LETTER: Just to re-affirm it was not Beeching
If I may be permitted to reply to Mr Wright’s letter? He seems to have missed my point.
I never questioned the importance of the railway, it was a very valuable link for the Victorians and a fantastic way for people to move about the country after horse and carts.
But it never made a profit, yes they moved local produce, the fruit season only lasted two months, profit from that would hardly sustain a business for long. The majority of coal that was handled was for railway consumption itself.
After WW2 passenger numbers fell like a lead balloon as people found the car a more convenient affording the luxury of door to door travel, in all weathers.
Yes, Wisbech was an important town and one of the richest. It’s recorded in many historical accounts the arrival of the railway to Wisbech was the start of it’s economic decline.
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At the end of the war all four railway companies were bankrupt. So nationalisation in 1945 seemed the answer to everyone’s prayers.
The idea was British Rail along with other nationalised industries would provide a cheap service and operating losses were tolerated.
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Every successive Government ran it as a service, because making it profitable was impossible. In 1960 British Rail had a deficit of £500 million.
The Road Haulage Act of 1953 saw the return of long distance goods to private hauliers. This lead to the demise of railway freight. Even to this day rail freight receipts contribute only about eight per cent to railway revenue.
I don’t quite see Mr Wright’s argument on policing accidents and road transport costs.
The railway also has accidents. Remember the terrible tragedy’s of Hatfield and Potters Bar in recent times? Did they not use police, fire brigade and ambulances? There’s also the 300+ railway associated deaths each year that also consume time and costs to our emergency services. Road drivers contribute to accident costs by raised insurances. The roads are paid for through the “road fund licence” were all this tax to go directly to roads we would be driving on multi carriageways with billiard table surfaces. But the railway copes with its subsidies, which in 2014/15 were in the region of £5 billion. I’m aware of Mr Wright’s extensive railway knowledge and I fully respect his opinion, but my original point was that Dr Beeching did not close the Wisbech to March railway line. Bad, or no profits did.