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Author Topic: Ilfracombe Branch  (Read 6818 times)
Witham Bobby
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« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2019, 02:31:19 pm »

A lot of either the Ministry of Transport or BR files on line closures are held at the National Archives in Kew.  I've gone through many for Devon & Cornwall lines.  One of the things I find most fascinating are the passenger counts.  Here are the ones for Ilfracombe - sadly they illustrate all too well why the line was closed.

Many of us involved with, or watching, the closures of the later 1960s and 70s were very sceptical about the way that the timetables were rigged to run the same costly service and at the same time be less attractive - missed connections, inconveniently timed first or last trains and all.  And many we were deeply suspicious of the way the accounting for ticket revenues and operating costs was done.  Central costs, although not reduced by closure of a station or branch, were applied to the cost of running the station or branch.  Maintenance costs were notional, and didn't represent the actual amount spent (which was often little or none)  Tickets sold on-the-train where branch line booking offices had shut, were attributed to the station where the conductor handed in the takings, not to the branch line that the train had run over.  A gigantic fiddle.

When closures were proposed, resultant Public Enquiries would fail to take into account costs such as the increased traffic congestion on the roads, or indeed the unsuitability of the roads to take extra traffic.

I can think of the Stratford to Tyseley route that was saved by court order.  But can't think of another route that was saved, once the powers-that-be had decided it should close
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2019, 08:29:25 pm »

Quote from: Witham Bobby
Tickets sold on-the-train where branch line booking offices had shut, were attributed to the station where the conductor handed in the takings, not to the branch line that the train had run over.  A gigantic fiddle.

I don't think that is strictly correct.

A system of revenue apportionment was used to "establish" the revenue from the branch. To take as an an example the Calne branch, it was naively thought that passengers would meekly make their way to the nearest still-open station (in that case Chippenham) and take the train from there. So the only income that was taken into account was for the element of any journeys puely within the Calne to Chippenham section, and all revenue for onward destinations (eg Bath Bristol London wherever) ws counted as main line income that would still be received. Daft in the extreme with the benefit of hindsight, and indeed daft in the extreme back then, but that was what was done.

I would imagine that a similar situation existed Ilfracombe to Barnstaple, with fares for the portions of journeys beyond Barnstaple being counted as retained income.

Quote from: Witham Bobby
When closures were proposed, resultant Public Enquiries would fail to take into account costs such as the increased traffic congestion on the roads, or indeed the unsuitability of the roads to take extra traffic.

This was not within the terms of reference for the hearings, which were only allowed to examine cases of hardship, a term that was never really satisfactorily defined at the time. It is actually not the case that the suitability of roads was not taken into account - the unsuitability of roads in the areas to take additional traffic saved the rump IOW line Ryde to Shanklin, St Erth to St Ives and Maiden Newton to Bridport (although that one did succumb some 12 years later). And these are just the ones I know about - there will be others in other parts of the UK
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Umberleigh
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« Reply #17 on: September 23, 2019, 07:35:06 pm »

The Gunnislake branch avoided Beeching due to the poor road connections to Plymouth for commuters from the peninsular along which the route runs. The Looe branch was reprieved at the last moment due to Barbara Castle having a soft spot for it 9or so Iíve heard!.

My understanding is that some viable branch lines were closed because a viaduct or tunnel needed costly repair that could not be justified at that time for the levels of traffic. As has been mentioned on here before, the entire network north of Crowley bridge (Torrington, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Barnstaple) was almost lost in the Beeching days due to the condition of the Exe bridges at Cowley. Fortunately it was considered politically unacceptable for North Devon to become cut off from the rail network entirely.
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grahame
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« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2019, 08:24:06 pm »

My understanding is that some viable branch lines were closed because a viaduct or tunnel needed costly repair that could not be justified at that time for the levels of traffic.

I think that's been the case the world over ... I wonder if we're ever going to see trains to Roscoff again, and here's an example I came across a few days ago, where a swing bridge control system burn out and with it the Portland (Maine) to Montreal passenger train service ceased.    Callendar to Crainlarich - scheduled for closure, but closed early because of a rockfall ...

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RichardB
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« Reply #19 on: September 23, 2019, 09:46:54 pm »

The Gunnislake branch avoided Beeching due to the poor road connections to Plymouth for commuters from the peninsular along which the route runs. The Looe branch was reprieved at the last moment due to Barbara Castle having a soft spot for it 9or so Iíve heard!.

Re Gunnislake, even though it was listed for closure in the Beeching report, it was never actually put up for closure for just the reason you say. 

Re Looe, it was reprieved on the same day as St Ives (and when Padstow's closure was agreed) - 20 September 66.  They were three of 29 decisions announced on that day and I found the Ministry of Transport press release at the National Archives (I think it was in the MoT Looe closure file).  This is what Minister Barbara Castle said in the release -

"I have refused to close the branch lines serving St Ives and Looe in Cornwall.  In spite of the financial saving to the railways, it just wouldn't have made sense in the wider context to have transferred heavy holiday traffic on to roads which couldn't cope with it.  Nor would extensive and expensive road improvements have been the answer.  At St Ives, these would have involved destroying the whole character of the town.  At Looe, they could not have avoided long delays in the holiday season.  It would be the economics of bedlam to spend vast sums only to create greater inconvenience."

Re the Padstow line, the release says "Compared to St Ives and Looe, the rail-borne holiday traffic is comparatively light.  New bus services will be introduced to meet the needs of holiday-makers, schoolchildren and the small number of regular travellers."
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RichardB
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« Reply #20 on: September 23, 2019, 09:53:05 pm »

I was able to spend a day at the National Archives last Friday.  I was mainly trying to hunt down the 1910 pooling agreement between the GWR and LSWR covering their routes to and within Devon & Cornwall, unsuccessfully as it happens - though I did find a lot of letters and documentation around it.  I also looked at the Bridport closure files and saw how, sadly, usage fell away in the early 70s, leading to its closure after an initial reprieve (as noted above).

Always good to visit and they have an excellent Cold War exhibition on until 9 November. 

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Umberleigh
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« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2019, 06:18:47 pm »

Thanks for the interesting snippets.

There is a photo to be found on the internet of a GWR Mogul and passenger train approaching Wiveliscombe station. On the road in the foreground is a convoy of 1950s (or early 60s) family cars, luggage strapped to their rooves, and all headed North for the moor or the coast. I bet the kids in those family cars were excited to see the train again, but alas now from the Ďcomfortí of the family car. For me, born in 1968,  it serves as a reminder why so many branch lines were doomed once Britons took to the roads with such enthusiasm.
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