What were the 5 most controversial closures of the 60s?

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DJ_K666

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Just a question, not intended for Beeching bashing. Or Marples/Macmillan bashing either

But which line closures generated the most controversy and arguments in the 60s or even after, in people's opinion?
 
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steamybrian

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A very debateable subject but here are my choices with one from each part of the country...
1.Uckfield- Lewes
2.Birmingham Snow Hill- Wolverhampton Low Level
3. Waverley Route Carlisle-Edinburgh
4. York- Beverley via Market Weighton
5. Exeter-Okehampton-Plymouth
 

D6130

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1. The Waverley Route (Edinburgh-Carlisle)
2. The Port Road (Dumfries-Stranraer)
3. The Glenfarg Road (Cowdenbeath-Perth)
4. The Forfar Road (Stanley Junction-Kinnaber Junction)
5. The Callander & Oban (Dunblane-Crianlarich)

......and that's just Scotland for starters!
 
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Your question is almost impossible to answer with any precision. Very few regulars in this forum were around at the time so know only what they've read or been told. I was in my teens when Dr. Beeching was appointed and I certainly remember the fierce generalised arguments in newspapers and on radio and television. Specific arguments about specific closures generated within the affected communities great heat but little light. On a national level I seem to recall the Somerset & Dorset being argued about on Any Questions.

We have in this forum a regular poster who is indefatigable about re-opening lines closed sixty years ago. It should be understood that his psychological predecessors in the 1960s believed that no railway line should be closed, no matter how much money it lost or how few people used it. Much of the angry public debate came from these people. The majority accepted that railway deadwood should be eliminated and did not participate in the debate.
 

steamybrian

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1. The Waverley Route (Edinburgh-Carlisle)
2. The Port Road (Dumfries-Stranraer)
3. The Glenfarg Road (Cowdenbeath-Perth)
4. The Forfar Road (Stanley Junction-Kinnaber Junction)
5. The Callander & Oban (Dunblane-Crianlarich)

......and that's just Scotland for starters!
I agree with "Railwaysceptic" above and I was also around in 1963 a schoolboy. Life in 1963 was different as railways then were losing custom to roads and the number of people using rail each year were falling. It is easy with blinked eyes and hindsight to look back and name a long list of lines which you think should have stayed open but which pure economics do not justify then and probably now.
I consider that lines 2 and 5 above served a sparsely populated area for which the lines were losing a lot of money and accept that closure was obvious. Routes 3 and 4 were mainly duplicated routes serving small settlements and there again the main traffic was through traffic which could be diverted to other routes.
The lines I picked were controversial closures at the time of which three of which have partly reopened (I have included Okehampton line as reopened). They serve populated area which have grown since original closure.
 

D6130

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I agree with "Railwaysceptic" above and I was also around in 1963 a schoolboy. Life in 1963 was different then as railways then were losing custom to roads and the number of people using rail each year were falling. It is easy with blinked eyes and hindsight to look back and name a long list of lines which you think should have stayed open but which pure economics do not justify then and probably now..
I consider that lines 2 and 5 above served a sparsely populated area for which the lines were losing a lot of money and accept that closure was obvious. Routes 3 and 4 were mainly duplicated routes serving small settlements and there again the main traffic was through traffic which could be diverted to other routes.
I don't disagree with you, but the point of the OP was to list those closures which caused the most controversy and argument at the time.....not to justify or otherwise those closures. Having been brought-up in Scotland in the 'sixties, the closures which I have listed are the ones that I remember receiving the most media coverage and causing the most debate at the time.
 

steamybrian

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I don't disagree with you, but the point of the OP was to list those closures which caused the most controversy and argument at the time.....not to justify or otherwise those closures. Having been brought-up in Scotland in the 'sixties, the closures which I have listed are the ones that I remember receiving the most media coverage and causing the most debate at the time.
You are missing my point of being confined to local issues. Having lived all my life in the South East I can name all the local closures in the 1960s created media coverage with publicity and debate about it.
What I consider as controversial were those lines that still have campaign groups trying to get support for reopening. Those lines at the time of closure which carried a fair number of passengers at the time and had a reasonable frequency of trains . Those that the economic profit/loss accounts were "suspect" or closed simply to enable roads to be built (example Uckfield-Lewes). In the example of York- Beverley trains were carrying an average of over 50 passengers per train until closure in 1965. Another example in the South East was the Steyning line which when closed in 1966 was also carrying an average of over 50 passengers per train. Also Forest Row had 200 season ticket holders to London when it closed in 1967.
Can any of the stations in Scotland closed in the 1960s have matched that.?
 

DJ_K666

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You are missing my point of being confined to local issues. Having lived all my life in the South East I can name all the local closures in the 1960s created media coverage with publicity and debate about it.
What I consider as controversial were those lines that still have campaign groups trying to get support for reopening. Those lines at the time of closure which carried a fair number of passengers at the time and had a reasonable frequency of trains . Those that the economic profit/loss accounts were "suspect" or closed simply to enable roads to be built (example Uckfield-Lewes). In the example of York- Beverley trains were carrying an average of over 50 passengers per train until closure in 1965. Another example in the South East was the Steyning line which when closed in 1966 was also carrying an average of over 50 passengers per train. Also Forest Row had 200 season ticket holders to London when it closed in 1967.
Can any of the stations in Scotland closed in the 1960s have matched that.?
I used to walk the Steyning line at Shoreham just before the final track was lifted in the 80s.
 

yorksrob

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You are missing my point of being confined to local issues. Having lived all my life in the South East I can name all the local closures in the 1960s created media coverage with publicity and debate about it.
What I consider as controversial were those lines that still have campaign groups trying to get support for reopening. Those lines at the time of closure which carried a fair number of passengers at the time and had a reasonable frequency of trains . Those that the economic profit/loss accounts were "suspect" or closed simply to enable roads to be built (example Uckfield-Lewes). In the example of York- Beverley trains were carrying an average of over 50 passengers per train until closure in 1965. Another example in the South East was the Steyning line which when closed in 1966 was also carrying an average of over 50 passengers per train. Also Forest Row had 200 season ticket holders to London when it closed in 1967.

I agree very much with this outlook generally.
 

Doctor Fegg

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We have in this forum a regular poster who is indefatigable about re-opening lines closed sixty years ago. It should be understood that his psychological predecessors in the 1960s believed that no railway line should be closed, no matter how much money it lost or how few people used it. Much of the angry public debate came from these people. The majority accepted that railway deadwood should be eliminated and did not participate in the debate.
The canals also had "fight for every mile" fundamentalists in the 1950s/60s. At the time, the canals were much more of a lost cause than the railways were, and the majority accepted that deadwood such as the Huddersfield Narrow Canal should be eliminated.

60-70 years on, it's generally agreed that those fundamentalists were actually right. The Huddersfield Narrow has been restored, as have many other waterways, and work is proceeding on canals that were closed long before WWII.

So I'd be careful about drawing too many parallels with the majority in the 1960s.
 
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billio

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Would it not be better to look at those lines that were saved from proposed closure by Beeching ?
 

Irascible

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Wasn't Snow Hill-Wolves low level a 70s closure? I mean it'd obviously been planned earlier, but in that case why did it hold on so long? the WCML had long been electrified by then.

I'm not sure Exeter-Plymouth via Oke was particularily controversial at the time - maybe if Sir John Betjeman had written something about it...
 

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Whilst accepting closure between Dunblane and Crianlarich was contentious at the time, a consequence was an improvement of between 30 and 45 minutes on the journey time between Glasgow and Oban, probably the largest single passenger flow on the line. Although through services from Edinburgh to Oban were lost, the journey time, now changing in Glasgow, was broadly similar.

If we fast forward to today there might be an argument that retaining the Dunblane to Callander section could have made sense (by no means economic but what is?), Callander being a very popular tourist destination and together with Doune being the only settlements of any size - and by no means large settlements - on the closed section, and within commuting distance of both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Sadly the rock fall induced premature closure of the already doomed line denied me the opportunity to travel over that section which had been planned for the weeks prior to the 'official' closure date.
 
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Would it not be better to look at those lines that were saved from proposed closure by Beeching ?

Better still would be to look at those lines Dr. Beeching put into his "third" category and which were closed after he had gone.

The canals also had "fight for every mile" fundamentalists in the 1950s/60s. At the time, the canals were much more of a lost cause than the railways were, and the majority accepted that deadwood such as the Huddersfield Narrow Canal should be eliminated.

60-70 years on, it's generally agreed that those fundamentalists were actually right. The Huddersfield Narrow has been restored, as have many other waterways, and work is proceeding on canals that were closed long before WWII.

So I'd be careful about drawing too many parallels with the majority in the 1960s.

Canals have to be maintained and the locks manned, but the people managing the boats are self-financing and are not a drain on the public purse. The cost to taxpayers of minimally used canals is not comparable with the cost of minimally used railways.
 

Doctor Fegg

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Canals have to be maintained and the locks manned, but the people managing the boats are self-financing and are not a drain on the public purse. The cost to taxpayers of minimally used canals is not comparable with the cost of minimally used railways.
I'm not sure that DEFRA or the Canal & River Trust would agree that the collapse of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam, at £16m, is "self-financing". Oh, and apart from a few entrance locks from rivers, canal locks in England & Wales aren't manned.

But that's by the by. The point is that in the 1960s, the majority were not necessarily right at forecasting what may be useful in the future, just as they may not be today.
 

Philip

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Closing the many lines around Leigh in Gr. Manchester should be up there as this large town is without a railway there now.

Manchester Central to Cheadle Heath

The Matlock line

The Great Central line south from Leicester

Settle and Carlisle

East Lancs line through Bury
 

XAM2175

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I'm not sure that DEFRA or the Canal & River Trust would agree that the collapse of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam, at £16m, is "self-financing". Oh, and apart from a few entrance locks from rivers, canal locks in England & Wales aren't manned.
I'm not sure that a reservoir dam counts as "the people managing the boats" for the purposes of being described as self-financing, unlike, say, the people bringing their own boat to use on the canals. Additionally, noting that most locks are not manned is a bit of an own-goal for you since it further reduces the already-small costs upon which @Railwaysceptic's point is based.

But that's by the by. The point is that in the 1960s, the majority were not necessarily right at forecasting what may be useful in the future, just as they may not be today.
I'd argue that that majority at that time were in fact substantially correct, as the canal network today is realistically no more useful for the transport of passengers and goods today than it was in 1960s. The change since then is that the cost of restoration and upkeep is seen to be worthwhile for providing opportunities for leisure and recreation - an argument that isn't necessarily transferrable to the railway network because of the difference in the scale of costs.
 

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Difficult to disentangle the ones that were most controversial then and the ones that we with hindsight dispute now, but (not in any order):
1. Uckfield-Lewes (and Tunbridge Wells-Eridge, which was later)
2. Wareham-Swanage
3. East Lincs (Spalding...Grimsby)
4. York- Beverley via Market Weighton
5. Waverley or Glenfarg.

BTW The Settle and Carlisle didn't close in the 60s, though it did lose its local trains.
 

Doctor Fegg

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I'm not sure that a reservoir dam counts as "the people managing the boats" for the purposes of being described as self-financing, unlike, say, the people bringing their own boat to use on the canals.
The point of the reservoir is to supply the water for a canal which fairly regularly runs out of it, so that the boaters (of whom I'm one) can take their boats on it.
Additionally, noting that most locks are not manned is a bit of an own-goal for you since it further reduces the already-small costs upon which @Railwaysceptic's point is based.
I don't think I need any tutoring on the finances of the waterways but thanks. ;)
 

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Wasn't Snow Hill-Wolves low level a 70s closure? I mean it'd obviously been planned earlier, but in that case why did it hold on so long? the WCML had long been electrified by then.

I'm not sure Exeter-Plymouth via Oke was particularily controversial at the time - maybe if Sir John Betjeman had written something about it...
Snow Hill to Wolverhampton shouldve closed in 1967, when Snow Hill was closed to main line traffic. But the local service was still quite busy, still running every hour from early morning til late at night with rush hour extras, so closure was refused. So, British Rail replaced that service with just 6 trains per day each way, in rush hours only, with the next timetable change. This meant passenger numbers fell dramatically, so the 3 car dmus were replaced with single cars. They applied again to close it, but again, closure was refused due to passenger numbers. Next came unstaffing and demolition of the station buildings, leaving some platforms with no shelter. In the case of Hockley and Soho & Winson Green, no lighting or name boards either. So, passenger numbers fell again, by now only a fraction of just 5 years earlier, and this time when British Rail applied for closure, it was granted. It had gone from being a busy suburban service, which the stations were quite well placed to the towns they served to an uninviting service, that was useless to many. During the winter months, the stations had become dark and menacing. No surprise really that passengers deserted it in droves.
 

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Snow Hill to Wolverhampton shouldve closed in 1967, when Snow Hill was closed to main line traffic. But the local service was still quite busy, still running every hour from early morning til late at night with rush hour extras, so closure was refused. So, British Rail replaced that service with just 6 trains per day each way, in rush hours only, with the next timetable change. This meant passenger numbers fell dramatically, so the 3 car dmus were replaced with single cars. They applied again to close it, but again, closure was refused due to passenger numbers. Next came unstaffing and demolition of the station buildings, leaving some platforms with no shelter. In the case of Hockley and Soho & Winson Green, no lighting or name boards either. So, passenger numbers fell again, by now only a fraction of just 5 years earlier, and this time when British Rail applied for closure, it was granted. It had gone from being a busy suburban service, which the stations were quite well placed to the towns they served to an uninviting service, that was useless to many. During the winter months, the stations had become dark and menacing. No surprise really that passengers deserted it in droves.

A text book example of "closure by stealth" if ever there was one. Exactly why the 1960's policy of cutting route milage at all costs was such a disastrous one.
 

Sprinter107

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A text book example of "closure by stealth" if ever there was one. Exactly why the 1960's policy of cutting route milage at all costs was such a disastrous one.
Some members of my family worked in factories in Hockley, and used the train to get there, so saw the run down of the train service first hand. When I first started on the railway, there were still guards and drivers who worked that route from when it was a busy route, through its run down, so was quite interesting to hear their stories.
 

yorksrob

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Some members of my family worked in factories in Hockley, and used the train to get there, so saw the run down of the train service first hand. When I first started on the railway, there were still guards and drivers who worked that route from when it was a busy route, through its run down, so was quite interesting to hear their stories.

These are lessons that need to be remembered in these straightened times.
 
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I'm not sure that a reservoir dam counts as "the people managing the boats" for the purposes of being described as self-financing, unlike, say, the people bringing their own boat to use on the canals. Additionally, noting that most locks are not manned is a bit of an own-goal for you since it further reduces the already-small costs upon which @Railwaysceptic's point is based.


I'd argue that that majority at that time were in fact substantially correct, as the canal network today is realistically no more useful for the transport of passengers and goods today than it was in 1960s. The change since then is that the cost of restoration and upkeep is seen to be worthwhile for providing opportunities for leisure and recreation - an argument that isn't necessarily transferrable to the railway network because of the difference in the scale of costs.

Thank you. Saved me the trouble of a rebuttal.
 

A0wen

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These are lessons that need to be remembered in these straightened times.

Not at all - the lesson of Beeching which still stands is you cannot allow large loss making elements of the railway to continue to operate "just because".

The railway network isn't a museum and needs to change to reflect demand. Many of the closures Beeching put forward would almost certainly have happened in any case - and it's conveniently forgotten that closures had been happening since the 1930s as the madness of the Victorian rail building boom came home to roost.

In the case of Snow Hill - Wolverhampton, it's not clear whether that was a Beeching closure - more likely it was another of the BR led initiative, but its conversion to light rail actually makes far more sense as it allows for much more frequent services than heavy rail would have.
 

yorksrob

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Not at all - the lesson of Beeching which still stands is you cannot allow large loss making elements of the railway to continue to operate "just because".

The railway network isn't a museum and needs to change to reflect demand. Many of the closures Beeching put forward would almost certainly have happened in any case - and it's conveniently forgotten that closures had been happening since the 1930s as the madness of the Victorian rail building boom came home to roost.

In the case of Snow Hill - Wolverhampton, it's not clear whether that was a Beeching closure - more likely it was another of the BR led initiative, but its conversion to light rail actually makes far more sense as it allows for much more frequent services than heavy rail would have.

No, the lesson is that if you have a service that provides an important social benefit, you account for it and fund it. You don't embark on cutting routes purely as a financial saving.

I also don't get this distinction that a lot of pro-closure beople have between "a Beeching closure" and "a BR led closure". Beeching was a Chairman of BR and set the ethos of the organisation to a considerable extent, therefore a Beeching closure was a BR led closure. The run-down and closure may have taken place after Beeching left, but he instilled the theory behind it.
 

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Snow Hill to Wolverhampton shouldve closed in 1967, when Snow Hill was closed to main line traffic. But the local service was still quite busy, still running every hour from early morning til late at night with rush hour extras, so closure was refused. So, British Rail replaced that service with just 6 trains per day each way, in rush hours only, with the next timetable change. This meant passenger numbers fell dramatically, so the 3 car dmus were replaced with single cars. They applied again to close it, but again, closure was refused due to passenger numbers. Next came unstaffing and demolition of the station buildings, leaving some platforms with no shelter. In the case of Hockley and Soho & Winson Green, no lighting or name boards either. So, passenger numbers fell again, by now only a fraction of just 5 years earlier, and this time when British Rail applied for closure, it was granted. It had gone from being a busy suburban service, which the stations were quite well placed to the towns they served to an uninviting service, that was useless to many. During the winter months, the stations had become dark and menacing. No surprise really that passengers deserted it in droves.
This (and subsequent responses) rather skates over the political background.

The first round of 'Grant Aid' under the Transport Act 1968 was announced in November 1968, by the then Minister of Transport, Richard Marsh. This included grants for Snow Hill to both Wolverhampton Low Level and Langley Green. (This announcement included the fact that grant would NOT be forthcoming for lines like Skipton-Colne, Okehampton, Glenfarg, Caernarvon, Fleetwood, Cambridge-St Ives, etc, which could be progressed for closure.)

Obviously BR was expected to make maximum economies on lines that were staying open, hence thing like the Surplus Track Capacity [rapid elimination thereof] Grants and conductor guard working from de-staffed stations as widely introduced elsewhere on the network.

This was only a temporary situation as the Passenger Transport Authorities, also established under the 1968 Act became responsible for public transport planning in their areas. So far as the West Midlands were concerned it became immediately obvious that the only priority was unifying the municipal bus operations of Birmingham, West Bromwich, Wolverhampton and Walsall with a focus on driver-only, exact fare only, front entrance diesel buses. The new '79' Birmingham-Wolverhampton bus route through the area served by the line was the flagship demonstration of integration.

The new PTE decided very early on not to subsidise the Snow Hill lines, hence BR had no alternative but to propose closure, which was approved.

(As a resident in the West Midlands at the time and occasional user of the residual services it was very obvious that the nature of the area was changing dramatically. Slum clearance, rapidly rising car ownership, construction of the M5/M6, the decline of traditional metal-bashing industries, a surge in the popularity of vandalism as a youth hobby and the arrival of a new demographic that had no tradition of rail commuting all combined to depress the services’ prospects.)
 
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