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The Railway Closure Controversy
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The Railway Closure Controversy

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Nationalised railways had a bad image - often based on anecdote: "Don't bother me with the facts, my mind is made up". In contrast, is the stoical toleration of increased complaints to private sector railways and punctuality statistics below 100%. despite missing advertised calls, breaking connections and excluding delays due to "circumstances beyond our control", an excuse reserved for the private sector. From Day One, managers of nationalised railways were besieged with criticism and advice.

Closures attracted a disproportionate share of criticism and unqualified advice, which was flawed and usually came alter announcement of a closure proposal. Criticism bordered on paranoia. Attempts to rid railways of dead wood were delayed and undermined by objectors - any of whom were not users - and by public inquiries and ministerial decision. In all cases not one company. one person nor one local authority guaranteed to make increased use of a threatened line. There were hints that a reduction of charges may lead to more traffic. However, they were losing money at existing charges which were below the rate of inflation. No one offered to back their theories with money. All wanted uneconomic lines to remain open as a standby to use when other transport failed, even when no subsidy would be paid. Ironically, agriculture in all these areas, and industry in some, received Government subsidies ! Councils were prepared to fund amateurs using free labour, to "re-open" a line which would not provide a full service.

Closures are examined from a new perspective. New details are revealed of the work of Transport Users Consultative Committees, which were, often, wrongly perceived as having a judicial standing on closures. The main planks of objection are enumerated, and the relevance and practicality of proposed alternatives considered.

Ten cases which hit the headlines are examined. Brief reviews of their histories show that they struggled to compete with the horse. They varied in length from five to 180 miles: Alston branch. "Bluebell line", Brightlingsea branch. Isle of Wight railways, Princetown branch, Midland & Great Northern line, Potteries Loop line, Somerset & Dorset line, Stainmore & Eden Valley lines and Westerham branch. Objectors did not deny that the lines were losing money. and would continue to do so. even if amateur theories were implemented. Invariably, they claimed that modernisation would reduce losses, which was not synonymous with viability, but they ignored the cost and sourcing of new capital. External experts were quoted. some, anonymously. Their theories are examined, evaluated and costed with devastating results. Wisely, most critics and self appointed advisors confined "plans" to vague generalisations. and avoided costing investment and forecasting a return on capital.

The public, who believed that the generous handouts to the new boys would preserve the rail network at its existing level, are now learning that closures are possible.

Softback, 240 pages

Condition: Good/Very Good

ISBN: 9780952103943

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Updated: 2 April 2024