Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Monday, July 03, 2006
the three pillars of wisdom for s&d success
Midsomer Norton South 03/07/06
To make the most of the rebuilt S&D we need to concentrate on three main pillars of activity - tourism, heritage and transport.
Tourism means that train services need to be geared towards bringing people into the area to visit the railway and other attractions. Bath is Britain’s only World Heritage City, and Bournemouth is our premier resort, so we have a head start over other railways! But until we reach Bath and Bournemouth it is the area in between that we need to push and develop. A fledgling area tourist group is beginning to take shape, with the support of BANES, with the railway and the Mining Museum at Radstock the senior partners.
Tourists are a fickle bunch, and can easily be head hunted by non-railway tourist set ups, so we need to offer a great experience at a good price, be family-orientated and customer-driven, and to be very clever with our marketing. Everyone loves a steam train, and most people love the English countryside, so we have a head start! The fascinating industrial past of the Somerset Coalfield is also a natural draw. A steam railway has the unique function of being both a tourist attraction in itself and a way of travelling between tourist attractions.
Heritage is how the new S&D will link with the old. Already Midsomer Norton station is a showpiece, particularly now the signalbox is taking shape again. We are very aware of the place the old S&D had in the hearts of railway enthusiasts, local people and lovers of the English countryside. With its family atmosphere, heavy engineering works, huge variety of trains and locomotives, and its scenic route it is almost as if it was designed as a potential huge tourist attraction for the 21st century! The new S&D will be as close as possible to the original, with manned stations, double track and express engines. The museum at Midsomer Norton will be developed as the finest local and railway history archive in the country, reflecting the importance of the S&D to writers and researchers. Each station along the route will have an add-on visitor attraction with appeal to both tourists and railway enthusiasts, encouraging visitors to alight at intermediate stations and visit the towns and villages that they serve.
Finally the transport role of the S&D as it expands will become more and more important as oil runs out. A link between Radstock and Chilcompton will already serve a transport need, but as the line expands towards Bath and Bournemouth then commuter and freight flows will also fall to us.
The original S&D should never have been closed, it should have been developed as the premier tourist attraction in southern England as well as an essential transport link. What the short sighted governments and local authorities of the day failed to do over the last 40 years we will make happen over the next 40!