(Tunbridge Wells West 31.8.1988)
I think that one of the main thrusts of the S&D revival will be to question the validity of the original closure. There have long been rumours that the S&D was deliberately killed, mainly because of inter-regional rivalries going back decades. The S&D was NOT an uneconomic line, it had heavy traffic and only an idiot would claim that a main line, with originating passenger and freight traffic all along the route, which was the sole route to several large towns (and one small city), which linked Britain's only World Heritage city to its principal seaside resort, which linked several main lines and which had VAST tourist potential, needed to close. It didn't. It should be, at the moment, a major cross country route and a huge tourist attraction.
In reality traffic was deliberately removed from the route, in all cases taking a longer route (wasting extra energy) over lines that were not threatened with closure. There was no attempt to rationalise track - much of the route could have been singled (temporarily), and no modern power was ever tried, it was steam worked to the end. There's a clear case that the line was closed purely for political reasons, not economic. In an ideal world there would be an enquiry and the line would be rebuilt over the next few years.
Unfortunately we have to do it the hard way!
There was a peculiar and perverse political thrust to the attack on the railways in the 60s. I have no idea why the politicians at the time thought that oil would be an infinite resource, or that it would be economically beneficial to throw so much extra traffic on to the roads. They were idiots, pure and simple, and the British public for some reason let them get away with it. The people that closed our railways out of ignorance are nothing less than criminals. Unfortunately most are now dead so we can't bring them to account, but it is important that we move on and start getting our railways reopened.
There's a programme on TV this week that you should try to watch. No doubt it will be dripping in that vile nostalgia, and probably Melvyn Bragg, not the brightest of people, will lament something 'lost for ever', but I'm sure that amongst the mush and gnashing of dentures there will be a few bits that hit the spot! Details here, courtesy of Mick Knox.