Peterborough to Blisworth Railway
The Early Years
The Issue of Parochial Rates
One of the initial problems that had to be tackled concerned the rateable value of the line. The parish of Thrapston led the way in seeking the parochial rates which it deemed payable by the company. In a situation that seems very similar to the controversy of international companies and corporation tax payment today, the London and North Western Railway contended that the income from their passenger and freight traffic was not sufficient to finance the maintenance of the line and therefore the company was not liable to pay parochial rates.
The case was taken before the Queen’s Bench and was a test case for other parishes. An appeal went before the quarter session of Northamptonshire January 1850 with the London and North Western Railway as the appellants and the parish of Thrapston as the respondents.
The London and North Western Railway brought before the quarter session the accounts for the line showing that it was running at a loss. From that the contention was that the value of the land was a negative quantity and therefore there was no value for rent. In a situation that foreshadowed the argument 120 years later at the time of the Beeching Report, alternative accounts were submitted that showed that the passengers travelling on the Peterborough and Blisworth railway travelled on average 44 miles on the main line. It was contended that the income of the company was increased because of the travelling further than just on the branch line. The parish of Thrapston maintained “that the value of the Blisworth and Peterborough line was to be assessed, not merely from the traffic passing along it between those two points, but from the traffic in addition which it poured upon the main line beyond Blisworth.”
By this time the Eastern Counties Railway had reached Peterborough, so, not only was there extra income to be derived from the south western end of the line but also from the north eastern end of the line as well.
Acting on the data available, the parish authorities assessed the rateable value of the line at about £19,000, although that was still £4,000 less than the calculations involving journeys off the branch line.
Reference: Yorkshire Gazette – Saturday 19 January 1850
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