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  • Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East by Malcolm Batten

    London is self-explanatory, but where exactly is the South-East? It all depends on the context. In 1986-8 British Rail decided to regroup the railways from a regional basis to a business-based system. The regional basis had dated from the formation of British Railways in 1948 from the former Great Western Railway, LMS, LNER and Southern Railways. The Eastern, North Eastern, Midland, Southern, Western and Scottish regions had largely reflected the boundaries and working practices of the former companies and had had a degree of autonomy in terms of locomotive design, liveries etc. Now with the withdrawal of the differing pre-nationalisation locos and stock and many of the early non-standard diesel designs new approach was called for based on the core business patterns of the railways. Thus came Inter-City for, as the name implies, inter-city traffic, Regional Railways for local services, RailFreight etc.  But one of the new business units was called Network South East. This took in Greater London and the outer commuting area to London up to about sixty miles each way. Fair enough, but this inevitably included most of what remained of the former Southern Region, much of which was electrified on the third rail system. So for operating convenience as much as anything, Network South East took in the whole of the former Southern Region main line area, as far as Weymouth and Exeter – hardly the geographical south-east! At one time the Southern Railway had continued on to Plymouth and into north Cornwall but this had all been axed under the Beeching cuts in the 1960s.

    Network South East was launched at Liverpool Street station on 9 June 1986 when Class 47 No. 47573 was named The London Standard. (Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East, Amberley Publishing)

    Network South East was launched on 9 June 1986 with a number of events – one was the unveiling of a new livery for locomotives and rolling stock at Liverpool Street Station in London. Stations had their seats and lampposts painted red as part of an NSE ‘house style’. A Network Card was introduced giving one third of travel within the area. This however came with restrictions. Thus although NSE stopping trains reached Peterborough you could only get the discount to Huntingdon, the station before Peterborough. This was because Peterborough was also served by Inter-City trains from London. If you wanted to benefit from the discount you would need to alight at Huntingdon and re-book onwards at full fare to Peterborough. Similarly NSE trains reached Exeter, but you could not get NSE discounted fares to there as there were also Inter-City trains from London, albeit by a different route. You could however get NSE discounted fares to Weymouth and Yeovil, for, although these stations were also served by Regional Railways, this was not on a direct competing route from London. Confused?

    While some of the Class 68s carry Chiltern Railways livery, others are in Direct Rail Services colours such as No. 68009 Titan at Marylebone on 23 June 2018. (Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East, Amberley Publishing)

    Shortly after the launch a ‘Network Day’ was held later with a Rover ticket giving unlimited travel in the NSE area for a flat fare. This was very well patronised and inevitably many people decided to travel as far as possible which was just short of Exeter. Rail enthusiasts also tried to maximise loco haulage on this route. I recall standing in the carriage end gangway of a very crowded train all the way to Yeovil!

    My book takes a period from 1969 to 2018 so covers the old BR regional era, the sectorisation era including Network South East, and the post privatisation era. However it only covers loco haulage so the majority of NSE operations with diesel and electric multiple units are not included – other authors have produced albums on this subject for Amberley. I have also decided to take a more restricted geographical boundary of some sixty miles each way from London. During the timescale of the book the specific motive power types of the old regions like the Western Region diesel hydraulics and the Southern Region class 33s were replaced by standard class 60s, 66s, 67s and 70s etc on freight traffic. Few diesel or electric locomotives are now used on passenger services, but where they are, privatisation and the changing of franchises has seen a variety of local liveries come and go.

    Malcolm Batten's book Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East is available for purchase now.

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