Effect of 1980s recession on timetables?

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by nickw1, 9 Oct 2017.

  1. nickw1

    nickw1 Member

    9 Aug 2013
    Following on from the 'what happened to Beeching stock' thread, I'd be interested to see exactly what effect the 1980s recession had on timetables, particularly InterCity and 'Provincial/Regional Railways' (even though those terms had not become commonplace at that stage).

    I first became aware of the railways in late 1982 on the South Western Division of the SR and my knowledge of timetables spread to the WR and LMR through 1983 and 1984 - therefore coming during or just after the recession.

    I do remember InterCity and 'Provincial' timetables seemed to be relatively infrequent then, compared not only to now, but also to the later BR years of the late 80s/early 90s. For instance, Newbury had only a few InterCity services calling during the day, the main service being formed of a two-hourly all-stations service from Reading to Bedwyn, formed of a Class 117 DMU. Also on the WR, the Cotswold line only had three through services to London (two loco-hauled peak services plus an HST-operated daytime 'Cotswold and Malvern Express'); the rest only ran to and from Oxford and were again, presumably, heritage DMUs, running about every 2 hours or so.

    On the other hand, I do remember Swansea, Plymouth and Bristol each getting hourly HST services to London, a similar pattern to that operating in the mid-nineties - though I do remember the Bristol service didn't always run at the same time each hour (maybe xx15 for a few hours out Paddington then switched to xx45).

    On the LM, I remember Liverpool got an irregular service every 90 mins to 2 hours and Manchester might also have been less-than-hourly, though not sure about this. I don't think Birmingham to Manchester was as often as hourly, there was always an xx55 out of New Street (usually an XC, though some started at New St) but some went to Manchester and others to Liverpool.

    These patterns were what prevailed around 1983 or 1984; so my question is, were they similar just a little bit earlier (say 1979 - before the recession and a government that arguably had a hostile approach to public services took hold)?

    I also remember seeing in the other thread that the Midland Main Line got surplus HSTs from the Western. With the Western HST service, in contrast to some of the other services, being relatively frequent even in this period, is it true that it was even more frequent before the recession kicked in?

  2. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

    22 Apr 2010
    1979/1980 timetable. WCML
    Typical off-peak departures from Euston (SX)
    xx:00 (or xx:05). Most hours, but destination varied between Blackpool, Holyhead or Carlisle..
    xx:10 Wolverhampton
    xx:40 Wolverhampton
    xx:45: Glasgow. Some 2 hour gaps
    xx:50 Liverpool (some 2 hour gaps, especially on saturdays)
    xx:55 Manchester (some via Stoke, others via Stafford & Crewe)

    Plus a few non-standard departures & peak hour variations
    (e.g. 09:35 Inverness via Birmingham - "The Clansman")

    From St. Pancras
    xx:04 Derby semi-fast, every 2 hours
    xx:08 Nottingham semi-fast, every 2 hours
    xx:53 Sheffield, alternately via Derby or via Nottingham (reversal0
    Again, some peak hour variations.
  3. Helvellyn

    Helvellyn Established Member

    28 Aug 2009
    The WR definitely shed HSTs - a third of the original batch (253019-253027) eventually made the move to the Eastern Region primarily for use on Midland Mainline services, along with three NE-SW (what would become CrossCountry) sets. I also found it odd they never got the 'M' prefix but I guess part of the move was to use Eastern Region depots as a cost efficiency (e.g. no major upgrade of either Cricklewood or Etches Park to be the main home base for the Midland Mainline units).

    I think the Class 55 locos were also a casuality. A small fleet that had been worked hard and BR was looking to remove "non-standard" locomotives. In better times cascading them might have been feasible.

    I also wonder how much some of the refurbishment of Mark 1 EMU classes was curtailed as a result of the recession? Logically the 421/422 fleets could have had a 411/412 style refurbishment but they seemed to get more of a facelift than a refurbishment. The Class 309s also seemed a cheaper refurbishment (e.g. the seats).
  4. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

    22 Apr 2010
    More from 1979/1980

    Paddington, typical off-peak departures (omitting local services)

    xx:15 Swansea (some stopped at Reading, others first stop Newport)
    xx:20 Bristol (typically Reading, Bath & Bristol only)
    xx:30 Plymouth or Paignton; some Plymouths extended to Penzance
    xx:45 Alternately Cardiff or Bristol semi-fast. (Some Bristols extended to Weston Super Mare)
    xx:50 Oxford, some extended to Birmingham or Worcester; some 2 hour gaps.
    xx:00 Hereford via Worcester, only at 15:00, 17:00 and 18:00

  5. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    6 Aug 2009
    Personally I'm glad the CIG's got a facelift, rather than a CEP style return.

    The EPB facelift got halted mid way through, with a mix of refurbished and unrefurbished ones remaining almost until the end.
  6. YorkshireBear

    YorkshireBear Established Member

    23 Jul 2010
    When you look at those standard timetables it really does show how the railway has grown and the problems we now suffer with end to end journey times and delays.
  7. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

    22 Apr 2010
    And from Kings Cross in 1979:
    xx:00 Edinburgh or beyond (very few stops)
    xx:05 (every 2 hours) York, "all residual stations" between Huntingdon & Doncaster
    (08:05 & 12:05 went to Hull, connections for York at Doncaster)
    xx:35 (every 2 hours) Newcastle (semi fast north of Doncaster)
    xx:50 (some fast to Wakefield, others stopped at, for example Peterborough & Doncaster)

    Looking at other years, in 1975, a similar level & pattern of service to 1979 applied at Euston, St. Pancras & Paddington, although with some changes to departure times. At Kings Cross, only the Edinburgh services, mostly at xx:00, were fairly conistent, except that some terminated at Newcastle. Other services tended to be at irregular intervals.

    March 1967 saw the start of full electric working on the WCML as far as Liverpool & Manchester, and the off-peak services were infrequent by current standards.
    xx:00 Manchester via Stoke, or Liverpool (each every 2 hours)
    xx:05 Preston or beyond. Only 4 daytime trains to Glasgow. Other destinations included Blackpool*, Windermere*, Barrow*, Carlisle or Holyhead;
    * - some splitting into portions at Preston
    xx:15 Wolverhampton, then continuing in alternate hours to either Manchester or Liverpool.

    And from St. Pancras in 1967
    xx:05 Sheffield via Derby (every 2 hours)
    xx:20 Leicester semi-fast (12:20 & 16:20 extended to Manchester Central)
    xx:50 Nottingham (extended to Sheffield every 2 hours)
    Some intermediate stations had very poor services, e.g. some 3-4 hour gaps between Loughborough & Derby.

    Last edited: 10 Oct 2017
  8. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

    1 Aug 2013
    Actually they were a significant growth on the original WCML pattern from the 1966 timetable, which was every 2 hours alternately Liverpool and Manchester. First Manchester went hourly, then Liverpool. It didn't need much extra stock because that had always been around for the peaks, making just one return journey a day.

    I was travelling to Liverpool then and the timetable was fine. I have to say I didn't notice much of a downturn in passenger traffic. One of the significant changes was coach deregulation which started in about 1980, and took quite a lot of the optional traffic for several years, until the operators found this was basically unviable, and reduced the services.
  9. randyrippley

    randyrippley Member

    21 Feb 2016
    The HSTs transferred from the GWR to the Midland were "found" by downgrading most (all?) of the Torbay services to loco-hauled using the otherwise surplus class 50s.
    The service cuts came later when the 50s were scrapped
  10. nickw1

    nickw1 Member

    9 Aug 2013
    OK thanks for these. It does look like the Western HST timetable was cut somewhat by 1983 as I don't seem to recall 1.5 trains an hour to either Bristol or Cardiff. I think there was the occasional additional Cardiff service but not every 2 hours.

    Can't help feeling now that the off-peak frequency has gone a bit OTT on some lines, is there really a need for a London to Manchester service (and vice-versa) every 20 minutes departing each terminal between, say 1100 and 1500 midweek? Granted the sets would otherwise be doing nothing in between peaks, but one problem with an overly intensive off peak InterCity service is that it's bound to arrive at certain stations in their peak in the contra-peak direction, affecting peak paths. (For instance, London-Manchester trains departing Euston 1400-1500 would arrive Manchester 1600-1700 potentially consuming paths in what must be a busy hour out of Manchester for local services).

    I might be wrong though, as I have not travelled on the aforementioned London Manchester services at that time of day, though IMX other services tend to be relatively lightly-loaded at that time - for instance they can 'get away' with restricting the SOU-WAT half-hourly service to 5 cars without overcrowding.

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