Chapter 10                                                           East Anglian Cataclysm          


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Reading University Study

Prof. Hall was commissioned [29.8.74], to test claims which had aroused public interest that converting railways into roads is feasible and would meet public transport needs of urban areas at reasonable cost. (Hansard 4.2.76, col. 631). There is no indication where this interest was voiced. Most comment in the media opposed conversion, (see Chapter 15). The terms of reference called for

Comparative average costs of busways and surface railways;

An assessment of conversion costs with specific attention to modifications to bridges & stations, track gauge & width, central barriers, bus terminal facilities [ticketing, waiting room & other passenger facilities], access to the road network, metering, disruption costs during conversion;

An analysis of labour requirements subdivided by function for the efficient running of both modes

The analysis to specify service frequency, number of buses, a practical procedure for dealing with accidents & breakdowns.

The estimated cost was £8938. The DoE has a number of major reservations affecting the conclusions, (Hansard, 27.1.76, col. 147). The reservations must have included disappointment that some elements of the terms of reference were not fulfilled, notably the italicised items above. As the specification related to urban routes, work on rural routes was outside the remit. Bus and lorry design was covered, but appeared to be outside the remit.    

Prof. Peter Hall and Edward Smith had produced a proposal to replace railways by busways on six lines in East Anglia, including Liverpool Street station in London, which daily handled tens of thousands of commuters and thousands of Inter City passengers.

Following a leak, before the report was published in January 1976, Smith wrote to The Times (27.12.75) to ‘confirm that his study does claim that buses will be safer than the trains they replace, as buses and coaches have a passenger fatality rate 38% lower than trains, that buses on converted railways will be safer than existing buses and the passen­ger fatality rate will probably be less than half that of the trains they replace’.  No source is quoted. DfT told the author 105 passengers were killed in PSV accidents in 1975. HMRI said 69 rail passengers were killed in 1975. Rail was 34% better, and would be lower, even related to the suspect DfT data on PSV travel, (see Chapter 11). If the preceding year was his basis, rail fatalities were 26 and PSV were 64!

He said that there would be fewer accidents to pedestrians and motorists by allowing existing traffic onto the converted system. (If true, diverting buses with ex-rail passengers from rail formation to the A12 will increase accidents).

 With excellent alignment and limited access, the new roads will be much safer than city streets or country roads. He referred to a letter to The Times from Mr. Kohr who was concerned that people now using trains would prefer cars to buses. On the Liverpool St-Harwich-Southend, this does not arise because there is not sufficient capacity in central London for a significant percentage to use cars. (Commuters do not all travel to central London. The reality is that a case can only be made for buses by making it difficult for cars to park or imposing toll or congestion charges, which means that, unlike BR, buses could not face car competition).With the subsidy BR receives, ‘buses could operate a fare-free service at twice the frequency. If the subsidy was abolished when buses replace trains, fares could be cut by two-thirds. (See analysis on Table 1, Chapter 10-III which demonstrates that this would not be achieved). At current prices, the cost of not converting the whole of BR is £1-2bn pa, plus at least 1,200 lives lost yearly’. £1-2bn is a wide range for an estimate. It is not stated how 1,200 was derived. The DfT told the author they had no record prior to 1979, of pedestrian deaths involving a PSV. For 1979-81, the average was 251 pa. This is the maxi­mum possible saving. Logic suggests there would be some at Liverpool St, and by continued trespassing

11,000 miles of converted railway cannot provide alternative routes for traffic on 220,000 miles of road. Hence, opinions of what may happen on selected routes cannot be extrapolated. It was not proved that a claimed reduction in pedestrian deaths would not be more than offset by more deaths among thousands using ‘level crossings’ bereft of barriers, and thousands walking between moving buses at Liverpool Street bus station. (Twelve crossings will remain on the main line route, (pages 68,99,100,101,105,106), plus four newly created - see Chapter 11).

If buses could operate fare-free services given a subsidy, why did they not do so when given a subsidy by BR, peaking at £1m pa in 1968 to take on passengers displaced from closed lines? (See BR Annual Report & Accounts 1968, page 31). Objectors to proposed rail closures often stated that comparable bus fares were higher than rail fares. MPs complained that bus fares rose after closures. (See The Railway Closure Controversy, & Hansard vol. 590, col.  202). 

The belief buses would be safer, ignores they would be travelling faster, hence accidents are likely to rise. Rail junctions are mainly on the flat, carrying more risk of accidents. Just as speed limits are ignored on existing roads with risk to life and limb, so they would be on converted railways. Under the scheme, trains carrying 1000s from Norfolk and Suffolk would terminate at a station not designed for the purpose. The theory all railways could be converted to roads, also founders on the fact the original acquisition of land was ring-fenced to limit use to the operation of a railway. Other uses were excluded by original - still valid - Enabling Acts of Parliament. Owners, whose property was subject to compulsory purchase, after long hearings in Parliament, were given powers to demand the return of land, if it was not used for its intended purpose. Some may have to be offered to descendants of original owners, or current owners of severed properties, such as farmers. Some assets may already be under negotiation or review prior to sale without the knowledge of outsiders. The value of assets cannot be determined until they are on the sale.     


The Hall/Smith scheme published January 1976

The lines in the scheme were: two urban commuter lines [Tottenham Hale-North Woolwich, Romford-Upminster], three rural [Witham-Braintree, Colchester-Sudbury, Crouch Valley], one main line [Liverpool St-Harwich/Walton/Clacton/ Southend]. Allied aspects of the scheme are scattered throughout a 132 page book*. It says the line from Liverpool Street is probably the busiest commuter line in the world, (page 63). It wasn’t - Waterloo had 65,000 commuters in 1976, and Liverpool Street 59,000. (See BRB Facts & Figures 1978). Two of the six tracks from Liverpool Street would be converted to roads, whilst others on the same formation, would have to be retained for train services to Bishops Stortford and Cambridge, (page 69). (This route was used by 258 trains carrying 31,000 commuters to Enfield, Chingford, Hertford, plus passengers to Bishops Stortford, Cambridge & beyond, compared to 265 trains on the route in the Hall/Smith study). The plan does not reveal the station was two buildings divided by a wall: the western and eastern trainsheds, opened 1875 & 1894. The eastern trainshed was to be a bus station, although they could have claimed part of the western trainshed, because some trains to be replaced by buses, ran from it. It would have been difficult to use due to the dividing wall. Therefore, they opted for a cramped area, saying west side commuters could have extra platforms. The Treasury would not accept a debit for platforms for a service that hitherto did not use them. This contrasts with Manningtree, where they claimed an undue share of the station facilities for road traffic, (see Chapter 10-III).

*  In this Chapter where “page” appears, not preceded by “see”, it refers to pages in the Hall/Smith Report

Constructional work

Structural alterations are scattered through the book for the six routes. Hundreds of altered locations are mentioned which, without draw­ings, are unclear. Of 256 km total length of the six routes, only 1.7 km (0.6%) had drawings - none were suitable for a contractor to quote. The rest were in hun­dreds of short paragraphs. Difficult issues are formation width, and height and width of bridges & tunnels. Bridges should have been listed in a table showing their displayed bridge number, dimensions, and whether under or over-bridges. That would ensure that none were missed, especially on farm or private land.

Five bridges are listed Romford-Upminster, one Witham-Braintree, four on the Crouch Valley line, a viaduct and a bridge Colchester-Sudbury, and none in the North Woolwich- Tottenham Hale section of the book, except a disused swing bridge. However, there are four railway bridges over this line: West Ham, Stratford, Clapton and Tottenham Hale. The Stratford bridge/tunnel is referred to in the main line section of the book as of 3.8m headroom, to be excavated by 0.8m. This underpass is vital for buses returning to Liverpool Street. Some lorries may require 5.1m. Either way, the formation would have to be excavated either side for a sensible gradient. Drainage pumps may be needed to clear underpass flooding. It seemed certain that there were road bridges, in view of its location. The London A-Z map, reveals 12 roads over and 3 roads under the line. OS maps show 17 bridges on the Crouch Valley line and 16 on Colchester-Sudbury. Potential problems with embankments and cuttings on these branches are not addressed.    

The main line route shows 76 over- and 48 under-bridges. (Bridges are mentioned in about 100 brief paragraphs on 31 pages. Some have been missed). Only 11 over-bridges are DfT height. Headroom is not recorded for 43. Some are shown, or inferred, as ‘adequate’, which is meaningless. (As they said - page 15 -  4.2m is minimum & 4.6m desirable, it is not clear what height they are).To increase headroom or strengthen, some require rebuilding or re-decking and others to have the formation excavated. (Not merely under a bridge, but both sides to give a gradual gradient. Excavations may be over a long distance)  The practi­cability of that could only be assessed by tests, which could not have been carried out without endangering trains, unless during a temporary blockage of a line. Some bridges including footbridges, are to be demolished, (pages 48,54,99,103,108). Users will cross the new road on the level, contravening the aim to have no interface between pedestrians and vehicles to save lives, (see Chapter 10-III). These locations will experience accidents, for which no debit is taken.        

 Smith measured bridge widths (Autocar, 8.5.76), ‘by dodging between trains’ - a danger­ous act. He would have to abseil down some steep cuttings which held 4 or more tracks! Access to the trackside would be only available via private property. His letter did not explain how he measured headroom, which would have been even more dangerous, given the 25kv OLE suspended below bridges. BR staff would have had power off to take measurements. A railway over-bridge between For­est Gate and Manor Park has been overlooked. The London A-Z reveals road bridges not mentioned in the report, and hence, it cannot be known if they have ade­quate width and/or head­room: Primrose St., Worship St., North Folgate, Commercial St., Wheler St., Fleet St., Valance Rd., Globe Rd. and Morpeth St. Low bridge heights on this route led to it being initially lim­ited to 6.25kv OLE, but later raised to 25kv, when DoT requirements were relaxed.


A link road would be built near Brentwood for vehicles to pass to the A12, and 26 miles of double track from Shenfield to Colchester abandoned. Conversion would have meant widening. It has 53 bridges and about 21 miles of embankment and cutting. Lloyd, who claimed that two tracks are ample for three or more lanes, must be turning in his grave. No in­crease in accidents nor travelling time lost has been included for this role re­versal.  

Sections of the North Woolwich-Tottenham Hale line to be converted: North Woolwich-Silvertown, Custom House, Canning Town-Tottenham Hale. An “abandoned” section includes Silvertown tunnel. At the other end, 1.72 km to be converted would run alongside a line carrying unaffected services. It would be essential to build a wall between the rail route and the converted road to avoid a swerving road vehicle creating a ‘Selby’ accident.


Diagram 1



The report includes remarks, such as ‘the cost of work will be less than the value of the steel and engineering bricks’, (page 76) - no £ sign appears. A report should show all figures. Ballast is to be used as filling material in places, (pages 75,76,101). It does not say that its quantity and quality has been assessed, nor costs of collecting and moving it. Asphalt will be laid on the bare formation. This would not be solid enough for heavy road traffic, when rails, sleepers and ballast had spread train weight. At one location, it will be laid on the cobbled surface of a road to be developed as an underpass, (page 77). Whereas minor track repairs are carried out between trains it could not be done with closely spaced road traffic.


Property is to be acquired due to inadequate width of the formation at 13 locations, (pages 43,54,73,75,76,83,85,86,95,96,103): 15 houses, gardens shortened, graves relocated, businesses relocated, two council car parks, tenanted property, part of industrial premises, a private carpark, a street closed, part of two vacant plots (which may have better sale prospects if not shortened), and a playing field ‘moved’ onto sidings (without cost). How long it would take to replace well compacted, oil-contaminated siding for­mations with lush grass is not mentioned. (The Conversion League had repeatedly claimed that no widening is necessary for conversion). BR buildings are to be demol­ished, but it is imprudent to assume ‘none are of architectural merit’, (page 82), given the listing of that monstrosity Birmingham New St PSB, (see Chapter 12). Ilford flyover is to be demolished (page 84), and as this is an essential part of converting the first pair of tracks in the first week, it should have said how and when, as the lines to remain for that week are under the flyover. (see diagram 5, Chapter 10-III).         

Liverpool Street bus station

The greater part of Liverpool Street station which occupies 4 hectares [9.884 acres] will continue as a railway station. (In comparison, Victoria coach station occupies 3.3 acres). Their scale plan of the area to become a bus station, with 30 bays holding two buses each is 50 metres wide by 155 metres long - about 7,750 square metres: 1.9 acres. (57% of the area of Victoria coach station)  An adjoining area will be used to park an unspecified number of vehicles - whether it would meet all needs cannot be determined from the Report. (A belief that a bus service would be better if continued through central London (page 114) instead of terminating at Liverpool Street station, shows unfamiliarity with the restricted width of Liverpool Street itself).

An arriving bus will pull into the first available bay. Buses will not be allocated to specific routes. A bus from one place will depart to any destination as required when 100% full. (As there are no platform staff, it is not explained who will decide which passengers to eject when a bus has 101% aboard. It will cause delays).  380 vehicles will leave in a peak of 58 minutes - one every 9 seconds. Three minutes is specified as the loading time there is no mention of unloading time, to enable terminal turnround time to be calculated. Incoming passengers would have to wait to unload until a bay was available. There may be long waits in the peak, for which no time loss is debited.

Why 58” is used is unclear. A 1958 CTCC study used 1½ hour peak, as did the BTC 1968 Annual Report. 402 buses are required for his peak, (page 116), but 80 make multiple trips = 482, not the 380 on page 72. Tratherns - operator of 71 seat coaches – say it takes 5 minutes to load through the one door. Each commuter train coach loads through two or more doors that equate to four PSV doors. Rail passengers load their luggage  whilst a PSV driver does that, and could not take his place in the cab, until all luggage was stowed.


The route from Liverpool Street has Inter City trains to Ipswich and Norwich. Passengers will change at Manningtree to a train, at the one platform to be retained, (page 100). Three of the four platforms/tracks at Manningtree would be converted to roads, for use by buses running towards Harwich, whilst one is ‘retained for the Ipswich train’.

Bus services

No timetables are intended. In addition to express buses, 50 stopping peak services will leave Liverpool St. in the peak*. Off-peak, most will stop as trains do now, but will be twice as frequent, (page 114). No running times are specified for these. The scheme says peak buses will be quicker than trains, (pages 118-9). Not all destinations will have non-stop peak services, 23 will be served jointly, i.e. stop­ping, (page 116). Except for a 58 minute ‘peak’, no rail time­table is shown, with which comparisons can be made. There is no Saturday nor Sunday timetable. In the peak, 108 express, and all stopping services will leave the converted route at Brentwood to go via the A12, and thence other roads, to Ingatestone, Chelmsford, Hatfield Peverel, Witham, Kelvedon, Marks Tey, Colchester. All this new traffic will interface with pedestrians. More fatalities are highly probable, but this was not mentioned. Services calling at all destinations (page 115), will be slow, as they pass over roads in and out of towns.

At Colchester, 16 express and all stopping services will revert to the converted system. No road capacity problem is foreseen, (see Chapter 10-II). For the other five routes, no frequency or schedule is provided.

*Claimed to be less than in ‘the narrower I495 bus lane in New Jersey’, (page 72). It is narrower by a mere 0.04m, if Smith’s 3.3m lane were feasible, (see Chapter 10-II). Speed is limited to 35 mph [56kph], not 72kph [45mph] quoted

Bus Fleets

Bus design takes 7 pages, but width is not mentioned. ‘Single-deck will be about 3m high, double-deck 3.9-4.4m high may not clear some bridges’, (page 8). Buses from Liverpool St will be 75-seat double-deck, (page 116), and run to any destina­tion. They will be 10m  long, (page 72).  Trathens appear to operate the biggest bus on motorways, it has 71 seats & 13m long, 4.16m high, 2.8m wide

A driver’s last journey will be home, (page 114).  The concept of buses pulling into the first available bay and departing to a random destination means that the prospect of them making the last journey to their home would be unlikely - even impossible - to ensure that it was completed within 8 hours.

To convert passengers to buses, a 65% average load is assumed, (page 119). Peak buses are expected to be 100% loaded in one direction, (overlooking the other direction will be very low). Off-peak is not predicted, but must be below 100% to avoid delays. A 65% average is improb­able over the 20 hour time span of the BR timetable. It states that passengers will not go to the top deck for a journey less than 20 minutes, (page 7). A total of 451 buses is envisaged for all routes. 10% is added (page 119), for maintenance and breakdown of the main line fleet from Liverpool St, bringing the total to 494. There is no cover for buses on other routes.

Having calculated the buses required from data not in the report, three of the destinations from Liverpool St. are then reduced: Wickford, Witham, and Marks Tey, by 4, 3, and 1 respectively. The explanation, (page 115), is at these locations which are the start of branches they can go on to the end of the branch, rather than return to Liverpool St., reducing buses required for those branches in their peaks, ‘which are later’. Who will decide which drivers will go forward, and how they will get to their homes is not explained. Nor is there any reference to parking, fuelling, servicing, nor maintenance of buses based on the branches.

432 buses will be used for Liverpool St/Colchester peak, (page 119). Even if adequate for an average day, the peak is not the same every day. It is not enough to provide for an average peak, having claimed all will be seated. On some days, the average will be exceeded, some will wait, who would get into a ‘full’ train. The table dealing with the ‘main line’ bus fleet, (page 116) refers to Prittlewell and Southend being served ‘via A127[T]’. Ingatestone-Colchester to be served via A12, (pages 90,97), are not annotated.  


The number of drivers said to be required is shown for each of the six routes. A total of 676 drivers for all six routes is quoted. It is stated that the main line route requires ‘650 drivers and 750 other staff* including ticket sellers, bus manufacturing staff and the bus share of road maintenance’, (page 121). For bus drivers, the median cost has been taken. (As part of London & the South East, costs will be the highest in the country - not the median).

*Such staff are not shown on other routes. 750 was derived (page 24) by taking the median of five bus groups, cov­ering 76 operators, with averages for 73 of them! To average averages is statistically unacceptable.

Numbers of drivers working a 40 hour week on the main line route are assessed by multiplying the peak bus requirement by 1.5 which is said to be ‘normal’, (page 119).  (There is no reference to the working day. The formula ignores Saturdays. Bus & Coach Operators Handbook by Dr.J.Hibbs does not mention such a formula, but advocates preparing duty rosters to cover  timetables).


Operating costs for main line buses (page 120) includes £1.94m ‘Other costs’, a term whose definition (page 23) excludes the 750 staff (page 121). It is derived by taking the me­dian value of 9 unnamed companies, to produce £4500 pa. ‘Costs for five PTEs are less relevant, but shown as a matter of interest’. They are far more relevant. Their median value is £4905. London & South East costs are UK’s highest. They would be higher than the highest PTE which was £7820 pa. It is emphasised ‘electricity board staff are ex­cluded from rail figures’. So they should be, as none were included for oil distri­bution to bus depots. Fuel costs are estimated without disclosing the scheduled mileage!

Fare Collection

There will be ticket offices at ‘Liverpool Street, Stratford and other busy points’. Other passengers must put the exact fare into a sealed box near the driver, who will not touch the cash. Prepurchased tickets can be put in the box. Books of season tickets can be bought from ticket offices or the driver. Tickets can be offered in bulk at a slight discount to shop keepers who otherwise would be pestered for change. (page 114).

Maintenance of vehicles

The scheme envisages (page 85), using the Ilford Multiple Unit Depot as a bus and lorry maintenance depot, and states that for all the routes studied only 496 buses and 350 lorries are needed. The facilities are said to be adequate for maintaining and parking buses and lorries. ‘Parking for 300 buses and 150 18m lorries will be enough’. Costs were estimated for surfacing and other work. There are no separate costs for maintenance and renewal of bus terminals. There are references to ‘Other costs’, which includes some provision for vehicle and building maintenance by bus companies, (page 23), but that could not include bus station costs, which are invariably under separate ownership.

(It is not proved that 350 lorries could move rail freight. Some traffic comes from as far afield as Avonmouth, Ince and Liverpool. 496 buses are shown on page 85).

There is no likelihood of the same depot being shared by a bus company and one or more haulage companies.



The study report mentions (page 85), that BR had a plan to move diesel maintenance from Stratford to Ilford. The objective would obviously be for economy, and to release land for possible sale. There is no financial contra entry for this lost opportunity. The report lays great stress on opportunity cost gains, but fails to take the debit for this loss.  


The study claims that [rail] ‘fares could have been reduced 64% and revenue would still have covered operating costs’, (page 120), i.e. a £1 fare would become 36p, (but see Table 1, Chapter 10-III). The intention is that buses would have no subsidy, unless bus travel was free.

All six routes in the Study, include the same qualifying phrase: assuming conversion costs have been offset by benefits to private traffic. This implies that, despite a restriction on use of the new road by private cars from Brentwood to Liverpool Street, funding the conversion will fall on motorists - but not in cash. The backup plan to pay for construction in real money, seems to be the sale of land and property, (see Chapter 10-III), but that may take years to materialise. Contractors will want paying up front.

Intangible non-cash benefits claimed

A monetary value is attributed to benefits passengers and non-passengers will derive.

Formation opportunity costs

Defined as the value to private vehicles of a new road.

Journey & waiting time savings for passengers - time savings. An advisor appointed by the MoT in 1979 said the method of estimating time savings were far-fetched, unduly simplistic & grossly over-estimate the tangible benefits of road improvements - see Juggernaut, page 40).

However, Hall/Smith claim such values arise from shorter waiting-cum-journey times for a bus than a train are converted to a paper value: £1.7m pa, to pay for conversion. ‘Two minutes is allowed for [rail] passengers to walk from ticket office to train or platform’ - but none for bus passengers. If both were equal neither need appear.  The time to book a ticket and walk to a platform ‘was recorded for 64 peak and 62 off-peak departures from Liverpool Street station’, (page 115). Peak passengers were recorded over a 40 minute period off-peak over an 18 minute period in late evening, (pages 117-119). They bought tickets to 21 and 22, respectively of the 44 destinations on the main line from Liverpool Street. (22 main line destinations were not in the lists, nor are 20 destinations on branch lines, nor 48 beyond Manningtree. Thus, a handful of passengers were timed, whilst none were recorded to 90 potential destinations).  On the basis of a few passengers for some destinations, it is assumed this broken one hour period is typical of the estimated 65m passenger journeys made each year. Figures are extrapolated to apply to all passengers, despite the fact none are recorded for about 50% of destina­tions - on this route and none for branches or destinations beyond. A claim is made that 11 of the 62 off-peak passengers will save time, whilst not one is perceived to take longer. The scheme states ‘passenger time will be saved on services that are not grant aided (Those travelling to Ipswich, Yarmouth, Norwich, etc). but this will be partly offset by time lost changing from bus to train at Manningtree’, (page 119)

That passengers may wait less for an unscheduled bus, than for an advertised train is implausible. It is unrealistic to specify a peak-hour bus departure interval (page 116), when buses depart when they are full.

‘To avoid great expense, cross platform interchange between LT & BR at Stratford will cease, but walking time will only be one minute’, (page 82). Time savings would be cut.

Motorists and other private vehicles

There is no reference to a detailed survey of motorists or other road users to find their journey details and ascertain if they would benefit from being diverted by a new route, rather than assuming that thousands would benefit from using this new road, when it may really extend their journey time to do so. (Transport Studies Group stated an existing road route was shorter than the new converted road - see Chapter 10-II) Their assumed journey time savings are con­verted to a total of £19.25m - not in cash - and claimed as savings from conversion. (Two routes in the study were re-examined by the Polytechnic of Central London (see Chapter 10-II), who dispute conclusions, in respect of traffic diversion benefits. Motorists diverting to new roads are credited £0.60 per hour, whilst rail passengers diverted to existing roads during conversion are credited only £0.30, - page 36), The diversions from existing roads to the new converted system are as follows:

A new Canning Town-Stratford road will take 4m of the 4.2m vehicles pa now on the A1011, (page 36). Probably 6m of 7m vehicles pa on the A112 and A1006 will divert to the new Stratford-Tottenham Hale road, (page 37).

The A124 has 9m vehicles pa, and an unclassified road 8.5m pa. Not more than 6m vehicles pa can be allowed on this new Romford-Upminster road, (pages 41, 43). (There is no explanation as to how 6m vehicles will be allowed onto the new road, and 11.5m kept off).

The B1018 has 1.8m vehicles pa. It is assumed that almost all will divert to the new Witham-Braintree road, (page 48)

It can be expected private vehicle traffic will be about 25% of that on B1018, say 0.5m pa, half diverted to the new Marks Tey-Sudbury road and half newly generated (page 54) (Newly generated traffic is a trip a user thought not worth making. - page 2. The basis for estimating volume, distance and directional flow is not explained. It will add to city and town congestion, and must cause accidents).

1m vehicles pa will probably be diverted to the new Crouch Valley road. If the running time is cut by 15 minutes, the saving will be worth £150,000 pa; if newly generated traffic averages 0.5m vehicles pa, the benefit will be £90,000 pa (page 60).

Conversion may reduce traffic on the A11 through Stratford by a third. (page 80).

On the new Shoreditch-Brentwood road, to avoid delaying peak hour buses, not more than 2400 private vehicles per hour will be permitted (page 110); access will be restricted by charging tolls, (page 111); the probable two way flow of private vehicles will be 50,000 daily - diversion of 50,000 vehicles will save 1,600 accidents, (page 111); these vehicles will be replaced by 50,000 newly generated vehicles per day, (page 112). (Tolls may restrict usage, but a precise number cannot be pre-determined in this casual way. Tolls cause delays).  

The traffic on the A604 and B1352 is about 2.5m vehicles pa. If 2m pa divert to the new Colchester-Harwich road, the time saving is worth £0.2m, (page 112).

On the A133 & B1027, there are 5m vehicles pa. If 4m divert to the new road Colchester-Clacton/Walton-on-Naze, saving 8 minutes each the saving will be £0.32m pa. (page 113).

The new Brentwood-Southend road will take traffic off the A129, which has about 2.2m vehicles pa, and will supplement the A127. It can be expected to take 3m vehicles pa. If the average saving is 10 minutes, savings will be worth £0.3m pa. (page 113)  


The study quotes 1973 rail fatalities and claims £3.46m will be saved by fewer accidents due to diversions onto the converted ‘main line’ from residential streets. (Buses cannot all divert from residential streets as that is their attraction - near to houses & shops). Comparisons between train and bus safety are related, in the study, to passenger mileage.  (These were higher than 1974 - whose figures were available before the Study report was published).

The Study claims (page 18), that evidence shows that single carriageway converted rail­ways, such as the Heads of the Valleys road in Wales, are probably as safe as motorways. (Users call it the Highway to Hell with 33 deaths in 6 years, Merthyr Express, 25.3.9. It used short sections of a 20-mile railway - see Chapters 10-III & 12. Dalgleish praised its’ safety record in The Truth about Transport. ).


Freight Traffic

No estimate is made of lorries required for railfreight on the six routes. A figure of 350 appears for the routes, (page 85) without showing how it is derived. This is attributed to BR & NFC unwillingness of to provide data perhaps due to a belief of preconception railways should be converted. Rail freight information, scattered over many pages, is listed as:

Short goods trains are occasionally seen Stratford-North Woolwich  (page 31).

Braintree has on Mondays, a 350 Mg [sic] of fertiliser and a sporadic coal train (page 46).

Two trains of sand leave Southminster, and radio-active waste is brought twice weekly, by lorry from Bradwell to load on a special railway wagon for dumping at sea, (page 57).

A 2-way flow at Manor Park of 70 freight & parcels trains, 800 wagons, 100 parcel vans conveying 18,000 Mg daily. 18 of the trains convey containers* to/from Parkeston Quay. Others carry farm produce to Harwich; sand from quarries at Marks Tey & Southminster; oil from Parkeston to Bow, Claydach and Channelsea; cars from Halewood (page 63) - (The author recalls there was a daily flow of car parts from Dagenham to Halewood, which is not mentioned.)..

*Many containers were 8ft 6 inches wide. Two passing each other in 9 foot lanes at 50 mph would be terrifying.

Mile End receives 0.55m Mg of sand from Southminster and Marks Tey, (page 76). This will go direct to destination (page 77), releasing land valued at £0.6m! (There is no reference to consultation. Such depots exist to equalise varying demand to bulk supply.).

Milk arriving at Ilford (page 85).

Bananas to Fyffes depot (page 86) ‘with bananas by road, the land can be sold for £1.8m’. (Fyffes does not appear to have been consulted. Their policy was by rail from port to depots for distribution. It would not go direct to customers, but would still go to this depot - even if they agreed to road transit.). 

Allied Beer has a private siding at Mistley. Traffic is light. The branch need not be resurfaced, the existing ballast would be adequate for lorries. (page 101). (This company and others are told that their traffic will be by road whether or not they like it).

A ‘coal depot at Hythe’, (page 104), which will have coal taken direct to the depot, by multi-bottomed lorry, or to the individual consumer from the colliery. (Coal direct by road would already take place, if it was economic. The lorries may need a new road from the colliery!).


From this, an attempt was made to compare rail & road costs (pages 25/26). It ‘assumed a type 4 diesel & four sets of 20 wagons, each containing £10,000 and a maximum payload of 40 Mg, with a 60% load [50% for minerals and 85% for containers*] & the loco running 60,000km pa’. *The source of the figures is not disclosed. They are not included in BR Annual Reports, as obtained pre-1963.

This is compared to Commercial Motor cost tables, but with interest recalculated at 10%, licences excluded, fuel tax cut 50% to cover only road maintenance, 20% overheads, no profit, a maximum payload of 22.4 Mg & 60% average load. ‘On the basis of the unsatisfactory evidence available, it is concluded that there is no significant difference between cost of trains & 32.5 Mg lorries.

No data is quoted to prove how much road renewal and maintenance arises from lorry wear & tear. TRL proves it eclipses cars, which bear an unfair share of costs. Why the specified items should be cut is not explained. How lorries which travel on both converted roads and existing roads will get this discount is not explained).

A series of assumptions leads to a positive conclusion! It is assumed that customers will not object. They may move to a location where there is freedom of choice - creating local redundancy and destroying the assumptions.


On a road with excellent alinement (sic) & limited access, there is no reason to restrict weight to 32.5 Mg & length to 18m. In USA, 33m long multiple bottom dump trucks of 57 Mg gross weight, made up of semi-trailers joined by dollies, are used on nominated roads. To leave those routes, each semi-trailer is taken away individually as a normal articulated tractor/trailer unit.  (This requires a parking area and extra tractors and drivers at every access point! They are not costed).  Ford UK said if double bottom lorries for two 9m containers were permitted, there would be a slight saving by road’. The Study postulates (page 26) 100Mg lorries against existing train sizes. (There is more prospect of bigger unstaffed trains. Comparison of futuristic road transport with existing trains is typical of conversion league/campaign practice. Future prospects must be compared with future prospects.).

 ‘Lorries appear on streets as they must even when the line haul is by train’, (page 17). This popular belief is undermined by the facts. Fords traffic from Dagenham to Halewood and back, Fyffes from Avonmouth to Goodmayes, coal from collieries, sand from quarries and containers between port & Stratford do not touch the roads. 85% of BR freight was direct between private sidings - see Chapter 10-II).


Cash gains claimed

Property sales

A sample entry reads: As there is a shortage of jobs and housing, it will be assumed half the land will get planning permission for industrial development & half for residential use, (page 38). 35 items on 26 pages, claim sales of £5.7m* including one of £1.8m, (page 86)** to use as warehouses, factories or houses, without proving there are buyers. The value placed on land for industrial use does not guarantee a single sale. It is doubtful entrepreneurs are held back due to lack of land. Gains for selling land are mixed among constructional or other proposals, creating diffi­culty in analysis. They are mixed with claims for the value of land turned into roads whilst financial benefit is claimed for the value of time saved by diverted motorists. This sounds like double counting. A claim for £17m (page 113), appears to be related to using land for transport, with no indication that cash will change hands.

*(This would be reduced by the need to retain land to build two depots to replace Ilford, which is to become a bus depot. Ilford maintained multiple units for services which would continue under the scheme - see Chapter 10-III).

**Fyffes depot at Goodmayes - see reference on page 144).



Around Stratford, 34 hectares (page 38), it is said, could be sold to fund conversion, but will be used as roads. It may have sidings required for stabling residual passenger coaches or freight traffic, which relate to unaffected routes. Lack of detail prevents confirmation.        

Tenants will be moved to Mile End goods & coal depot, (page 75). £20,000 opportunity cost is claimed for relocating tenants. (page 76). There is no depot plan to show there is space nor prove it is suitable, nor confirmation that tenants were willing to move. Distances to their - and other displaced firms’ - clients may be increased, affecting costs.

Assumptions are made regarding ownership of houses adjoining railways, including station and gate houses. Over the years, as their original purpose ceased, with abolition of station  masters and modernisation of crossings, thousands were sold to sitting tenants or private buyers. (For example, the author discovered that the crossing house at Pork Lane had been sold in 1960.).  Estate agents trying to value houses, must surely have been told where to go, if they attempted to enter houses of railway employees and others, who may not intend to be evicted. Without interior inspection no meaningful valuation is possible.

Scrap sales

Sales of scrap railway materials are claimed, and applied to help to pay for con­version, rather than be paid to BR, which would seem to be the legitimate owner. It claims net scrap sales of steel, cast iron and OLE. The net value claimed is £0.39m, including £0.2m from OLE, (pages 36,73,90,94,96,97,104,107,110). No costs are disclosed for recovery of materials. Which expert estimated the costs of dismantling OLE is not disclosed.

Cheap construction

It is claimed that the formation, having been compacted by train loads over many decades, needed only a layer of tarmac to provide a perfect running surface. (page 16). However, in four of the six studies covered in the scheme, (pages 43, 48, 53, 59), the lines were single on a double or near-double formation. The excess had been unused by trains and cannot be regarded as compacted. Without drawings of formation and ballast widths for all routes, it cannot be said how much is compacted. It is stated that traffic can run on a bitumen bound base the day after it is laid, a wearing surface added later, (page 16). (See Diagram 4, Chapter 10-III which shows how narrow the compacted area is).

Given claims railway formations and bridges present no problem, this scheme requires:

Some 40 bridges have to be rebuilt or re-decked to give clearances still lower than DfT standards, (pages 43,59,72,75,76,77,78,80,82, 83,84,87,88 ,89,98,99,100,101,102,106,107). (This includes two bridges on minor routes. It excludes 18 bridges missed on North Woolwich-Tottenham & some on other routes. Rebuilding would delay users and disrupt water, gas & phone services.).

Eight other bridges are to be removed due to insufficient clearances and to avoid the need to rebuild, (pages 48,54,99,101,103,108,110) - but will users agree?   

Formations must be excavated to give headroom clearance at 13 other bridges, (pages 78,80,82,83,84,85,86,89,95,96,105,107), and at Liverpool Street station (page 72).

Four bridges with less headroom than 4.6m are not to be altered. (pages 60,107,108,109). One is 4.2m, but another of 4.2m (page 107), is to have exca­vation.  (The scheme dismisses the DoE standard of 5.1m and opts for one of 4.6m as a standard minimum - page 15. 4.2m headroom would give an inadequate 4mm clearance for the size of Trathens’ buses, which presumably are standard manufacture).

  No revised height is specified for 22 bridges which are to be altered.

The formation is insufficiently wide at several locations, and involves some acquisition and demolition of private property, (pages 73,75,83,85,86,87,95,96,98,103,106,107).

Some private businesses will be ‘relocated’ to create adequate space (pages 76,85,86).

New flyunders/underpasses will be built (pages 77,90). There is no changeover programme

At Stratford, which has cross-platform interchange with LT trains, northbound & southbound trains will use one island, by moving the former line, 3.3m. As lines are in single bore tunnels at each end, (see photo), curvature may be a problem

There is no reference to the cost of drains, which road engineers say would be substantial  (see Chapter 4), is ignored.  Instead, the formation will be trimmed to provide drainage, (page 16).

Smith compared his plan (page 94) with BR’s scheme, raising £150m capital & £2m rental pa, re-developed Broad St, div­erted trains to Liverpool St, where offices & shops were built.

Changeover tactics (pages 90-91).

In the first week, two of the four tracks will be lifted from Liverpool Street to Brentwood. In the peak, two trains will couple-up [of 18 cars] and divide at Brentwood. Platforms are not long enough. At some stations, platforms will be lengthened by temporary scaffolding. (If the DoT agrees – which is unlikely. Nothing said about how long this takes, or delay to services.). Where that is not possible, signs at Liverpool Street. will show which carriages to board. During the second weekend, trains will use plat­forms 1-10, while the  east half is converted (pages 90,91), to a bus station & park. During the first seven days, after removing track and OLE* trim­ming the formation, a 150mm bitumen-bound base will be laid. After nine days, in time for the morning peak, the base will be complete for one carriageway to open for road traffic, used only by buses in the peak & lorries off-peak. The other tracks will then be lifted to create the other carriageway, which will be ready in two months. Four months from the start, the road will open to private traffic. There is no reference to staging work at Chemsford, Colchester and Manningtree. For all other routes, buses will travel over existing roads during changeover. No debit is shown for delays or accidents.

*It would be foolhardy to permit contractors to pick up track next to lines being used by trains.

Contractors would not be permitted to use machines whilst OLE was still energised on an adjoining track..

£7000 is included as ‘a passenger time cost’ for an average 5 minutes delay to long distance peak passengers, (page 91), but nothing for 28,500 delayed east side com­muters who qualify for £1.20 per hour if their journey is quicker, (page 2). A twice-daily delay would cost £5300 for 5 minutes. A more realistic 20 minutes would be the likely delay, raising it to £22,800. All off-peak passengers would be delayed, with knock-on delay to west side com­muters. There is no provision for increased costs for delays and extra staff.


Presentation of Study

On 22 March 1976, the study was presented to the Institution of Civil Engineers, which published it in 1977, (see Chapter 10-II), as a Paper referring briefly to the Study’s conclusions. 

“DoT road design standards were not used, as rail ‘formation widths were not always wide enough for everything desired.* A lane 3.5m [9.6 feet] was adopted’”. (This is barely more than Mersey Tunnel which has a 30 mph limit).

*(This idea was not accompanied by demands to cut road costs elsewhere by reducing lane widths.).

For double-deck buses, 4.2m headroom was a minimum and 4.6m desirable. (Trathens operate 71-seat PSVs 4.16 metres high. A margin of 0.04 is inadequate for minor road defects.). Costs were synthesized, (This is a non-cash item.). The benefit to private vehicles & value of surplus land was calculated & a bus service developed*. It was concluded the community would benefit by replacing trains with buses & lorries & converting the formation to a road where existing roads were not adequate. In one urban case, the value of surplus land was an important saving. ROI was 30-60% in rural cases, 210% to infinity [no net investment required] in the urban.

*Most of his  ROI was non-cash. Before cash came in from asset sales, interest bearing loans would fund costs..

 Construction costs could rise 215% in a rural, 2678% in an urban area, before savings were lost. Costs used were £40,000 per km [1973 prices], for a 2-lane highway, consistent with League figures said to be data supplied by local authorities. Environmental & accident benefits would arise by diverting private vehicles from existing roads, (Neither of these have hitherto been taken into account to help to justify any railway investment scheme.). Buses would be safer than trains.  (As no precedent was quoted, nor evidence given of field tests, this was a subjective judgement.).

1.    Services in Better Use of Rail Ways, cannot be termed as a bus service. There is no schedule for any route.

2, In 1967, a DoT engineer quoted £0.5m per mile for such a road, that is £0.3m per km, - see Chapter 12.

3. Local authorities - see chap 13 - had no costs for short lengths of disused track that became part of a road. In some cases formations were unsuitable & costs were not less, but more, than building a new road. - see Chapter 13

The terminal would have buses at 7 seconds headway loading 27,000 on 500 buses in the peak. Headway at Manhattan terminal was 4.5 seconds. Some said it had several grades.  Prof. Hall conceded money might be needed for pedestrian segregation but believed buses could equal or better rail, particularly where a breakdown was concerned. The authors thought ‘commuters, who would all have a seat, would prefer this to crowded rail’. 

1,The oft quoted New York City Transit Authority night time bus performance for the second half of 2004 was 73.5%. There is no day time data, which would be worse. There were accidents - see Chapter 12.

2. There was no elaboration of the claim of speedier breakdown resolvement. The reality is it takes a long time to get assistance to a bus breakdown, whereas one train can push another clear & there was a Railway Control system to monitor and resolve problems..

3. On two of the 3 services, Southend & Clacton using the east side most commuters were seated. Only Shenfield trains, with a 15 min journey had standing. 50% were not standing, as had been suggested elsewhere.).