1962 – Closing of the Didcot Newbury Railway to Passenger Traffic


Thursday, July 5, 1962


The Didcot-Newbury railway line passenger service is definitely to be closed, said Mr Airey Neave, MP for Abingdon, on Saturday.

Speaking at a Conservative Association garden party at Milton, he said he had received a letter from the Minister for Transport stating that the Minister upheld a Transport Users Consultative Committee recommendation.

It was bad news said Mr Neave and a disappointment but he had hoped the Minister would be able to keep the line open for passenger traffic especially as it would be continued to be used for freight traffic. Although it had not been economic, he did not think that enough effort had been made to make it pay.


Thursday, August 30, 1962


British Railways announce that the passenger train service between Didcot and Newbury will cease on and from September 16th.

Six stations and halts will be affected. Pinewood Halt and Churn will close completely, Upton and Blewbury, Compton and Hampstead Norris and Hermitage will be retained to deal with parcels addressed to be called for or handed in by the public for dispatch, or freight traffic.

Collection and delivery of general parcels will be carried out from Didcot and Newbury stations.


Thursday, September 13, 1962


“Such a nice, quiet line”, said the driver and in the wayside cottage gardens people waved their Union Jacks.

At 8.7 on Saturday the last passenger train on the Newbury Didcot line slid into No 1 platform at Didcot station, and Driver Ralph Paintin heaved a sigh of regret.

“It was such a quiet little line,” he said, “Not too much hustle and bustle.”

It was lack of hustle and bustle that spelled doom to the service. Even for the final runs from Didcot to Newbury and back the train was not crowed.

“There were never many people on it” recalled 80 year-old Mr John Hackett, who had 47 years on the railway and regularly drove the train from Didcot to Newbury and on the Southampton. “We had the most passengers between Winchester and Southampton.”


Making the final trip with him was another retired driver, Mr Fred Holt aged 82. With Mr Charles Farmer (69) who used to work in the booking office at Didcot , they chatted over old times as the seven-coach diesel train wound its way through the picturesque Downland scenery.

Passenger on board the 5.58 pm train from Didcot to Newbury were estimated to number 160 and at Newbury 73 bought tickets for the last train back. Small groups of passengers were taken on at intervening stations on the way to Newbury.


The guard, Mr Morrison, of Didcot “It could be a good paying line if they wanted it to pay.” He took on board at Didcot a small “coffin” passed to him by Mr B. Dowding, chairman of North Berkshire Federation of Young Socialists. It was labelled “Didcot-Newbury line, died September 1962 from overdose of Beeching pills.” Mr Morrison entered into the spirit of the occasion by draping his guards cap with a black shroud.

In the front of the coach were members of the Locomotive Club of Great Britain and the Railway Correspondents and Travel Society. Passengers included one time “regulars” like Mr H.T. Merritt of Didcot whose home used to be at Hermitage. Mr and Mrs Fred Abbott of Manor Farm, East Habourne were making the journey because the line runs through their land – and the first morning train for them heralded breakfast time.

In the first class section aisle Mr Percy Hieatt Didcot’s stationmaster, with members of his staff.


Members of the Didcot Labour Party distributed the N.U.R’s denunciatory pamphlet “The Future of Britain’s Railways” at each stop and as passengers left the train at Newbury a loud-speaker on a van driven on by a member of the Newbury Labour Party member burst into voice.

“Tories kill Didcot-Newbury rail link.” “Organise not Beeching-ise.” “Labour says integrate not eliminate” announced posters, which, with others, were taken on board the train for the final run from Newbury.

With 36 minutes to spare between arrival from Didcot and departure from Newbury, there was time for farewell toasts in the refreshment room and Newbury’s Railway Hotel.


Mr Robert Cot, Newbury’s Stationmaster, was on hand to see that all were safely aboard. The departure time was slightly delayed while a passenger made history in the refreshment room by having the last drink of any passenger on the Newbury-Didcot line.

In the gathering dusk, the train sped to Didcot for the last time. At Compton, one of the busiest of the intermediate stations, Mr D. J. D Rees, the stationmaster was there with his wife and wore a buttonhole for the occasion.

In cottage gardens near the track, Union Jacks were waved. Lacking Union Jacks youthful passengers waved with streamers easily improvised from material found in the trains smallest compartments.


Passengers were allowed to keep their tickets and a number had them autographed by Mr Hieatt.

Underneath a spreading chestnut tree outside Didcot Station Labour Party members had a final gathering condemning Tory transport policy.

Newbury travellers were still able to get home from Didcot by rail – via Reading. The new fares? It will cost 16s 6d return from Didcot to Newbury (8s 3d single) compared with the old price of 9s return (4s 6d single or day return).

And of course, the journey will take much longer.

But British Railways’ last word about the Didcot line came on Tuesday.

There will be a cheap day return ticket of 8s 3d for the journey via Reading.


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