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Author Topic: Calne branch - past, present, future  (Read 6321 times)
Red Squirrel
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« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2019, 10:52:04 pm »

I have felt for a long time and still do, that in this sort of context, the name "Beeching" would be more appropriately replaced by "Marples".

Quite so - but you should add 'Castle', who (I think I am right in saying) closed more route miles than the previous government despite an election pledge to stop the closures...
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« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2019, 11:57:30 pm »

I have felt for a long time and still do, that in this sort of context, the name "Beeching" would be more appropriately replaced by "Marples".

Quite so - but you should add 'Castle', who (I think I am right in saying) closed more route miles than the previous government despite an election pledge to stop the closures...

Certainly the pledge was broken and Barbara Castle may have some blame to share (although I sense the hand of Wilson there more).  In fairness though, Barbara Castle was a key figure in arresting (and to some degree starting the reversal of) the
advanced decline of our canal network just before it might have been too late to do anything.
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« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2019, 08:20:04 am »

The decline of the canal network is a different story though. I wouldn't like to guess what proportion of all canals survive but the arrest/reversal of that decline was a transformation, in that virtually none of them now serve a transport function. They're more akin to heritage railways where people go for days out with steam trains than the rail or road network. I don't know much about canal history but I guess that decline started with the coming of the railways in the mid-nineteenth century and was pretty much complete by the 1920s. Perhaps more to the point, I've no idea when the transformation to a leisure destination started or what role in it was played by Castle (or Wilson or Marples or Beeching or... )
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2019, 10:28:20 am »

OK - It almost certainly won't happen but

1. Here's the end of the old trackbed path. I'm standing on it, back to Chippenham looking at the new construction on the site of Calne Station. The path leads off down the hill across fields to the river / the slope is also fields and I wonder about the track in the approach being moved no more than a few yards north and brought it slightly lower to terminate near where the Calne branch of the Wilt and Berks canal terminated

2. Until a few years back, the 233 Bath to Chippenham bus carried on through to Calne but the Chippenham to Calne section was removed as the 55 Chippenham to Swindon via Calne grew.   I can't help feeling there was precious little through traffic;  an earlier post suggested that transferring to the train for Calne to Bath journeys would be unlikely - yes, but bear in mind that the bus (at least now) from Chippenham to Bath takes an hour longer than the train. 

Dealing with (2) first, you are probably correct that in later days there would have been little through bus traffic between Calne and Bath. The difference between now and then is that now the buses (55 and X31) both stop in the railway station forecourt. In the olden days I speak of the closest that Bath-bouns buses got would have been Bath Road/ Town Bridge. I can't remember where the stop was in the days when buses coming from the Bus Station came down the High Street and turned left into Bath Road after crossing the Town Bridge, but the closest they would have got to the railway station is still 0.3 miles away with Station Hill to walk up or down in between.

Moving on (or back!) to (1), whilst I have already said I can't see the branch reopening, there might be a glimmer of hope. There is a planning application which I think has now been approved for getting on for 700 houses and employment areas to the north and east of Chippenham. This will involve bridging the GWR main line to the north east of the town. The Calne branch trackbed has been protected in the plans for this development, but it does of course go straight through the middle of most of it. And of course right at this moment there are no bus services there because the only occupants are a couple of farmhouses and a lot of cattle. Perhaps a case could be made for reinstatement on those grounds?

All that said, the problem of where you could put a station in Calne wouldn't easily go away. If you only needed a 14-foot strip of land to lay a single line on and build a platform that would be one thing, but you also have to take into account access roads and parking. Something would have to go in the centre of Calne to make room, and it wouldn't be:

Any of Castle Park
Anything that would destroy or cover the mill race alongside the A4.

You could possibly knock the Fire Station down (ironic because it was the Fire Station that was the first new building on the old station site!) and provide an access road, car parking and a station there, but the site would still be very restricted. That said, you'd probably be able to provide a car park the size of the one at Cam & Dursley.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2019, 10:40:41 am »

Quote from: Red Squirrel
Quote from: johnneyw
I have felt for a long time and still do, that in this sort of context, the name "Beeching" would be more appropriately replaced by "Marples".
Quite so - but you should add 'Castle', who (I think I am right in saying) closed more route miles than the previous government despite an election pledge to stop the closures...

Every one of you is right but it really has to be looked at in the context of the day. That was that the railways were losing money hand over fist and something had to be done about iy PDQ.

And all politicians of all parties can have whatever election manifesto pledges they like, but sometimes those pledges get overtaken by events (see Lib Dems and tuition fees for a recent example...). When they get into power and actually see the books - well, as Dennis Healy used to say - "When you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow..."

There were certainly some lines that evidence suggests may not have needed to close - the Calne branch could be one and Kemble to Cirencester could be another locally. But whilst I don't recall seeing empty trains on the Calne branch I do remember instances elsewhere of being the only person on a train except the crew, and having a coach to myself in some of the "busier" S&D services.

Reverse Beeching by all means, but only where it is sensible to do so.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #20 on: July 22, 2019, 11:08:06 am »

Reverse Beeching by all means, but only where it is sensible to do so.

I think we'd all agree with that view. We might start to differ when asked to define 'sensible', though.

The post Beeching railway is shot through with anachronisms, probably mostly due to the fact that the process his report started was not seen through to completion. As an example, the Exeter-Barnstaple service stops at (or within a stiff walk of) a string of villages and hamlets, whilst to the east Exeter-Taunton services speed past Collumpton and Wellington. We all understand the reasons for this, but perhaps it is worth taking a couple of steps back and seeing it for what it is: ludicrous.

My question is: should any decent-sized community (and we can argue about what constitutes decent-sized!) be connected to the rail network by right? If we decide it should, then perhaps the 50Bn currently earmarked for road schemes could be reallocated to provide new links (such as to Calne) and capacity (such as would be needed for Wellington). If we decide it shouldn't, then let's stop pretending we care about runaway climate change or re-balancing the rural economy.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #21 on: July 22, 2019, 02:45:08 pm »

Quote from: Red Squirrel
Quote from: Robin Summerhill
Reverse Beeching by all means, but only where it is sensible to do so.

I think we'd all agree with that view. We might start to differ when asked to define 'sensible', though.

My question is: should any decent-sized community (and we can argue about what constitutes decent-sized!) be connected to the rail network by right?

As you say, defining "sensible" could be a problem!

Take, for example, Norton Radstock, a community of some 21,325 souls in the 2001 census. If you wanted to reconnect the area to the rail passenger network you would have a huge potential practical problem. Most people in the area who work away from it will be going to Bath or Bristol, and could get there by a direct train service until 1966 and 1959 respectively. The line to Bristol via Pensford has largely vanished from the landscape (Pensford viaduct being the obvious exception) and the line to Bath didn't serve the largest community along the way (Peasdown St John) and that community has got far larger since 1966. Furthermore, at the Bath end it terminated in a station that is now predominantly Sainsbury's car park, even if the building itself is still there. Some means would have to be found to connect the former S&D route to the GWR, either by knocking half of Oldfield Park down or by building a steeply-graded and heavily curved chicane between Midford and Pensford.

And yes I've deliberately left the obvious until last!

There is much more chance of reopening a railway from Radstock to Frome although even there something would have to be bulldozed at Frome to reinstate the north to west chord (unless you envisage an Ebbw Junction type arrangement where trains from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff go to Newport but don't actually stop there).

The average rail journey transit time from Frome to Bath is around 40 minutes. Be generous and only add on 15 minutes for the Radstock to Frome section and you are up to 55 minutes to an hour. Add another 15-20 minutes to and from Bristol depending on stops. The bus from Radstock to Bath takes 28 minutes and one to Bristol takes about 80 minutes. The only rail commuters to Bath and Bristol would be diehard railway enthusiasts - everybody else would drive or take the bus.

However, about 3 years ago Frome minibuses had me grace them with my presence on their mid-day service from Frome to Midsomer Norton. There were three of us on that bus, all with OAP bus passes, and the other two got off at the former pit village next to Kilmersdon colliery. It left Radstock for Midsomer Norton empty and I happened to see it coming back about an hour later. Empty again. With an off peak demand like that Norton Radstock hasn't got a cat in hell's chance of getting its rail service back, even if over 20,000 people live there.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #22 on: July 22, 2019, 04:18:16 pm »

Take, for example, Norton Radstock, a community of some 21,325 souls in the 2001 census. If you wanted to reconnect the area to the rail passenger network you would have a huge potential practical problem.

Hard cases make bad law - but OK, let's look at Norton Radstock!

As the crow flies, it's 20km south of Bristol and 11km south of Bath. There is an existing freight line to Frome which, whilst potentially providing a useful connection to the Reading - Taunton Line, offers little benefit to anyone wanting to get to Bristol or Bath.

So how would you serve Norton Radstock? The S&D line provides the basis of a route to Bath, though as you say things would become rather difficult at the Bath end. There is a potential for connecting with the Camerton branch at Midford though, which provides a route through to Bath via Dundas. This route passes within 1.3km of Peasedown; not ideal but better than nothing. This has been discussed before: http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=20967.msg257150#msg257150

The North Somerset line to Bristol is obstructed in places, but again could form the basis of a useful link.

I don't think you can really compare potential usage levels with those of fifty or more years ago. Any new lines would use clean, fast, modern trains, and would show a commitment to the communities they serve. They would bear no comparison with the slow and dirty steam passenger trains that slotted between crawling freight trains in times almost out of memory.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #23 on: July 22, 2019, 08:13:09 pm »

Quote from: Red Squirrel
I don't think you can really compare potential usage levels with those of fifty or more years ago. Any new lines would use clean, fast, modern trains, and would show a commitment to the communities they serve. They would bear no comparison with the slow and dirty steam passenger trains that slotted between crawling freight trains in times almost out of memory.

I agree with the sentiment but in my post this morning I mentioned being the only person on a train except for the crew (that was between Highbridge and Evercreech), and having a coach to myself in "busier" S&D trains (that was on the main line). I was not suggesting that this was indicative of what present-day traffic levels on those lines would be (although it might be close to it in the case of Highbridge to Evercreech!) but to show that basket cases like these would not have survived long whatever the political and financial situation in the 1960s. It is difficult to argue an "essential public service" case when nobody wants to use the" essential public service" in question!

On the other hand I cited the Calne branch and the Kemble to Cirencester branch and also, thinking about it now, I will add the Chalford to Stroud and Gloucester auto-trains, as services that always appeared to me to be well-patronised and perhaps should not have been axed by the Good Doctor.

In my post earlier this afternoon I mentioned loadings on a bus between Frome and Radstock from 3 years ago. If, and I admit it's a big if, that is representative of the off-peak loadings that a reinstated train service would attract, then quite simply that reinstated train service isn't going to happen.
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grahame
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« Reply #24 on: July 23, 2019, 07:49:32 am »

We seem to have widened from Calne!

We can learn a lot from history and historic used - but we must plan for current and future use.  How far into the future, and whether future planning should take the wider view of regional spatial strategies.

Back in 2006 I wrote a proposal for Bent (Bratton and Edington New Town) - see [[here]] - "The population of the new town will rise to approximately 30,000 by 2026, so making it comparable in size with Trowbridge today."   

Now - had that tongue in cheek proposal come to pass, a railway station on the Berks and Hants at Edington - on the 22 miles from Pewsey to Westbury that has no stations at all at present - would make huge sense.   Re-opening Edington station without Bent or other development won't be best use of funds, though.   And with Bent, the station should be opened (should it not?) as people start to move in so that there's a quick uptake of public transport in the new town.   Perhaps it should open even as construction starts so that the teams building the place can get there!

OK - at present the directions that people from Norton Radstock want to travel are north north east to Bath, or north west to Bristol.  And the one remaining ("mothballed") rail line runs the opposite way - south south east to pass through Frome (though not through Frome station) and to Westbury.  Journey times, I concur, via this route to Bath and Bristol would be substantial. But then is Bath and / or Bristol the natural destination in a generation's time?   

Which came first - the chicken or the egg?  The Railway or the housing?  Current thinking seems like it's "oops - big place, no trains" - the housing has come first.  But look at the two in parallel.  Look at the suggestion of Ashton Park station (have you come across that one? It's in the LEP report). At "silly" ideas like Bent ... at Devizes Parkway and perhaps development around that rather like has happened around Bristol Parkway.  And do you end up suggesting that the Paddington to Bedwyn service should extend beyond the village of Bedwyn to the substantial town of Norton Radstock, with intermediate calls at Pewsey, Devizes Parkway, Bent, Westbury, Frome (Cheese and Grain) and Kilmersdon.  Fanciful? Maybe, but history shows us the model of the Metropolitan line out from London where Rayners Lane and stations to Uxbridge (and others) started as country halts ...
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« Reply #25 on: July 23, 2019, 10:44:19 pm »

I was always lead to believe the Calne branch was the prime loss maker of all Western branch lines.

Has anyone else heard or read this?
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grahame
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« Reply #26 on: July 24, 2019, 05:59:19 am »

I was always lead to believe the Calne branch was the prime loss maker of all Western branch lines.

Has anyone else heard or read this?

Pages 100 and 101 of the Beeching Report is one of 10 examples of financial implications. For Western, just two (Yatton to Clevedon and Chippenham to Calne) are detailed.  The net financial saving of the Calne branch closure was evaluated as being higher than the financial saving by a closure of Yatton to Clevedon.

http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/BRB_Beech001a.pdf


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« Reply #27 on: July 24, 2019, 06:53:28 am »

The examples in the report had selected 10 lines one of which was Chippenham - Calne. There were actually over 300 proposed for closure or removal of local services - see http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/21945
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #28 on: July 24, 2019, 08:49:39 pm »

I was always lead to believe the Calne branch was the prime loss maker of all Western branch lines.

Has anyone else heard or read this?

Pages 100 and 101 of the Beeching Report is one of 10 examples of financial implications. For Western, just two (Yatton to Clevedon and Chippenham to Calne) are detailed.  The net financial saving of the Calne branch closure was evaluated as being higher than the financial saving by a closure of Yatton to Clevedon.

http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/BRB_Beech001a.pdf




This has been on my "to do" list since it was posted yesterday morning  Grin

Its been so long since I read the Beeching Report I forgot that those lines were detailed in that way. If you are reading the .pdf of the report that is available free online, this table is all on page 100.

You must always be careful with statistics because they often show what the report's author want them to show, and not the truth or anything like it. Anyone who just goes to the "bottom line" (ie the far right hand column in this case) will think: "I see we've got a couple of basket cases here. We can save 24k and 17.9k respectively by closing the Calne and Clevedon branches"

But when you look more closely at the figures that make up those tables a completely different picture emerges. I have tabulated the two horizontal lines in the report into vertical columns to help illustrate what was going on:

Seq   Item                           Chippenham-Calne   Yatton-Clevedon
1   Total earnings                         4,700             6,100
2   Expected to be lost                 4,700             6,100
3   Contributory revenue             56,900                22,000
4   Expected to be lost                 5,700             1,100
5   Expected total revenue loss   10,400             7,200
   Expenses      
6   Movement                               15,500            11,500
7   Terminals                                 8,900             5,600
8   PW and signalling                   10,000             8,000
         
         
9   Costs of running the branch   34,400             25,100
10   Revenue we expect to lose           10,400              7,200
11   Therefore cost savings              -24,000   -17,900
         
12   Income from the branch            61,600             28,100
13   Costs of running the branch   34,400             25,100
14   Profitability of branch                   27,200             3,000
Item 1, total earning, is not the total takings on either branch. You need to include item 3, contributory revenue as well. These are the amounts that were taken on the branch for tickets beyond Chippenham, and Yatton respectively which, it was thought, would still come to the railways after closure because passengers would meekly and obediently get themsel;ves to Chippenham or Yatton and take the train from there. So the true incomes from the two branches, there in the table for all to see but not exactly being highlighted, are as shown in line 12 - Income from the branch - 61,600 in the case of Calne and 28,100 for Clevedon. These are at 1963, if not 1961, prices, and would be considered very healthy income streams today.

Now the wise accountants of the time knew that they would lose some revenue, so they put estimates on it. All the income shown in line 1 as "total earnings" would be lost (this of course stands to reason because that income only applies to journeys wholly within the branches and that would obviously be going if they closed), and they also allowed for some loss of "contributory revenue" as well. They allowed roughly 10% in the case of Calne and 5% in the case of Clevedon. Or in other words, they thought that they could close the lines and still retain 90% or 95% of the income from them. I would say a bit more about this but you would get bored reading a War & Peace sized epic so I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions...

So what the table told the unwary was that the lines cost the amounts shown in line 9 to run, and the expected losses of revenue were as shown in line 10, so line 11 told them how much they would save if they closed the lines in question.

The reality of what was actually going on is shown in lines 12, 13 and 14. The conclusion is that no matter how the figures were spun, the WR closed two profitable branches, and Calne was far more profitable than Yatton to Clevedon.

As they say "there are lies, damned lies and statistics." And from today we can probably add "and The Prime Minister" to that saying  Wink



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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #29 on: July 26, 2019, 09:08:08 pm »

As regards the Beeching closures, of which Calne was but one, it might be interesting to be reminded of how little opposition was actually heard, let alone listened to, at the hearings that were held into each case.

Here is a link to a copy of a letter that appeared in the Bath Evening Chronicle in May 1964: https://www.flickr.com/photos/byjr/8711128808/ (click on the photo to enlarge)

Nobody was allowed to challenge or query the railway's figures that "supported" the closures. The hearings only took representations on the grounds of "hardship" and, as will be seen from the letter, the definition of "hardship" was made deliberately hard to prove.

Personally I think it also shows how far into the clouds the heads of senior railway managers were if they really thought that their "contribtory revenue" would still be received after the closures. Others may of course draw different conclusions Smiley
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