FORWARD The LNER Development Programme, the London and North [ebook]


FORWARD The LNER Development Programme, the London and North

Brochure, paper covers, 9”x 7” printed on semi-art paper, pp.25, illustrated covers, 25 B&W half tone photographs, pp. 8 spot colour digramatic maps showing planned improvement works.


Faced by the prospect of Nationalisation after the Labour Party victory in 1945, the four main railway companies, battered by six years of war, lack of investment and a backlog of maintenance, reacted in different ways. At first, the GWR, virtually unscathed by the 1923. Grouping and led by their brilliant General Manager, Sir James Milne, did nothing, and hoped that the problem would go away. The Southern, secure in hefty sums of passenger revenue from an economic electric suburban network and growing revenue from Southampton Docks, assumed that the Government would pay a fair price, and awaited detailed proposals with equanimity, as did the LMS. This last had always. been too big to be managed effectively, without some areas like station maintenance missing out in respect of management attention and a reduction in size, like losing Scotland and the former LNWR lines in South Wales would not be unwelcome.

The LNER was different. Financially it was much weaker than the other three, it had been forced to include the overcapitalized and revenue weak Great Central, on the grounds that the massive revenue from the heavy freight traffic carried by the North Eastern would compensate. The other two English components were sound but hardly financial giants. The Great Eastern had a heavy suburban passenger business, inefficiently steam hauled, hardly any heavy freight flows, apart from coal coming down the GN GE joint line, and a continental traffic, greatly diminished by the Great War. Within a few months of Grouping, a recession began slashing freight revenue in the North East, followed by the depression of the 1930s making matters even worse. The LNER Directors became concerned that their shareholders would be poorly compensated by nationalization, the more so when it became apparent that compensation for arrears of maintenance were likely to be paid at 1939 prices, not the grossly inflated costs of the Attlee Austerity Era. (The money being required to develop a British Atomic Bomb, start paying the Americans for “Lease Lend” materiel supplied during World War II, help pay for a war in Korea and provide free wigs and false teeth to the masses).

Before the war the “British Railways” – just about the first time that the term was used – had initiated a “Square Deal” campaign aimed at securing fairer competition with the road traffic industry. Then in~1945 they jointly published “It Can Now Be Revealed” a booklet setting out in some detail just what the railways had achieved, particularly in the fields of aircraft and other armaments production in their workshops “above and beyond the call of duty”. A telling paragrah at the end of the introduction to this booklet read “The British Railways… have answered every call to fulfil the two largest requirements of modern warfare – transport and armaments – a fact that must not be forgotten in the years of peace that lie ahead”. NEEDLESS TO SAY, IT WAS. Building on this, and experience of the “Fair Deal” effort, the LNER began a campaiign of lobbying and propaganda aimed at securing fairer terms for railway shareholders, particularly their own. Chief General Manager Sir Charles Newton and his sucessor “Acting” CGM Miles Beevor (the appointment could not be made permanent because of impending nationalisation) George Dow, Press Relations Officer, and Michael Bonavia, Assistant to Beevor, were the principals involved.

There were three key publications. First, the Company published its official wartime history with the telling title “By Rail to Victory” setting out in some detail the massive contribution to the war effort made by the LNER and its employees. This differed from the “What we did in the War” books issued by the other companies, written by hack journalists in a slightly whimsical “Britain can take it!” “By Rail To Victory” was the work of a highly respected former banker, economist and fiancial journalist, who pulled no punches in describing the dificulties which the LNER overcame. In the interests of getting it into the hands of the “People Who Mattered” it was printed and bound to the highest quality standards allowed by current rationing and restrictions.

Next came a publication advocating an alternative to full nationalisation.

The point had been made in “Square deal” that despite the Road Fund Licence, road hauliers had their “track”, signalling and basic infrastructure subsidised by the taxpayer, while the railways bore all these costs themselves. This pamphlet was a return to the same theme, suggesting that as an alternative to full nationalization, Government should take over the infrastructure, including the arrears of maintenance, and the railway companies should pay rental or tolls for access to the track.

An oddly prophetic idea, for following a false start with Railtrack, this is broadly the system which we have today, with state-owned Network Rail looking after the infrastructure and the train operators paying for access. One wonders how many wasted billions would have been saved if this option had been taken in 1948.

The final salvo took the form of the booklet “Forward” (the name derived from the motto on the LNER coat of arms). This too was produced to the highest standard allowed on a semi-art paper, but there are signs of haste in the design as some half tone blocks bleed rather untidily off the page. The object of the booklet was to show what the LNER could achieve in a five year plan of investment, if paid what it felt was allowed – and not interfered with by Government. It strikes me that the model of a rebuilt Kings Cross station, bears a strong resemblance to the Trix Twin model railway system”Terminal Station”.. One wonders which came first…

By the way, the LNER directors were right to fearfor their shareholders. A holder of what had been.

By the way, the LNER Director’s fears for their shareholders were amply justified. A holder of £100 worth of Great Central preference shares in 1922, would get only £20 worth of low-yield British Transport Stock in 1948…



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