end of its useful life.
Whilst some earthworks and structures may seem as if they will 'last for ever' in fact most of the railway consists of track, signalling, rolling stock, etc. that very definitely wears out and has to be replaced periodically. Especially after the economic problems of the 1930s and the Second World War much of the equipment was definitely worn out.
Despite the 1955 Modernisation Plan it soon became evident that there wasn't enough capital to restore the whole of a large system, let alone genuinely modernise it. Hence the fact that in the early 1960s most rural and minor routes still had joined track, manual signalling, steam traction and so forth.
Since the development of bus transport and the convenience of lorries, especially in rural areas, ever since the 1930s, around one third of the network only conveyed a tiny proportion of the traffic and generated a negligible amount of revenue. Hence its closure made little difference to the traffic figures.
It is interesting to compare with Britain's tramway systems, many of which began in the 1890s as cutting edge, profitable enterprises. However, by the 1920s they had become worn out and, especially outside major cities, failed to justify re-investment. The original investment hadn't been lost or wasted, it had done its job but all things have to come to an end if circumstances change.
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Old 20th November 2016, 15:29   #39
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Possibly true, but given passengers (certainly in those days) tended to pay more for longer journeys than shorter ones, so in this respect income from the passenger sector would have been holding up. It certainly suggests to me that it was a mistake to concentrate on shrinking the passenger network in the way that occurred in the 1960's. Who knows, the steady rate of passenger km's might even have shown an increase, had a wider range of destinations still been available.

It suggests to me that for all it's faults, the modernisation plan of dieselising local routes was a far more sensible strategy than the continual network shrinkage of the 1960's, and might have proved fruitful had the development of the basic railway occurred more quickly.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
In a way, it's hardly surprising that Beeching chose the slash and burn strategy for the passenger railway. Read any of his reports and two thirds of them are about freight with the passenger business as an afterthought.
It is easy to forget the amount of revenue generated by freight in those days.


Also the number of passengers virtually halved between 1957 and 1982, so those that remained were travelling further. Branch lines and seasonal traffic could not pay their way.

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Old 20th November 2016, 15:35   #40
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The railway has been struggling from the end of the Second World War (and in reality for some years before that) to get its costs and income into some sort of balance.

BR's income from freight was severely affected by the loss of more highly rated freight traffic to the ever more capable lorry - not helped by the 17 day long 1955 ASLEF strike which essentially wiped out 'sundries' and 'perishables' traffic. The working out of inland sources of suitable iron ore and coal for steel making resulted in the furnaces being relocated to coastal sites and the demand for household coal fell steadily with the spreading of the areas covered by smoke control regulations. Freight traffic fell dramatically.

Plotting passenger traffic, both absolute numbers of passengers and passenger-miles, on a graph with more suitable scales, that is with the 'x' axis as the zero line for both passengers and passenger-miles, shows that there was a falling trend (in the mathematical sense) from 1948 (after the immediate post-war 'de-mob' boom) to 1994/95. In that period passenger-miles fell from 20 billion to some 17 billion, a fall of some 15%. In the same period there was a short-lived peak at the time of the Suez crisis and petrol rationing and a deeper short-lived trough in 1982 as well as some other more minor wrinkles.

One could argue that the railways did well to more-or-less maintain their business - but as personal mobility had exploded in the same period in fact BR was disastrously incompetent in winning even a fraction of this new market. Trains were perceived to be, and often were, old-fashioned and dirty. Many people's memories were still coloured by horrendous journeys during the war years and they decided never to use the train again if they were not forced. And they told their friends. Steam traction got smuts in passengers' eyes. Many coaches were pre-war and frequently taps didn't work or the sliding windows jammed. The upholstery was often caked in dust and dirt. Stations were grimy places - some of them hadn't seen a paint brush since, ooh, 1938. Even the new diesel locomotives were covered in dirt and oil after a few weeks use and scarcely seemed a good advertisement for the Modernisation Plan. They also kept breaking down - including one embarrassing time on the Royal Train.

The bigger problem than the loss of passenger traffic was that BR had totally failed to manage its costs. The last year it covered all its costs was 1952 and from 1955 onwards its income failed to even cover the costs of running trains.

Beeching was all about getting costs under control. As I have written before BR was still running a 1939 railway in 1960 - it was still building steam engines for <insert name of deity>'s sake. It couldn't get staff at pre-war pay rates to work un-social hours shovelling ash out of smokeboxes and wages were rising sharply because there was essentially full employment in the 1950s and 1960s. The only effective way to reduce costs was to reduce the number of people employed as staff costs were the bulk of the railways' outgoings, but staff reductions came too late on many lines largely because it was easier to close a line and declare the staff redundant than to take on the unions to reduce staff numbers. Remind me - how long did it take to get single manning accepted generally? Even HSTs had to have two crew in the cab - and that was 1976 already.

Beeching was a symptom of the closure of these romantic lines - not the underlying cause.

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Old 20th November 2016, 18:00   #41
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staff reductions came too late on many lines largely because it was easier to close a line and declare the staff redundant than to take on the unions to reduce staff numbers.
Not sure I quite agree with this bit - why would the unions be more willing to see all the staff on the line made redundant than to agree a deal that would allow some of them to keep their jobs?

However I do agree with the broader point that operating economies could have been tried more widely as an alternative to closure. Many routes were closed with extensive and fully-staffed stations and numerous signal boxes controlling sidings for local freight that was by then largely non-existent. Couldn't more have had the rationalisation that was meted out to the survivors - unstaffed bus shelters, pay on the train, modernised or reduced signalling to reduce the number of staff needed? I think this would have saved some routes at the margins - but going back to the original point of this thread, it would have destroyed much of their "romance".

The other problem, at least with hindsight, was that nobody realised the developments in motor vehicle technology that led to buses being modern and attractive (and at their height of popularity in the 1950s) would also result in widespread car use in the following decades. The resulting traffic congestion that severely affected many bus services but from which the railways were immune. Perhaps the results would have been different if Buchanan's "Traffic in Towns" report had been a bit earlier than 1963, or its principles adopted more quickly?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_in_Towns
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Old 20th November 2016, 18:59   #42
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Possibly true, but given passengers (certainly in those days) tended to pay more for longer journeys than shorter ones, so in this respect income from the passenger sector would have been holding up. It certainly suggests to me that it was a mistake to concentrate on shrinking the passenger network in the way that occurred in the 1960's. Who knows, the steady rate of passenger km's might even have shown an increase, had a wider range of destinations still been available.

It suggests to me that for all it's faults, the modernisation plan of dieselising local routes was a far more sensible strategy than the continual network shrinkage of the 1960's, and might have proved fruitful had the development of the basic railway occurred more quickly.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
In a way, it's hardly surprising that Beeching chose the slash and burn strategy for the passenger railway. Read any of his reports and two thirds of them are about freight with the passenger business as an afterthought.
That's probably because in 1963 there was still a huge amount of freight travelling by train. It was amazing even in 1979/80 when I was but a humble CO2 TOPS clerk in Acton Yard just how much freight that the railway was carrying. As well as extra stone trains from Westbury for the Thames barrier there was the Penzance perishable (the Penzance perisher to us), milk trains to Kensington, Guinness from Park Royal, coal from south Wales, car trains from Dorridge to Dover/Harwich, miscellaneous stuff from anywhere to everywhere and much much more.
Thanks to Beeching we got Merry-go-round and Freightliner.

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Old 20th November 2016, 22:41   #43
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Also the number of passengers virtually halved between 1957 and 1982, so those that remained were travelling further. Branch lines and seasonal traffic could not pay their way.
But they might well have been travelling further from the branch and secondary routes. Your assertion that "branch lines and seasonal traffic could not pay their way" is itself based on Beeching's flawed analysis. Flawed because it looked at routes in isolation, rather than as part of wider transport flows, and notoriously only considered station passenger receipts, without taking into account incoming traffic throughout the year.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
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That's probably because in 1963 there was still a huge amount of freight travelling by train. It was amazing even in 1979/80 when I was but a humble CO2 TOPS clerk in Acton Yard just how much freight that the railway was carrying. As well as extra stone trains from Westbury for the Thames barrier there was the Penzance perishable (the Penzance perisher to us), milk trains to Kensington, Guinness from Park Royal, coal from south Wales, car trains from Dorridge to Dover/Harwich, miscellaneous stuff from anywhere to everywhere and much much more.
Thanks to Beeching we got Merry-go-round and Freightliner.
That's as may be, however, Beeching's response to the cost of the railway fell disproportionately on the passenger network - disproportionate because as the earlier graph showed, passenger travel was holding up.
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Old 21st November 2016, 07:59   #44
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But they might well have been travelling further from the branch and secondary routes. Your assertion that "branch lines and seasonal traffic could not pay their way" is itself based on Beeching's flawed analysis. Flawed because it looked at routes in isolation, rather than as part of wider transport flows, and notoriously only considered station passenger receipts, without taking into account incoming traffic throughout the year.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---


That's as may be, however, Beeching's response to the cost of the railway fell disproportionately on the passenger network - disproportionate because as the earlier graph showed, passenger travel was holding up.
No it's based on the fact that many branch line trains ran nearly empty and using coaching stock a few weekend each year is never going to pay. Those who think that the Beeching cuts were unnecessary need to explain where the losses were being made and why virtually every developed country has experienced closures.
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Old 21st November 2016, 08:16   #45
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No it's based on the fact that many branch line trains ran nearly empty and using coaching stock a few weekend each year is never going to pay. Those who think that the Beeching cuts were unnecessary need to explain where the losses were being made and why virtually every developed country has experienced closures.
The fact is that many rural routes closed during the 1960's and 70's were not running empty. Your very use of the phrase that lines were "never going to pay" once again uses Beeching's flawed analysis which looked at station receipts in isolation, rather than flows to and from the rest of the network.

As for costs, the development of the basic railway showed that it was perfectly possible to reduce costs on secondary services. Both Ashford - Hastings and Alton Winchester experienced this rationalisation. Both could have been useful passenger links today, but only one survived because management at the time had the mind set that closure was the only viable way to control costs.

Read the Beeching report itself and you will find a worked example of York - Beverly. This shows clearly how the justification for closure was reliant on there being no economies made to operation, I.e de-staffing stations and rationalising signalling etc, and relied on the routes through passengers transferring to the Selby route.
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