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Redditch Railways - The Closure

Withdrawal of services

In May, 1959, it became evident that British Railways was considering withdrawal of passenger services south of Redditch, but the introduction of diesel services between Birmingham and Redditch aroused hope for the future of the branch as a whole, and gave rise to requests for the extension of the service to Evesham, using a diesel rail bus. It was further suggested that Coughton and Wixford Stations should be reopened as unstaffed halts and new halts should be opened at Lodge Farm, to the south of the Redditch tunnel where a large housing estate is being erected, and at Sambourne, which has no public transport except on Saturdays. However, on March 6, 1962, British Railways announced the intention of withdrawing passenger services on the 28-mile stretch between Redditch and Ashchurch. The proposals originally entailed the complete closure of Harvington and Ashton under Hill stations and the retaining of facilities for full wagon loads at Hinton, with all other stations remaining open for freight and parcels traffic. But further developments caused all stations on the branch south of Alcester, except Evesham, to be closed completely from July 1, 1963.

Development Proposals Rejected

A survey in the early 1960ís had shown that, apart from Alcester and Evesham, less than 20 people used the stations each day, and the annual cost of diesel railcars would be £11,500, greatly in excess of the passenger revenue of £6,300, whereas the withdrawal of passenger services south of Redditch would save £28,179 per annum, excluding savings on track renewals, signalling and other equipment. Local councils prepared their objections to the proposals and the Railway Development Association drew up a three-point plan to give closer integration of rail and bus services, with trains from Birmingham and Evesham arriving at twenty minutes past the hour and departing at half past. Despite a public hearing, however, the Transport User Consultative Committee felt that no cases of hardship would ensue from the closure, which finally took place on June 17, 1963. There was strong representations made for passenger services to be retained as far as Alcester, which is fast becoming a residential area for people working in Birmingham. The extension of some morning and evening services might have proved successful, particularly as a large part of the scheduled New Town at Redditch were to be built to the south of the present town and at a considerable distance from the existing railway station. Studley & Astwood Bank Station was also within the then proposed Redditch New Town boundary. But any hope of this was extinguished by the complete closure of Studley & Astwood Bank and Alcester stations from July 6, 1964, when parcels and freight services were also withdrawn from Alvechurch Station. Further south the lifting of the double-track section between Evesham and Ashchurch was begun in April, 1964, and quickly completed, after which the Evesham-Alcester section was tackled and the track severed at the mouth of the Redditch tunnel. Rumors of a proposal to withdraw passenger services between Birmingham and Redditch raised a storm of protest and four local Members of Parliament tabled a motion in the House of Commons, pointing out forcibly that the proposed New Town would be left without a connecting rail service. This appeared to have the desired effect and in July 1964 it was stated that the service would remain. The service between Redditch to Birmingham went onto be reduced to four trains a day two in the morning, a lunch time service and an evening journey. The line also continued to carry freight as the goods yard at Redditch was turned over to a stone terminal for materials need to build the roads in the new town of Redditch. Additionally the station was still open for the carriage of parcels. It was not until May 1978 and creation of the cross city rail line between Longbridge and Four Oaks was Redditch to see improvements in the passenger service to Redditch.