Why did the Great Central route close?

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by Grumpy Git, 5 Dec 2019.

  1. Grumpy Git

    Grumpy Git Member

    Messages:
    466
    Joined:
    13 Oct 2019
    Location:
    Earth (for now)
    Last edited by a moderator: 6 Dec 2019
  2. Registered users do not see these banners - join or log in today!

    Rail Forums

     
  3. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

    Messages:
    17,020
    Joined:
    21 Apr 2013
    Location:
    Nottingham
    Basically virtually every significant journey could also be done by another route, so it was an obvious duplicate.
     
  4. Merle Haggard

    Merle Haggard Member

    Messages:
    221
    Joined:
    20 Oct 2019
    Location:
    Northampton
    The Midland Sheffield - Nottingham - Leicester route serves a number of other towns as well, whereas the GC went through sparsely populated countryside.
    The decision in this case was made to retain the Midland on the basis that, although slower, it made sense to concentrate on the route that served more places.

    Meanwhile, in another part of the country, a decision was to be made regarding retention of either the GW or SR routes to Exeter, Plymouth and the west.
    In this case, the SR route (like the Midland) also served a number of smaller towns on its route, whereas the GW (like the GC) went through sparsely populated areas (eg the Berks & Hants cut-off).
    By contrast, he decision in this case was that the SR route was to be run down, because (the argument at the time went) serving all those towns slowed services down; the route to be retained was the faster one.

    It's also worth pointing out that, at the time, the GC had not long passed from Eastern Region to London Midland Region control, and the Southern lines west of Salisbury had not long passed from Southern to Western Region control and in both cases the line retained was the one historically associated with the Region concerned.

    I will refrain from offering any opinions myself, but leave the facts to speak for themselves.
     
  5. deltic08

    deltic08 On Moderation

    Messages:
    2,446
    Joined:
    26 Aug 2013
    Location:
    Ripon
    Beeching was tasked with reducing the system until it was profitable. Sheffield-London was duplicated by Midland and Great Central routes so one had to go. Rightly or wrongly he chose the Great Central as Midland went through more centres of population although the Great Central was a faster, straighter route with less steep gradients and built to European gauge on purpose as the ultimate destination was Paris not London.
    I am surprised the route via Harringworth and Corby to Kettering was left open as that is/was also a duplicate route. He did close the northern section between Melton Mowbray and Nottingham.
     
  6. DPWH

    DPWH Member

    Messages:
    243
    Joined:
    8 Sep 2016
    And don't forget freight, which was more important in the 1960s than now. Even in the 1960s Britain ran on coal. The MML served the Notts collieries and was effectively two parallel main lines; the slow lines set up primarily for Toton-Brent coal trains.
     
  7. Western Lord

    Western Lord Member

    Messages:
    486
    Joined:
    17 Mar 2014
    The Midland route was not slower. It often seems to be forgotten that the GC's "London Extension" did not actually reach London. From Quainton Road to Harrow on the Hill it ran on the tracks of the Metropolitan Railway, later the LPTB's Metropolitan Line, with a severe speed restriction through Rickmansworth. The distance from Marylebone to Leicester via Aylesbury was 103.1 miles, compared to the Midland's 99 miles from St. Pancras to Leicester. The GC's alternative route via High Wycombe was even longer at 107.6 miles and include speed restrictions at Northolt Junction, Neasden Junction and High Wycombe. Both of these routes were double track whereas the Midland route was quadruple track from St. Pancras to Glendon South Junction north of Kettering and there were no significant speed restrictions on this stretch. The GC allowed fairly high speeds between Aylesbury, Leicester and Nottingham, but the continuation to Sheffield was bedevilled by speed restrictions caused by mining subsidence.
     
  8. AndyCK

    AndyCK Member

    Messages:
    19
    Joined:
    25 Apr 2019
    European or "Berne" gauge didn't come into use until between 1912 and 1914, whilst the GCR London Extension was started in 1894 and was built to a smaller gauge than Berne. I believe (although happy to be corrected) that the gauge used was the gauge in use at that time by the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway, which is shorter in height than Berne.
     
  9. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

    Messages:
    17,020
    Joined:
    21 Apr 2013
    Location:
    Nottingham
    Kettering to Melton and Syston was effectively a continuation of the MML slow lines and necessary for the large amount of freight that still operated in the 1960s. In particular there was a major steelworks at Corby.

    While the GC south of Nottingham may have been a fast line for its time, I believe upgrading it to above 100mph would have been difficult because of the reverse curves round the island platforms at almost every station. While most of the stations would have been closed, the standard design had access from a road passing over or under and those bridges were also built to a wide track spacing and might have had to be replaced to improve the alignment.
     
  10. Cricketer8for9

    Cricketer8for9 Member

    Messages:
    170
    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Were the trains well-used in the late 50s and 60s?
     
  11. LNW-GW Joint

    LNW-GW Joint Veteran Member

    Messages:
    13,670
    Joined:
    22 Feb 2011
    Location:
    Mold, Clwyd
    The GC was not "very modern" by the 1960s.
    It had hardly been touched since the route was opened, and BR had no wish to spend money on it (as well as on the WCML/MLL).
    It was also a low-capacity route, 2-track virtually throughout, and had to share tracks with the Met at the London end.
    All the other routes had by then much quadruple track, and the WCML was being electrified.
    It also had poor links to its competitor railways, notably at Rugby and Leicester.
    A direct link with the WCML at Rugby, and better links in London, might have given it a freight role long term.

    Around 1960 it had 3-4 Manchester-Marylebone services (with portions from Liverpool), but was boosted by diversion of services off the WCML while it was being electrified.
    For about 5 years, it carried a non-stop sleeper from Manchester to Marylebone over the whole route (I used it once).
    All that traffic vanished once the wires reached Euston.
     
  12. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

    Messages:
    4,482
    Joined:
    22 Apr 2010
    Arguably, the GC route was at least as good as the MR route - north of Leicester or Nottingham. If it still existed, it could have provided a useful commuter service serving intermediate towns ** between Sheffield and Nottingham. (** e.g. Staveley, Hucknall, Bulwell)

    Unfortunately, the area between Sheffield & Nottingham was badly affected by coal mining subsidence, services suffered numerous "temporary" speed limits, and were both slow and infrequent - indeed they started to be run down even before Beeching. Something of a lost opportunity in my opinion, but at that time, there was no interest in improving such services. (And the MR Sheffield - Nottingham local services were equally sparse and unattractive, and ceased as part of the Marples-Beeching closures.

    South of Leicester was different - it served few important intermediate places that were not better served by other routes, and regrettably was expendable. A pity, though, that the LMS route between Leicester & Rugby had already been closed.
     
  13. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

    Messages:
    17,020
    Joined:
    21 Apr 2013
    Location:
    Nottingham
    Shorter-distance commuting into Nottingham, such as from Bulwell, was largely lost to tram competition (the first time round) in the early 20th century. The likes of Hucknall and Staveley were mining towns and largely self-contained with relatively little travel in or out, and certainly no significant commuter flow into Nottingham when the GC was closed. Any commuters able to afford the time and money to travel that distance at that time would have been very affluent and wanting to live somewhere a lot more leafy, which was available in plenty much closer to the city.

    North of Nottingham the GC was even more closely duplicated by the Midland and in places also by the GN. The reason to keep the Midland and close the others was the same as further south - it had better links to the places that still needed rail connections. But in this area it was all about accessing the collieries and passenger service ceased except for infrequent long-distance trains on the Erewash Valley. In the changed circumstances of the 1980s the collieries were closing, people were looking for jobs and the city needed more workforce. It was then relatively easy to re-open one short section of (mostly) the Midland Leen Valley route to create the Robin Hood Line for commuters. But if the GC had survived instead of the Midland but history otherwise played out as it did, then reopening to passengers would have been more difficult because the shopping centre would still have replaced Victoria station, just with two through lines in the basement.
     
  14. swt_passenger

    swt_passenger Veteran Member

    Messages:
    21,430
    Joined:
    7 Apr 2010
    You’re right, and I’m sure there have been earlier threads debunking this regularly repeated railway myth, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen drawings somewhere proving it isn’t actually “European” at all...

    Here’s a discussion from 2018:
    https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/gcr-loading-gauge.167557/
     
  15. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

    Messages:
    2,297
    Joined:
    13 Sep 2015
    Location:
    Reading
    No. It was a slow backwater even then.
     
  16. Cricketer8for9

    Cricketer8for9 Member

    Messages:
    170
    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Which rather answers the original question.

    And thanks for the replies to my question.
     
  17. Dr_Paul

    Dr_Paul Member

    Messages:
    716
    Joined:
    3 Sep 2013
    There might also be the question of freight facilities in London and connections with routes to the docks, both of which seem to have been better with the Midland than the Great Central.
     
  18. RT4038

    RT4038 Member

    Messages:
    591
    Joined:
    22 Feb 2014
    When Nationalisation came it was curtains for the GC passenger service. What had been a competing operation from Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Loughborough, Leicester and Rugby to London (LNER vs. LMS) was now under common ownership, and it made sense to concentrate the available traffic. In every case, for various reasons as outlined in previous posts (mileage, interconnection, entry into London, London terminus itself), this was the ex LMS line rather than the GC.
     
  19. RLBH

    RLBH Member

    Messages:
    879
    Joined:
    17 May 2018
    This website proves the point quite comprehensively:
    http://www.devboats.co.uk/gwdrawings/loadinggauges.php

    Not only was the GCR not to Berne gauge, or an earlier approximation thereto, it isn't even especially large for a British loading gauge.

    There is an argument that the GCR's extensive use of island platforms may have been intended to allow relatively easy regauging by slewing the lines. But, as far as I know, there's no actual evidence for this, just conjecture.

    Of far more concern for this theory is the fact that the loading gauges on the South Eastern and Metropolitan railways are definitely far short of Berne gauge. This makes the theory of Watkin's master plan rather less than credible.
     

Share This Page