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Old 21st April 2017, 07:07   #196
yorksrob
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Originally Posted by Shaw S Hunter View Post
Since many of your arguments are based on what we know now and extrapolating them backwards through time perhaps I can add one of my own. Tavistock and Okehampton do not currently have any scheduled rail service so to check on the validity of any re-opening we'll need

Altnabreac's Golden Rules for rail reopenings:

1 - Population of 10,000+
2 - 60 minutes (75 at a push) journey time to a major employment centre (City of 300,000+ population).
3 - Extant or mainly unobstructed trackbed
4 - Ability to extend an existing service so more terminal capacity is not required.
5 - Regeneration potential in area served or potential to generate Wider Economic Benefits through improving local economic outcomes.

Most recent population figures are from the 2011 census:
Tavistock 12,280
Okehampton 7,500

So re-opening Tavistock-Bere Alston (for Plymouth) is just about justified bearing in mind the need to maintain the existing link to Gunnislake. But no case for re-opening across Dartmoor to Exeter.

Okehampton-Coleford Jn (for Exeter) is marginal but given the track still exists is certainly arguable. But again no case for re-opening across Dartmoor to Plymouth.

The regeneration argument holds no water due to the almost complete absence of any population between the two towns.

So go back in time and remember the populations would certainly have been lower though not massively so. The argument than is whether the route is worth the cost of keeping it open against a background of an urgent need to seriously reduce railway expenditure and an expectation that railways will mostly continue to decline in popularity. Financially the case looks marginal, politically a no-brainer (to close).

Just for interest the current populations (again 2011 census) on another route under discussion:
Market Weighton 6,429
Pocklington 8,337
Having lived in that area during the 1980s I have no doubt that the populations in the early 1960s would have been a fair bit lower. Not so clear cut methinks.
As I've said previously, my observations have been based on calculations and figures from the Beeching report itself, and that's giving him the benefit of the doubt regarding his cost assumptions which are/were far from universally accepted.

I'm sure that Altnanraec would agree with me that his guidelines are designed to create a business case to overcome the many administrative, economic and physical hurdles for reopening a route, therefore even if one accepts them, they have little bearing on whether an existing line should have been closed (which is the subject of this discussion).

In terms of Okehampton and Tavistock both have sizeable hinterlands which centre on them for public services and although I don't have the figures to hand I'm pretty sure that both would have been smaller than Appleby and Settle were at the time, even though those places have required a railway service throughout the period.
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Old 21st April 2017, 07:54   #197
Gareth Marston
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And the evidence that there were 'better qualified people in industry' is where exactly? And the evidence that any these people actually wanted the job? And that any of these people would have done a better job?
My point is Beeching (whatever his virtues or downsides) was not a person with hands on experience of managing large budgets/industries. He was a scientist/theorist not a manager. He had no practical experience of dealing with the type of problems the railways faced regarding costs/income/Government interference.

ICI lent him to the Stedeford Committee as an expert theorist /thinker. It was his job throughout his career to be an ideas man and he worked in environments where there was always another chance to try another experiment if the first one failed,he never had to manage and implement.

Whatever the Stedeford Committee was suppose to achieve/do/what its remit was we don't know - we do know it didn't rubber stamp/recommend a shift to a roads based transport policy and mass rail closures. However it appears Beeching theorized on line closures (which others notably Stedeford himself didn't agree with) as a solution hence Marples wanted him....

Marples selected someone to be head of BTC not on their track record (pardon pun) as a manager and implementer but becuase they had said something he wanted to hear...Marples intent was always to divert rail modernization money into roads. A pragmatic experienced implementer and manager as Chair of BTC may well not have come up with the "solution" that Beeching did. A BTC Chairman advocating continued investment to achieve route rationalization and savings was not wanted.

Marples himself was spectacularly unsuited for high office, Churchill had demoted him from a Junior position back to the back benches after a very short time in the early 50's usually the death knell of any future ministerial career. A tax evader & known gambler who was implicated in Profumo and who wa snot even liked in the Conservative party aside from his obvious huge conflict of interest his position in the cabinet can only be because of how the Torys were funded at the time.

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Old 21st April 2017, 11:10   #198
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My original idea for this topic was to find out just what people thought of the cuts, alternatives to them, and the reasons why they happened.

From what I've read so far, some think it was rashable, some enevatable, and a lot more think other things could have been tried first.

It is aslo clear that one golden rule applied to the whole network was probably wrong.

If the political will wasn't there then it's simply not there.

It is a pitty that the passionate arguments you all have put forward weren't there at policy level in the 60's.
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Old 21st April 2017, 17:04   #199
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I'm sure that Altnanraec would agree with me that his guidelines are designed to create a business case to overcome the many administrative, economic and physical hurdles for reopening a route, therefore even if one accepts them, they have little bearing on whether an existing line should have been closed (which is the subject of this discussion).
But if you want to have an objective discussion that seeks to overcome such political hurdles then logic dictates that at some point you have to ask the question of almost any line "Is it worth the cost of keeping it open?" There's an extent to which Network Rail does this when considering renewals but the political winds of today are "thou shalt not close" so that objective question does not have to be asked. The political direction of Beeching's day was more like "close as much as possible" in the name of reducing expenditure. In practice it is impossible to avoid sweeping politically generalised policy when considering the management of a publicly funded network; it's just as true today as at any other point since 1948. The so-called privatisation that currently exists makes absolutely no difference to that.

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In terms of Okehampton and Tavistock both have sizeable hinterlands which centre on them for public services and although I don't have the figures to hand I'm pretty sure that both would have been smaller than Appleby and Settle were at the time, even though those places have required a railway service throughout the period.
Interestingly the 2011 census figures are:
Appleby 3,048
Settle 2,564
Note their combined population is smaller than Okehampton's alone. The S&C is a curious case within the context of Beeching. It was proposed for closure but in the event it was only the intermediate stations, bar the above two, that closed with a minimal service remaining. I suspect that in the end (Leeds-)Settle Jn-Carlisle was seen as not really duplicating any other route that closely so retaining it for through traffic was more easily justified than the Dartmoor line. As it happens if the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority hadn't promoted the Dales Rail concept from 1974, and therefore started to raise wider awareness of the route, I rather suspect the route would have closed during the economic chaos of 1978-9. There's no doubt that the later closure attempt of 1984 was a turning point in how the wider politics of railway economics impact on the management of the network. As for the Dartmoor line if it had managed to survive both Beeching and early Thatcher then I've no doubt it would by now be undergoing a renaissance but to re-instate it would be expensive (and doesn't pass the Altnabreac test).

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Originally Posted by Andy873 View Post
My original idea for this topic was to find out just what people thought of the cuts, alternatives to them, and the reasons why they happened.

From what I've read so far, some think it was rashable, some enevatable, and a lot more think other things could have been tried first.

It is aslo clear that one golden rule applied to the whole network was probably wrong.

If the political will wasn't there then it's simply not there.

It is a pitty that the passionate arguments you all have put forward weren't there at policy level in the 60's.
I'm glad that the various contributions have struck home as it seems to me your summary is pretty accurate. Another point to consider is that the concept of open or transparent government is much better established today; back in the 1960s CND were just about the only widespread campaign group seeking to influence government policy through public protest. Nobody other than enthusiasts really cared about the railways.
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Old 21st April 2017, 18:54   #200
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Originally Posted by Andy873 View Post
My original idea for this topic was to find out just what people thought of the cuts, alternatives to them, and the reasons why they happened.

From what I've read so far, some think it was rashable, some enevatable, and a lot more think other things could have been tried first.

It is aslo clear that one golden rule applied to the whole network was probably wrong.

If the political will wasn't there then it's simply not there.

It is a pitty that the passionate arguments you all have put forward weren't there at policy level in the 60's.
There were plenty of rational arguments in the 1960s - but most of them were ignored. Marples, backed by Macmillan wanted to reduce the railway system.

Then, as I have commented previously, when Wilson & Castle were in charge, they were reluctant to offend the "money men", who wanted big reductions in government spending - and that meant not stopping lots of the rail closures. Before the "money problems", Wilson & Labour had included a promise to stop the Beeching closures in their 1964 pre-election manifesto.

Yes - some closures were inevitable. And by 1960, the GC London Extension was in terrible condition between Sheffield & Nottingham; mile after mile was afflicted by mining subsidence, and subject to many speed restrictions. It would have taken a lot of money to make it suitable for fast running.
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Old 21st April 2017, 21:00   #201
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In the early 70s the northern WCML was re-signalled and all catch points were taken out (at least over Shap and probably elsewhere too). The intention was to run any freight other than fully fitted via the Settle & Carlisle instead. Was there a view even in the Beeching era that the WCML couldn't handle all the expected freight? By the time S&C closure was on the cards again in the 80s, virtually all the unfitted and part-fitted freight and quite a lot of the other freight had disappeared.
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Old 21st April 2017, 21:08   #202
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In the early 70s the northern WCML was re-signalled and all catch points were taken out (at least over Shap and probably elsewhere too). The intention was to run any freight other than fully fitted via the Settle & Carlisle instead. Was there a view even in the Beeching era that the WCML couldn't handle all the expected freight? By the time S&C closure was on the cards again in the 80s, virtually all the unfitted and part-fitted freight and quite a lot of the other freight had disappeared.
I was in the LM Train Planning Organisation at the time (70s, not Beeching) and the fact that the APT was being trialled meant that catch-points and especially motorised catch points had to be removed from the WCML, as there was the potential problem of it smashing them when they couldn't move quickly enough. Hence their removal and the diversion of all unfitted freight over the S&C.
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Old 21st April 2017, 21:16   #203
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Hence their removal and the diversion of all unfitted freight over the S&C.
Had this not happened some time before? I recall in the late 1960s being surprised at the extent of through freight on the Blackburn-Hellifield-S&C line, open 24 hours. Did unfitted freight not get removed from Shap when the Tebay steam bankers were ended around 1967? Unlike Beattock, I don't recall them being replaced by diesels.
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Old 21st April 2017, 21:25   #204
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Then, as I have commented previously, when Wilson & Castle were in charge, they were reluctant to offend the "money men", who wanted big reductions in government spending - and that meant not stopping lots of the rail closures. Before the "money problems", Wilson & Labour had included a promise to stop the Beeching closures in their 1964 pre-election manifesto.
Possibly worth adding that Wilson seemed to have no problem in broadly doubling investment in roads from 1964 to 1968, apparently "the highest level by any post-war government" [Wikipedia]. Wilson was, of course, a technocrat with a great love of statistics and analysis (a bit like Beeching really).
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Old 22nd April 2017, 08:21   #205
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Possibly worth adding that Wilson seemed to have no problem in broadly doubling investment in roads from 1964 to 1968, apparently "the highest level by any post-war government" [Wikipedia]. Wilson was, of course, a technocrat with a great love of statistics and analysis (a bit like Beeching really).
"There's no money" - but money for new roads.
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Old 22nd April 2017, 09:08   #206
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But if you want to have an objective discussion that seeks to overcome such political hurdles then logic dictates that at some point you have to ask the question of almost any line "Is it worth the cost of keeping it open?" There's an extent to which Network Rail does this when considering renewals but the political winds of today are "thou shalt not close" so that objective question does not have to be asked. The political direction of Beeching's day was more like "close as much as possible" in the name of reducing expenditure. In practice it is impossible to avoid sweeping politically generalised policy when considering the management of a publicly funded network; it's just as true today as at any other point since 1948. The so-called privatisation that currently exists makes absolutely no difference to that.



Interestingly the 2011 census figures are:
Appleby 3,048
Settle 2,564
Note their combined population is smaller than Okehampton's alone. The S&C is a curious case within the context of Beeching. It was proposed for closure but in the event it was only the intermediate stations, bar the above two, that closed with a minimal service remaining. I suspect that in the end (Leeds-)Settle Jn-Carlisle was seen as not really duplicating any other route that closely so retaining it for through traffic was more easily justified than the Dartmoor line. As it happens if the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority hadn't promoted the Dales Rail concept from 1974, and therefore started to raise wider awareness of the route, I rather suspect the route would have closed during the economic chaos of 1978-9. There's no doubt that the later closure attempt of 1984 was a turning point in how the wider politics of railway economics impact on the management of the network. As for the Dartmoor line if it had managed to survive both Beeching and early Thatcher then I've no doubt it would by now be undergoing a renaissance but to re-instate it would be expensive (and doesn't pass the Altnabreac .
You've hit the nail on the head.

The policy ethos at the time was "close as much as possible" and to hell with the consequences. You say that at some stage we have to make an objective decision on whether its worth keeping a line open. My objection regarding Beeching is that he made no such objective evaluation, preferring an assumption towards closure on the flimsiest of pretexts. An objective basis for deciding whether it was worth retaining a line would take into consideration whether that line covered it's operating costs in addition to any social and economic imperatives. Beeching took none of this into consideration.

It is wrong to give the impression that the closure programme as it was, was somehow inevitable. Policy doesn't form on it's own like a mist. It has to be formed and developed by people. Beeching was instrumental in forming that policy as well as implementing it, and to suggest otherwise is whitewash. He steered the Stedeford committee in a particular direction, when they could have recommended a more balanced and objective approach to route eeductions and he set the ethos for railway management for decades to come.
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Old 22nd April 2017, 10:38   #207
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I have always been struck that the very first page of the Reshaping report describes the process as having sprung from a statement by the Prime Minister (Harold Macmillan, a former long-serving railway company director who presumably had a good understanding of what railways were good and less effective at) on 10 March 1960.

"First the industry must be of a size and pattern suited to modern conditions and prospects. In particular the railway system must be remodelled to meet current needs, and the modernisation plan must be adapted to this new shape."

The report explains at considerable length the two-year process of data acquisition and analysis that was then undertaken. This was necessary because the kind of granular detail necessary simply did not exist in the days before databases and computerised analysis.

Understanding of social, economic and environmental aspects, and in particular ascribing financial values to those factors was in its infancy in those far off days. Two of the seminal documents in those areas - the 'Beesley Report' that justified the building of the Victoria line and the Buchanan 'Traffic in Towns' report both came later (arguably being part of the 'fruits' of the Marples era).

Beeching 'discovered' (in the sense of exposing it statistically for the first time) the classic problem of around one third of the network generating a negligible proportion of both passenger and freight traffic.

He also succeeded in demonstrating the strength of railways when it came to Inter City traffic (a term used regularly for one of the first times in the report) and various types of freight. Sadly his vision of 39 million tons by liner trains by 1973 didn't come to pass but a huge amount of good stuff did come about with merry-go-round, block oil trains, beefing up research effort, air braking, corporate identity and so forth.
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