Campaign to save the East Suffolk Line is remembered, 50 years on

Dr Richard Beeching holding aloft a copy of the pamphlet 'The Reshaping of British Railways'. PIC: P

Dr Richard Beeching holding aloft a copy of the pamphlet 'The Reshaping of British Railways'. PIC: PA Wire - Credit: PA

This week marked 50 years since the railway line between Lowestoft and Ipswich was saved from closure as had been recommended in the infamous Beeching Report.

Feature on Oulton Broad South station and that was saved despite the Beeching report.The Beeching re

Feature on Oulton Broad South station and that was saved despite the Beeching report.The Beeching report. - Credit: Picture: Nick Butcher

Half a century on, it continues to provide a vital transport artery through the east of the county, and late Halesworth man Donald Newby was at the front of the public fight to save it.

Mr Newby was the prospective liberal candidate for the Eye division at the time the Beeching Report was published, his brother Derek remembers.

He was county councillor for Halesworth, and also represented the surrounding rural parishes in taking on the fight to save the line.

It was argued by the government that once the East Suffolk Line closed, buses would provide an equivalent service.

Donald Newby talking at a meeting in 1965.

Donald Newby talking at a meeting in 1965. - Credit: Archant

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But Donald felt that was impossible. Having already written several letters to local newspapers opposing the loss of the service and outlining the reasons why, he then saw an opportunity to get more publicity for the cause.

In his memoirs, Donald wrote: “I studied the bus service times proposed and realised that they could not be kept. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss for securing publicity.”

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Donald arranged for a bus to run from Lowestoft to Ipswich in August 1965, stopping at the towns and villages along the line with the intent to prove that the schedule was impossible to keep. Local dignitaries were invited onto the coach, which came to be known as Donald Newby’s Protest Bus, and it arrived into Ipswich 21 minutes late.

By the time it made the return journey, the bus had lost a total of 67 minutes on its proposal.

Derek said: “In my mind, that triggered the campaign. He drew attention to it and the towns and parishes against it.”

Donald drove round with a sign on top of his car bearing the slogan: “Fight to save your railway” and made many speeches in favour of keeping the line.

He drew attention to how it would affect all areas of life on the east coast, from employment to tourism to medical treatment and trade.

Eventually he and other travellers on the protest bus founded the East Suffolk Travellers Association, which Donald chaired for many years, and still flourishes today.

The Transport Users Consultative Committee called a public inquiry and re-examined the proposals. The inquiry was closed before all the evidence had been heard, and its reprieve was announced in parliament on June 29, 1966.

Derek said: “Everybody was delighted. They had mounted such a big campaign. The inquiry was held in Saxmundham and it was crowded with people. Donald was the spokesman for cause of keeping it open.”

And in his biography, Donald described his fight to save the line as one of his “best achievements” as a candidate.

And to mark the 50th anniversary of the line’s reprieve, the East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership has teamed up with train operator Abellio Greater Anglia to offer a chance to explore the line with a special anniversary ticket.

Tomorrow, passengers can enjoy unlimited travel between Lowestoft and Ipswich for £8 for adults with accompanying children priced at £2. The special ticket allows the opportunity to hop on and off trains throughout the day enabling passengers to explore many of the market towns, heritage and attractions along the route.

Chairman of the East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership Aaron Taffera said: “For many communities that saw their rail service withdrawn in the 1960s the loss is still keenly felt today, thankfully here in East Suffolk the service was saved and 50 years on, this special explorer ticket is a great way to celebrate such a momentous decision.”

Availability of the special Anniversary Explorer Ticket is limited and is exclusively available online at on a first come, first served basis. Please see online for full terms and conditions.

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