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What if Woodhead hadn't closed?


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Bacon Factory Curve is one of those key new chords that in this case gets traffic from Felixstowe to March. Werrington gets it on to Doncaster in a roundabout way avoiding the ECML, now how to get it across the Pennines from Doncaster without getting stuck behind a pacer...

 

A new chord from the Goblin to Northumberland Park and reinstating the 4-track West Anglia (not sure that the existing Chord to Seven Sisters will be much use) will provide a connection from Thamesport and HS1 via LTS to March that will be electric as far as Ely so scope for a bit of infill wiring Ely to Peterborough to make a big improvement.

 

A few little things can make it all work.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Suzie said:

now how to get it across the Pennines from Doncaster without getting stuck behind a pacer...

 

This is perhaps a key issue, that the (apparent or real) default policy of giving priority to passenger services needs to be carefully considered.

Do you delay a freight train so that at the end of a restricted passenger route, it misses the only available freight path for four hours and has to lay up in a loop until the driver runs out of hours, needs to be relieved by another driver arriving by taxi and the containers eventually arrive at the port six hours late (and possibly miss the ship, so delay the goods for days or even weeks)? 

Or do you delay 20-30 heavily-subsidised passengers on the Pacer by 10-20 minutes, which means one or two of them might miss a connection and will be entitled to a £50 refund from the industry?

Which is more important? 

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11 hours ago, montyburns56 said:

 

What happened to the Fiddler's Ferry coal trains after the closure of Woodhead? Were they re-routed or did FF just get coal from another location?

 

I believe the Yorkshire traffic was rerouted via the more northerly trans-Pennine routes. Of course, three years after Woodhead closed the miners' strike occurred, and without getting political, we all know what happened to the UK coal industry after that......

 

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1 hour ago, Northmoor said:

This is perhaps a key issue, that the (apparent or real) default policy of giving priority to passenger services needs to be carefully considered.

 

An issue I sometimes dealt with when, as a Controller, part of my section (as well as the ECML, WCML and the whole of Motherwell SC's area !) was the GSW route from Kilmarnock to Gretna Jc. Sometimes, I would be 'encouraged' to loop a late running Up coal train at Thornhill, to save a few minutes delay to a passenger train behind; This I refused to do as, due to the length of the sections, the coal train would be delayed for getting on for an hour, with resulting loss of path forward, and with the tight turnrounds of recent years, quite possibly a late start for the return working too. So, apologies to the two men and a dog on Scotrail's Class 156, I decided to keep the 2000t freight trains going !

 

And I would have to say that IMHO, freights get a fairer crack of the whip nowadays than in the past; In Railtrack and Network Rail Control, we were fully aware that all customers had to be treated fairly, including to the extent for example of cancelling passenger trains to run freights during single line working after an incident. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Northmoor said:

This is perhaps a key issue, that the (apparent or real) default policy of giving priority to passenger services needs to be carefully considered.

Do you delay a freight train so that at the end of a restricted passenger route, it misses the only available freight path for four hours and has to lay up in a loop until the driver runs out of hours, needs to be relieved by another driver arriving by taxi and the containers eventually arrive at the port six hours late (and possibly miss the ship, so delay the goods for days or even weeks)? 

Or do you delay 20-30 heavily-subsidised passengers on the Pacer by 10-20 minutes, which means one or two of them might miss a connection and will be entitled to a £50 refund from the industry?

Which is more important? 

 

This is where having plenty of capacity is key, and reintroducing a dedicated, or primarily, freight route would help things so the slightly incompatible traffic flows do not intermingle so much.

 

There must be some considerable value in removing freight from the Great Eastern main line having to cross all four tracks on the flat at Stratford to get to the North London line. The amount paid out when that goes wrong must be humungus - and it does go wrong... 

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11 hours ago, phil-b259 said:

 

Well they do in a way because its not exactly cheap to insure service or run a fleet of HGVs these days and road tax for HGVs is not insignificant either. The big problem however is that those costs are spread about so can easily get overlooked - particularly as the more use the vehicle the less those fixed costs become as a percentage of the overall cost of making the road journey.

 

We see this at work with the private car too - I freely admit to driving to work because I feel I need a car anyway so the when comparing costs its fuel versus train ticket cost and fuel generally works out cheaper.

 

 

 

From every costing I've seen, for distances under 100 miles, it is cheaper to take a container by road rather than rail.  That would be inclusive of insurance/road tax etc.  I agree they are fixed costs and hence reduce as the total mileage increases hence my point that the road users are not directly charged for their infrastructure eg a toll/mile.  Insurance, road tax etc are indirect costs.  As I commented, public policy can look to skew those economics through taxation - eg IPT, fuel duty escalators etc.

 

Road tax, fuel duty etc are not hypothecated taxes.  They all go to HMT who distribute out rather than being directly allocated to the costs of roads in general or a specific road.  The contrast to say Severn River or M6 Toll is those direct charges for those assets pay for the tolling infrastructure, ongoing maintenance and the original capital cost of the scheme.  Taking your analogy of car usage, you can infer the cost/mile extra you would need to pay either through a road charge or a fuel tax to perhaps help "nudge" you towards rail.  However, I would be willing to bet that the extra charge would not be equal to the true amortised whole life cost of the road infrastructure. 

 

There is ,of course, a point around equity in whether a car is the driver (pardon the pun) of the cost of a road given the disproportionate damage a HGV does to the road surface.  If there were less HGVs, would the capital cost be as high and would you need three not two lanes etc etc?  

 

There is the further point around what is your public policy objective.  Do you want to reduce congestion and have traffic move more smoothly or reduce the amount of pollution?  Clearly there are not necessarily the same thing.  If all road vehicles were non-internal combustion engines, then we may still have congestion and hence need to build new roads.  Nevermind thinking about the consequential impacts of a decision to reduce carbon in terms of what other infrastructure is required - eg strengthening electricity distribution grids to support vehicle charging infrastructure.

 

All of this highlights the complexity in building traffic forecasting models and the types of inputs that need to be taken into account when planning long-term infrastructure with payback periods that are measured in decades not years.  Whilst I've always seen value in such analysis, I've taken them as directional and not set too much store by the actual figures.

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2 hours ago, Clearwater said:

Road tax, fuel duty etc are not hypothecated taxes.  They all go to HMT who distribute out rather than being directly allocated to the costs of roads in general or a specific road.  The contrast to say Severn River or M6 Toll is those direct charges for those assets pay for the tolling infrastructure, ongoing maintenance and the original capital cost of the scheme.  Taking your analogy of car usage, you can infer the cost/mile extra you would need to pay either through a road charge or a fuel tax to perhaps help "nudge" you towards rail.  However, I would be willing to bet that the extra charge would not be equal to the true amortised whole life cost of the road infrastructure.

 

I'm pretty sure it wouldn't.

 

This is why I feel the UK made a fundamentally flawed decision to adopt the 'free motorway' model back in the late 1950s. Road tolls, as with the cost of fuel, are far more of 'in your face' when it comes to the perceived cost of making road journeys and can easily be factored into the cost of a single journey (unlike say insurance the cost of which per journey will vary depending on how many journeys you make over the 12 months the policy lasts).

 

Its too late to change course now I hasten to add, not just because of voter hostility to the concept of paying for something that they perceive to have been 'free' since introduction, but also because the highway network has been developed to funnel* local traffic onto motorways rather than develop localised by-passes thus making things worse if traffic were to try and avoid paying tolls by reverting to going through built up areas.

 

 

 

*It is very evident from looking at maps of France say that many villages, towns and indeed some cities have high quality by-passes as well as a tolled motorway by-pass. Road tolls are thus far more 'saleable' to the public because a reasonable alternative exists. Of course the side benefit of this policy is also the 'not putting all your eggs in one basket' scenario  providing more resilience if things go wrong (i.e. motorway needing to be shut because of an accident or for roadworks) as well as trying to prevent motorways being overloaded at rush hours by short distance junction hoppers.

 

 

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On 07/07/2020 at 21:04, TheSignalEngineer said:

I don't know about the years immediarely after closure of Woodhead but from 1995 coal was mainly imported through Liverpool's Gladstone Dock terminal I believe. 

Re-routed via Standedge, using class 56s. There are stories of the westbound MGR trains struggling  up the gradient past Huddersfield.

 

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On 13/05/2017 at 09:52, cheesysmith said:

You could actually put a link in from nunnery curve to the site of Victoria station to avoid reversal, but it would require the demolition of the parkway bridge over it as the pillars would be in the way. Then you would have the problem that the north exit from midland is near to capacity already. There has been calls for a more frequent passinger trains between Sheffield and Manchester but the hope valley line is near to capacity already, with most of the gaps reserved for freight paths. If you could solve these problems the woodhead line would give you at least a 20 min time saving. Missing out Stockport would not be a big problem, as the main use is for changing trains there instead of Manchester.

 

If you could reopen the line with direct access to midland, with 100mph running, you could have a 30 to 35 min journey time and a service of 2 trains hour man to notts, man to hunberside, and there has been proposals for a man to derby service.

 

Some of these ex GC lines could have a much better service with minimal costs, but they seem to be ignored and frozen in the state they were in 1980. The line from Sheffield to Lincoln and via brig to barnetby is a 60mph railway so the passinger trains could fit in between the coal trains, which have now gone. 158s used on these services and moving some signals would enable big time savings. It might even make a Lincoln to man service possible.

 

Ther is scope for improving train services, and re opening the woodhead would bring big savings in time as well as more capacity. The problem is that the railways we have now have not looked at any improvements and winning more traffic or cutting journey times since the tilting trains came to the WCML. It is all about managing the status quo and keeping things as is. You can have new trains, but they will be running to old times and any journey time cuts will be used as padding to make the on time figures better.

BR Proposed that plan before Parkway was built around the late 60s, but it was dropped as the Hope Valley was deemed the prefered route.   If the Route had been kept intact with say one overgrown track remaining there would be in the current climate a good chance of trains to Manchester Airport via Barnsley I think.

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I see a lot of good arguments on keeping Woodhead open truncated by the word "British Rail". I would argue that it was the construction of British Railways in 1948 that led to the closure of Woodhead and many more routes and lines. When one operator took over there was no need of several routes to the same places, especially when public money was funding the network. 

One person said would the London route have got electrification earlier if it had stayed open. That person was told that other sectors of the line would have got it first. HOWEVER that argument was only based on the fact British Rail were operating ALL services by then. Had the LNER still be running it would have linked up all the electrification routes. It would have made certain the LMS wouldn't have got a monopoly on the rail system in the Sheffield area.

On the movement of goods. The big four companies would have integrated road and rail services together. They could easily have taken over several commercial road haulage firms. And they would have not got penalised by the Torry party and governments for operating both road and rail services. Something that BR suffered a lot from. Even today the fact that the railways are still being pestered by the government even though they are in private hands again, shows in many ways how Nationalisation was a disaster for the railways. And even if you are a hard line Labour or Union man, just think about the massive jobs lost on a service that was much safer and efficient at moving goods around than the road system.

Who pays for the fact that cars and lorries will wipe out 1000 kids every year in the UK.  Hospitals couldn't cope with the recent outbreak due to the fact that are geared up for dealing with carnage of the road network. And while your stuck in a jam on the A57 listening to the traffic update as to when you can move. someone is lying on a hospital bed fighting for the life, because an articulated lorry overturned on their car due to the high winds you get on exposed moors.

Have you seen the Amazon advert with the big warehouse and trucks? Did nobody ask why they were able to build that without a rail link? However they did get a road link to it!!

   

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Interesting argument Graham1960, but I'm not sure the Big Four, the LNER especially, could afford widespread electrification or to buy out road hauliers.  Otherwise I agree completely, Nationalisation was bad for the railways, in fact it was as widely argued against as privatisation was in the 1990s, but as with then, the government did it anyway.

 

To suggest that hospitals are geared up to deal with carnage on the roads is, I'm afraid, utter nonsense.  The KSI toll on UK roads is the lowest it has been since something like the 1930s, although there is now orders of magnitude more traffic.

Even if there are 10000 injuries from RTAs every year, it's hardly overloading A&E.  There are probably more people in A&E from DIY or sporting injuries than from road accidents.

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Of the big four only the Southern and LNER had active electrification plans in progress, so to say that the LNER would not electrify is a mistake since both the Great Eastern suburban and Woodhead main line 1500V DC schemes were in progress over a decade before nationalisation. Orders for a lot of mainline EM2s had been placed suggesting that a much larger main line program was going to happen on the LNER, the likes of which were not seen under BR(E) until 1985 after Woodhead had closed, some fifty years later.

 

That gives an example of how far back nationalisation put the railway, completely depriving it of justifiable investment. The LNER might have been short of a few bob, but it knew what it needed to do in order to become more profitable by investing wisely in efficient technology. The success of Woodhead and Shenfield would have enabled more finance to be available from investors and the LNER would have been on a roll electrifying Newcastle to York then to Kings Cross, and probably a whole lot more too during the '50s and '60s (but probably not the GC extension though).

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Suzie - You're probably right IF there hadn't been a Second World War.  It hammered all the Big Four but I've read that the LNER was left in the worst position of them all financially.  Whether long distance main line electrification would have produced the returns is more debatable; it is traffic density that justifies the wires, not speed or distance.

Nationalisation was an opportunity squandered.  The railways needed major reform (which eventually, the Beeching era reports attempted to do), with many working practices unchanged since the 18th Century and getting out of markets that the new bus and lorry businesses could better provide, not just economically but practically.  Unfortunately the new BR bought newer versions of what they already had, then immediately replaced them.  Rural branch lines which were carrying a few dozen people a day (and never would), had their 50 year old steam traction replaced with new steam traction, then barely five years later, got new DMUs and were then closed.  

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On 07/07/2020 at 20:50, montyburns56 said:

 

What happened to the Fiddler's Ferry coal trains after the closure of Woodhead? Were they re-routed or did FF just get coal from another location?

 

 After Woodhead closed some coal from Yorkshire still crossed the Pennines,, some was imported, some came down the WCML from open cast mines in SW Scotland, but most came from the local Parkside and Bickershaw collieries in Lancashire. New MGR loadiing towers with a much reduced need for sidings were built at Parkside and Bickershaw in the 80's. Three large mines were interconnected underground, Parkside Bickershaw and Golborne. Coal was stopped being wound at Golborne and it was then used for men / machinery access, being more or less central to the other two. Pairs of 20's became common and a trial was held with a 20 at each end of an MGR set operated by radio control - I don't know if this progressed or not. The Lancashire mines closed around 1992 so Fiddlers ferry coal was sourced from imports / Yorkshire etc. I don't know the mix - it varied alot.

 

Brit15

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Times have changed now, back in the 1940s diesel was not a as an attractive option as now, and electrification was the only realistic way to modernise. The benefits of electrification would be efficiency (fewer locomotives required, fewer maintainence staff, better reliability...) and post war with lots of worn out locomotives just fit for scrap it was probably the best time to make a decisive move to modernise a key route and concentrate what was left on the lesser routes.

 

With long term stability (no threat of government interfering to spoil the long term prospects) there would have been the possibility of investing for the long term to reap the eventual benefits. Doing nothing was not going to reap any short term benefits!

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10 hours ago, Suzie said:

Of the big four only the Southern and LNER had active electrification plans in progress, so to say that the LNER would not electrify is a mistake since both the Great Eastern suburban and Woodhead main line 1500V DC schemes were in progress over a decade before nationalisation. Orders for a lot of mainline EM2s had been placed suggesting that a much larger main line program was going to happen on the LNER, the likes of which were not seen under BR(E) until 1985 after Woodhead had closed, some fifty years later.

 

That gives an example of how far back nationalisation put the railway, completely depriving it of justifiable investment. The LNER might have been short of a few bob, but it knew what it needed to do in order to become more profitable by investing wisely in efficient technology. The success of Woodhead and Shenfield would have enabled more finance to be available from investors and the LNER would have been on a roll electrifying Newcastle to York then to Kings Cross, and probably a whole lot more too during the '50s and '60s (but probably not the GC extension though).

Quite!

It is not a case of the LNER being unable to afford to electrify, it is a case of them being unable to afford NOT to.

(after all, this is a "what if" discussion!)

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1 hour ago, Suzie said:

Times have changed now, back in the 1940s diesel was not a as an attractive option as now, and electrification was the only realistic way to modernise. The benefits of electrification would be efficiency (fewer locomotives required, fewer maintainence staff, better reliability...) and post war with lots of worn out locomotives just fit for scrap it was probably the best time to make a decisive move to modernise a key route and concentrate what was left on the lesser routes.

 

With long term stability (no threat of government interfering to spoil the long term prospects) there would have been the possibility of investing for the long term to reap the eventual benefits. Doing nothing was not going to reap any short term benefits!

Not forgetting as well that the SR and LNER spent several years negotiating with the NUR and ASLEF for there to be only one person in the cab of electric locomotives.

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12 hours ago, Suzie said:

Of the big four only the Southern and LNER had active electrification plans in progress, so to say that the LNER would not electrify is a mistake since both the Great Eastern suburban and Woodhead main line 1500V DC schemes were in progress over a decade before nationalisation. Orders for a lot of mainline EM2s had been placed suggesting that a much larger main line program was going to happen on the LNER, the likes of which were not seen under BR(E) until 1985 after Woodhead had closed, some fifty years later.

 

That gives an example of how far back nationalisation put the railway, completely depriving it of justifiable investment. The LNER might have been short of a few bob, but it knew what it needed to do in order to become more profitable by investing wisely in efficient technology. The success of Woodhead and Shenfield would have enabled more finance to be available from investors and the LNER would have been on a roll electrifying Newcastle to York then to Kings Cross, and probably a whole lot more too during the '50s and '60s (but probably not the GC extension though).

The LNER ordered 27 EM2 95mph Express locomotives & 80 EM1 Bo+Bo Electrics from Metro Vic, these were for the proposed Kings X-Leeds/York 1500V dc & the Great Eastern Shenfield-Norwich.

I have plans here for the extension of Reddish depot car sheds and the transfer from the Great Eastern of the DC  version of the 3 Car EMUs (506) for the proposed Guide Bridge-Manchester Central (Fallowfield Loop) suburban and Manchester to Liverpool Central.

 

It dos'nt take a genius to work out why 27 Co-Co & 80 Bo+Bo locos were ordered, the connection of the Rotherwood - Retford OR Wath to Doncaster could & should have happened.

 

If the Great Central had remained we would have had a HS2 Route, with Woodhead being the Link to Manchester.  Even today they are talking of HS3 (Birmingham - Leeds/Manchester) with the Leeds section possibly having a loop to Sheffield Victoria.  The route from there to Manchester is 'Shovel Ready' NOW.

 

Sadly the UK due to WW2 and goverment incompetence (Labour & Conservative) we could have High Speed trainf running today, not is 20 years time.

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2 hours ago, Suzie said:

Times have changed now, back in the 1940s diesel was not a as an attractive option as now, and electrification was the only realistic way to modernise. The benefits of electrification would be efficiency (fewer locomotives required, fewer maintainence staff, better reliability...) and post war with lots of worn out locomotives just fit for scrap it was probably the best time to make a decisive move to modernise a key route and concentrate what was left on the lesser routes.

 

With long term stability (no threat of government interfering to spoil the long term prospects) there would have been the possibility of investing for the long term to reap the eventual benefits. Doing nothing was not going to reap any short term benefits!

Although the LNER certainly had plans to electrify the Woodhead route whether it could have afforded it is another matter. The company was close to bankruptcy in the 1930s with talk of nationalisation being in the air. I don't believe that the LNER could have electrified the route and made the second tunnel, neither do I believe that anything but nationalisation was possible postwar.

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16 hours ago, Graham1960 said:

I see a lot of good arguments on keeping Woodhead open truncated by the word "British Rail". I would argue that it was the construction of British Railways in 1948 that led to the closure of Woodhead and many more routes and lines. When one operator took over there was no need of several routes to the same places, especially when public money was funding the network. 

One person said would the London route have got electrification earlier if it had stayed open. That person was told that other sectors of the line would have got it first. HOWEVER that argument was only based on the fact British Rail were operating ALL services by then. Had the LNER still be running it would have linked up all the electrification routes. It would have made certain the LMS wouldn't have got a monopoly on the rail system in the Sheffield area.

On the movement of goods. The big four companies would have integrated road and rail services together. They could easily have taken over several commercial road haulage firms. And they would have not got penalised by the Torry party and governments for operating both road and rail services. Something that BR suffered a lot from. Even today the fact that the railways are still being pestered by the government even though they are in private hands again, shows in many ways how Nationalisation was a disaster for the railways. And even if you are a hard line Labour or Union man, just think about the massive jobs lost on a service that was much safer and efficient at moving goods around than the road system.

Who pays for the fact that cars and lorries will wipe out 1000 kids every year in the UK.  Hospitals couldn't cope with the recent outbreak due to the fact that are geared up for dealing with carnage of the road network. And while your stuck in a jam on the A57 listening to the traffic update as to when you can move. someone is lying on a hospital bed fighting for the life, because an articulated lorry overturned on their car due to the high winds you get on exposed moors.

Have you seen the Amazon advert with the big warehouse and trucks? Did nobody ask why they were able to build that without a rail link? However they did get a road link to it!!

   

 

 

And not just people lying in hospital beds due to overturned lorries, but lying there also because of breathing problems and allergic reactions due to the large quantities of Nitrous Oxide and Carbon Monoxide pumped out by road vehicles, for those who have the misfortune to live by roads and motorways.

 

You rarely see the costs of this health dilemma or any kind of environmental tragedy added to road v rail analysis. 

 

In fact the exact opposite is true; if the road 'improvement' can be routed through an SSSI rather than farmland, it is much better financially because nothing has to be paid in compensation for lost income, and objectors can be dismissed/mocked as loony lefties who prioritise newts instead of humans and job creation. 

 

 

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15 hours ago, Northmoor said:

To suggest that hospitals are geared up to deal with carnage on the roads is, I'm afraid, utter nonsense.  The KSI toll on UK roads is the lowest it has been since something like the 1930s, although there is now orders of magnitude more traffic.

Even if there are 10000 injuries from RTAs every year, it's hardly overloading A&E.  There are probably more people in A&E from DIY or sporting injuries than from road accidents.

 

The fact of the matter is that the Health Service has to treat attend and deal with patients that are the result of the road traffic and all it's problems. With the accidents and sickness caused by road transport eliminated we could have loads of money spent on cures for cancers etc.

 

At the end of they day even now you could remove all the cars and lorries from the roads and you wouldn't need to revert back to to horses etc.

If people like to drive in cars then you can build specific and safe places for them do so, such as motor racing circuits.  But most people do not need to drive or travel in any form of road transport.

We have the technology to eliminate the car and truck. We just have to have the guts to do it. 

 

However I do realise that this could open up a can of worms and is of course getting off topic.

Some if you want to know my idea on how this can be done go to this link:

A Way to Live

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They couldn't afford to electrify from their own resources but were able to borrow cheap money from the government (or rather the taxpayer) made available from 1933 to help the country recover from the Depression.  The source is CJ Allen who worked for them so should know.  These loans also funded the London suburban electrification.  The LNER was already becoming a bit of a financial basket case and I do wonder whether getting the loans back was as much a consideration as ideology in post war nationalisation?

 

A financial history of the Big Four would make very interesting reading.

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Yet another contributor with a massive bee in his bonnet, tilting at windmills.

 

19 minutes ago, Graham1960 said:

 

The fact of the matter is that the Health Service has to treat attend and deal with patients that are the result of the road traffic and all it's problems. With the accidents and sickness caused by road transport eliminated we could have loads of money spent on cures for cancers etc.

 

At the end of they day even now you could remove all the cars and lorries from the roads and you wouldn't need to revert back to to horses etc.

If people like to drive in cars then you can build specific and safe places for them do so, such as motor racing circuits.  But most people do not need to drive or travel in any form of road transport.

We have the technology to eliminate the car and truck. We just have to have the guts to do it. 

 

However I do realise that this could open up a can of worms and is of course getting off topic.

Some if you want to know my idea on how this can be done go to this link:

A Way to Live

 

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