Beeching closures

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by 6Gman, 12 Jul 2019.

  1. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    'Mostly imported from the USA'? Eh?
    Other countries are also available as sources...

    Explain the growth of the Autostrada, Autobahnen, Autoschnellstrassen and similar from the 1920s onwards in Europe. Renault, Citroën, Opel, FIAT, Daimler-Benz, NSU and others were also selling cars in increasing numbers.
     
  2. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    With the distances in the USA it was probably more the advent of affordable aviation that did for most of the long-distance trains there. Few people would want to spend a couple of days on the train between Chicago and LA when it could be flown in a few hours, but driving that distance would have taken even longer and probably cost more once overnight accommodation was taken into account. Cars and buses did for the interurbans (something between a tram and a train that didn't really catch on anywhere else) and some commuter rail services.

    In the UK domestic flights are a tiny proportion of total journeys so cars are far more significant - and as I repeatedly point out the amount of rail travel hasn't changed much since the Beeching era but total travel has expanded vastly with cars making up most of the extra volume.
     
  3. Dr Hoo

    Dr Hoo Established Member

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    I am fascinated by some people’s obsession with the Common Carrier Obligation, especially in the context of the Modernisation Plan. (I get the more ‘commercial’ implications in terms of rate setting and road competition.)

    In Gorvish’s Business History of BR the Obligation doesn’t even seem to appear in the index! Did managers really feel compelled to waste hundreds of millions on new marshalling yards, Type 1 diesels and fleets of new short wheelbase wagons for a rapidly disappearing volume of traffic to comply with it?
     
  4. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Well, people seem to bring it up a lot.

    As you know, I prefer the electrification schemes !
     
  5. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    What an extraordinary post.

    Well, I must do a lot of "magic thinking".

    I like my local council because it looks after the public spaces well, but I also dislike it because it screws around with my bin collection.

    I like Radio 2 because it has "Sounds of the Sixties" and "Pick of the Pops", but I dislike it because they play too many show tunes.


    I don't really understand the point you're trying to make.

    I blame BR for a number of things - for putting forward lines such as Ashford - Hastings for closure instead of rationalising them - but it's also the Goverment's fault for not providing enough investment. It's particularly Whitehall's fault for pursuing closures as policy. But as you say, I believe they did a lot of good things as well, even under the much maligned modernisation plan (The Dorset scheme wasn't "bad BR" as you put it by a long chalk. It showed the best of Southern Region ingenuity under straightened circumstances. It just wasn't as good as the Kent one)

    Beeching is interesting, because he was both policy maker through Goverment, and BR as Chairman, so I blame him for the closure programme on both counts.

    But I like to think I'm relatively even handed - I blame the Goverment of the day for Northern's no growth franchise and the unrealistic cuts to operating subsidy, as well as the late replacement of rolling stock on the Midland Main line, rather than the TOC's involved, so it's not as though I give BR special treatment.

    Perhaps I'm just old fashioned in that I think it's the business of a railway company to run railways, not to close them.
     
  6. farleigh

    farleigh Member

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    Excellent post that yorksrob
     
  7. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Why, many thanks :)
     
  8. quarella

    quarella Member

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    And the 1962 Transport Act removing the railway's obligation as a "Common Carrier" forced more freight onto the roads.
     
  9. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    Did it?
     
  10. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    Quite so!
    The really pernicious effects of the earlier Acts making canals and railways 'Common Carriers' was that, because any traffic offered (which met the various requirements of the Acts) had to be carried there was no point in developing any sort of management accounting. By management accounting I mean that income and costs of any particular activity could be identified. The only accounts that the 'Big Four' if not the earlier pre-Grouping companies, produced were global end-of-the-year accounts. As long as income exceeded expenditure everything was hunky dory - and it remained like that for decades until the base load freight (and passenger) traffic started slipping away and wages and salaries increased dramatically (because of labour shortages) in the wake of the Second World War.

    This meant that until Dr. Beeching instigated the traffic studies in 1961 nobody had any organisation-wide view of what was being carried, from where to where and at what costs.

    I agree entirely that nobody built all those marshalling yards and hundreds of Type 2 diesels simply to carry Common Carrier traffic. That viewpoint is a recent invention - it is an ex-post facto argument designed to justify the poor decisions.
    I am not in the 'blame game' - I try to understand why things happened as they did. But if I were in the blame game then I would most certainly blame the closures on all those passengers and freight forwarders who did not use the railways in the 1950s and 1960s.
     
  11. neilmc

    neilmc Member

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    I just had a heavy cooker delivered from Inverness to my home. If I had been using the railways as a common carrier, they would have had to pick it up by road in Inverness and transport it to a freight yard, load it into a wagon and then send it onwards, maybe being marshalled in other yards at, say, Perth and Carlisle. Then the local pick-up goods would have to chuff along to Shap station with it, where another road carrier would have to pick it up and deliver it. It would probably have taken several days and cost hundreds of pounds in modern equivalence, and used a whole squadron on men. If they chalked up the wagon wrong my cooker might also be in a siding or down in Bristol. Or I could do what I did, which was to use an online courier quotation service who farmed it out to a courier who picked it up on a pallet in Inverness and brought it all the way down overnight, mostly by motorway, for around £100. If the railways were still into this kind of small item wagonload traffic I suspect whatever they might have quoted me would have still made them a loss and still been too slow and expensive to gain the business.
     
  12. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    That's a fair point - the dissappearing passengers must bear some of the blame.

    How the railway reacted to the situation also matters. I read on the Wealden line website that passenger usage between Uckfield and Lewes held up, even with a change imposed at Barcombe Mills due to single line working. The passengers can't be to blame in that circumstance.
     
  13. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    The linked graph shows that rail passenger journeys didn't reduce in the 1950s and actually went up in the late 50s and early 60s. So if there was loss of passengers in the years leading up to Beeching it was at least balanced by other passengers attracted onto the railway.

    They then dropped off, but looking at other statistics the passenger distance travelled didn't change much so the average journey length must have increased. This was drawfed by the huge increase in travel overall, with cars accounting for most of it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histo...ile:GBR_rail_passengers_by_year_1830-2015.png
     
  14. chorleyjeff

    chorleyjeff Member

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    My observation when spending a week in Horton in Ribblesdale was that the trains were not crowded.
    BR could have used means other than rail to convey common carrier goods that were more expensive by rail. But I guess that if the goods train did not carry such goods the costs of the train would have remained much the same.
    Were Deltics really so successfull given their expensive maintenance and marginal improvement over 2,750 hp locos ?
     
  15. A0wen

    A0wen Established Member

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    I think the Deltic's can be considered a success - the problem of high cost was in part due to the fact they were a small class and therefore inherently more expensive to operate. Their fuel costs were, no doubt, higher - but their ability to reach 100mph and maintain it set them apart from probably all the Type 4 classes BR had at the time and it wasn't until the HSTs came on stream in the mid 70s did BR have something which achieved the next performance step change.
     
  16. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    Regarding edwin_m's post about passenger numbers over the years. I know of this chart and have referred to it myself...! Very good it is too. :smile:

    I have read an analysis regarding the jump in passenger numbers around 1957 - but I'm afraid I don't have a reference. However one of the points it made was that petrol rationing was re-introduced for something like half a year in 1956/7 as a result of the Suez crisis following the invasion of the canal zone in November 1956, and this caused at least part of the increase.
    I'm afraid I can't remember what other factors were in play.
     
  17. chorleyjeff

    chorleyjeff Member

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    Surely that's how goods were usually transported by rail - road pickup, train via marshalling yard or yards then road delivery. Hence the high costs of transporting goods, potential for damage/pilfering and potential for long transit times. Hence pre WW2 my mother's furniture company abandoned rail and used their own transport factory to shop. In later years companies used door to door by transit van.
    But I guess overnight guaranteed delivery from rail yard to rail yard anywhere on the L&Y was an attempt to mitigate time and cost but depended on third party pick up at each end !
     
  18. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    Hmm! I'll have another go in replying to your message - the first one seems to have disappeared into cyberspace... :(

    The 'Common Carrier Obligation' did not refer to a type of good that was carried by rail (or canal). It is simply a reference to the legal framework within which the railways and canals had to operate. I partly tried to explain the way it worked in my post no. 100 - that the railway had to carry traffic offered to it at rates set by the Traffic Commissioners. The railways had no direct say in the charges they levied - and the tariffs were published. So by the time lorries became effective all the owners had to do was look up the railways' rates and offer a better deal. Freight traffic, especially 'smalls' traffic carried from ststion to station simply slipped away.

    There are three main points about the Deltics:
    • because of their high power-to-weight ratio (3,300bhp in 100 tons) they showed that the railways could be competitive for long distance high speed passenger travel
    • when the Deltics were ordered the 2,750bhp locomotive did not exist. The most powerful were the 'Peaks' at 2,500bhp on 143 tons.
    • they, together with the Western's diesel hydraulics, showed that 'quick-running' (1,500 rpm) engines were suitable for day to day railway operation. This flew in the face of BR's engineering hierarchy's view in the 1950s and early 1960s that medium speed power units, as exemplified by the Sulzer LDA, were best suited to rail operation. Experience with these high speed engines showed Terry Miller, BR's Chief Mechanical and Electrical Engineer, that they were suitable for the High Speed Diesel Train, then in development. The HST would not have been possible if BR had not earlier used the Deltics and Maybachs to gain experience. And the Sulzer LDA had reached the limit of its development.
     
    Last edited: 18 Jul 2019
  19. chorleyjeff

    chorleyjeff Member

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    My question was a bit tongue in cheek. A railway manager who looked after the GN has written that Brush type 4s could pretty much manage Deltic timetabled times but without the ability to recover much time. But the Deltics were very much dependant on frequent and expensive maintenance to keep good reliability and performance. A slightly slower but cheaper alternative might have been found and been better all round cf VC10 v Boeing 707
    On the other hand maybe the railway manager referred to was resistant to change as some of his generation were and was not as responsive to the desires of passengers for fast regular services throughout the day.
     
    Last edited: 18 Jul 2019
  20. Journeyman

    Journeyman Established Member

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    I suspect if you analyse the situation carefully, you'll find that the Deltics did outperform everything else, but probably not by very much, and the cost of that marginal extra performance was probably eye-watering if you look at it over the 20-year period they were in service. As far as I can tell, about 90% of the fuel put into a Deltic turns into smoke and noise.
     
  21. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    It might be the times I travel (mid morning from Leeds) are routinely busy, as is the trip back from Appleby at about 5.00

    The common carrier is something BR probably could have done more to get rid of, but it shouldn't colour the whole perception of the plan.

    In terms of the Deltics, they were impressively quick for the time and replaced twice the number of top-link steam locomotives, so I'd say they were a very good investment.
     
  22. The Ham

    The Ham Established Member

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    The problem is that the government of today is doing broadly the same thing. If we look at how the railways are performing financially then there's patterns which could help it to be more profitable.

    If we exclude the NR grant (as the vast majority of that is spent on enhancements, so is effectively investment for future payback) then there's two obvious outliers those being Southwestern Railways and Northern.

    What could Northern or the DfT do so that Northern require less subsidy? The obvious answers are:
    - run longer trains (as although some costs go up, such as lease costs, others don't such as driver costs)
    - have more electrification (reduces maintenance and fuel costs)
    - offer cheap deals on trains which would otherwise be nearly empty

    Conversely at Southwestern Railways you'd need to look to see what was needed to increase revenue, again the obvious answers are things like:
    - building Crossrail 2
    - building Southern Approach to Heathrow
    - looking at what sections of track are quiet and see if there's any other services which could be run over them (even if they don't serve London or aren't the quickest route to) especially if they could improve connectivity between stations which otherwise are difficult to get between

    Although by doing the above it would mean investment now over time it could lead to the railways requiring less subsidy (even allowing for the investment made now), or even be profitable.

    Bearing that the day to day subsidy for the railways is circa £178 million a year whilst the subsidy for Northern is circa £250 million of you could reduce the Northern subsidy by 10% it would reduce the overall subsidy by nearly 15%.

    If similar analysis was done during the profitable times of the big four then there may not have been such a problem in the 50's/60's for the government to "fix".
     
  23. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    With SWR and other "London commuter" TOCs I think there is a big opportunity to attract off-peak travel. It costs nearly nothing to provide and might lead to a change in the public attitude that the train is for travel into London but for anywhere else they will drive.
     
  24. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Perhaps it might be time to scrap the onerous restrictions on the Network card on weekdays.
     
  25. Journeyman

    Journeyman Established Member

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    Undoubtedly they were much cheaper and more efficient to operate than the LNER Pacifics, but I wonder if the premium over, say, a Class 47, was really worth it, and whether they were significantly faster in service.
     
  26. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    To repeat my post No 108 above, when the Deltics were ordered the Class 47 didn't exist except as an outline specification in the Chief Mechanical and Electrical Engineer's (CMEE) office. The question doesn't arise.

    In 1951 Gerard Fiennes had worked out what roads would offer and how fast the railways would need to run to compete. The time-distance graph is published in the book 'The Deltics - A symposium' published by Ian Allan in 1972:
    The answer was well over 3,000 bhp under the bonnet. Not a problem for electrified railways, but in those days the only answer for diesels was the Deltic. Fiennes wrote:
    The Deltics were the only game in town.
     
  27. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    They were certainly splendid machines !
     
  28. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    Fundamentally I agree - obviously one can debate which particular developments should be done first, and I think future ticketing and pricing is topic which is a science for itself!

    Extending the argument a little - one of the issues with the current franchising model is that, because train services are so closely defined the train operating company (TOC) has very little freedom to modify services to match changes in demand - all changes demand contract re-negotiations with the DfT which can last for ever. So, for example, it is difficult to trim back some services and add the stock to another. Also because a franchise is awarded for a geographical area the TOC's can, and do, cross-subsidise routes and make their bid for a package of routes. Over time, and because it's not necessary for the TOC's management of its patch, knowledge about individual flows and routes will get lost. This is exactly the same problem that the Common Carrier Obligations created - because certain services had to be offered only high level, global, management data were available.

    I agree that modern computer modelling of traffic flows gives a lot more data than was available than in the days of the Railway Clearing House, but the inflexible nature of the franchise agreements make it very difficult to use these data to adapt the service offering.
     
  29. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    Absolutely! I still remember the first long journey I made behind one - coming back to London from a job interview in Kirkcaldy in 1966. Compared to what I was used to, it was breathtaking!
     
  30. ac6000cw

    ac6000cw Established Member

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    Agreed (and that was 3300 hp in 1955, for the prototype! As a comparison, in 1955 EMD were selling another twin-engined passenger loco - the E9 - with only 2400 hp in exchange for its 143 tonne weight).

    A couple of things I remember from Modern Railways many years ago:

    1. Whilst the 47s could maintain the schedules, they generally did so with lower loads than the Deltics e.g. it was 'Deltic + load 10' and '47 + load 9' (or similar - can't remember the exact numbers)
    2. There was a comment quoted from a senior Eastern Region mechanical engineer, along the lines of "when the 47s are used in the same way as the Deltics (i.e. intensively diagrammed on demanding schedules) they are also expensive to maintain"

    So basically, while the work they were designed for was available, the Deltics made economic sense. When that work disappeared on arrival of the HST fleet, they got withdrawn relatively quickly since the economics had changed (and they had clocked up a lot of miles by then).
     
    Last edited: 19 Jul 2019

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