Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'

The original Somerset and Dorset Railway closed very controversially in 1966. It is time that decision, made in a very different world, was reversed. We now have many councillors, MPs, businesses and individuals living along the line supporting us. Even the Ministry of Transport supports our general aim. The New S&D was formed in 2009 with the aim of rebuilding as much of the route as possible, at the very least the main line from Bath (Britain's only World Heritage City) to Bournemouth (our premier seaside resort); as well as the branches to Wells, Glastonbury and Wimborne. We will achieve this through a mix of lobbying, trackbed purchase and restoration of sections of the route as they become economically viable. With Climate Change, road congestion, capacity constraints on the railways and now Peak Oil firmly on the agenda we are pushing against an open door. We already own Midford just south of Bath, and are restoring Spetisbury under license from DCC, but this is just the start. There are other established groups restoring stations and line at Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone, and the fabulous narrow gauge line near Templevcombe, the Gartell Railway.

There are now FIVE sites being actively restored on the S&D and this blog will follow what goes on at all of them!
Midford - Midsomer Norton - Gartell - Shillingstone - Spetisbury

Our Aim:

Our aim is to use a mix of lobbying, strategic track-bed purchase, fundraising and encouragement and support of groups already preserving sections of the route, as well as working with local and national government, local people, countryside groups and railway enthusiasts (of all types!) To restore sections of the route as they become viable.
Whilst the New S&D will primarily be a modern passenger and freight railway offering state of the art trains and services, we will also restore the infrastructure to the highest standards and encourage steam working and steam specials over all sections of the route, as well as work very closely with existing heritage lines established on the route.

This blog contains my personal views. Anything said here does not necessarily represent the aims or views of any of the groups currently restoring, preserving or operating trains over the Somerset and Dorset Railway!

Thursday, October 12, 2006


You sometimes wonder how it ever got to this - that a railway that will HAVE to be rebuilt can have houses built on or near its trackbed! This is the scene at Cole, 40 years to the day after closure.

It's clear from the picture that a diversionary route could easily be built here, but even with that in place these houses would be very close to the track. Obviously at some point trains WILL pass through Cole again, so a solution will need to be found.

The solution is not only simple but also elegant. With the housing market still quite bouyant most of these houses will be for sale at some point. So all we need to do is buy them as they become available, rent them out, then put the line back in place when needed. Rental agreements would clearly state that the line will be rebuilt and that the tenant would have to agree to this as a condition of taking on the lease.

Given 15 to 20 years before reinstatement as the ideal set up, the property would actually cost us nothing once the rental income is taken into account. Even where a house would need to be demolished there would be various cash inflows from salvageable materials.

Harsher folk may say 'Forget such subtle schemes, as a public railway we'll be free to use compulsory purchase'. True enough, but what legacy would that leave us in relation to the local communities we'll be serving? We need to work with them, not against them, and what is worse than turning somebody out of their house?

No, we'll do it in a gentler way, an S&D way as always ... Posted by Picasa


Rockers said...

Again. Some short sighted idiot allowing development on a trackbed. So much for adherring to government guidelines on safe guarding these routes. That is the biggest problem any future rail schemes face. These wankers in the council are slitting our throats but continuing to allow development. The route into Bristol from Radstock is a prime example of this, to reinstate this line would be prohibitively expensive due to the amount of housing etc that would have to be purchased to enable the line to be reinstated. The problem is staring them in the face and still they cant see it. The rush to to turn everything into a poxy housing development will come back to haunt us.

Peak Oil Dreams said...

It will haunt them, not us! But it still isn't quite time for the wider public to realise this, there are still a few years of cheap oil to keep 'em dreaming.

We need to use those few years to position ourselves so that the S&D will be one of the first - rather than one of the last - routes to be reinstated.

And as I hinted in the original post, reinstated lines will always be able to play - or even just threaten - the compulsory purchase card. Once this gets round houses built on routes of future railways will suffer from blight and will be even cheaper to buy!

Houses have already been compulsorily purchased on the new tramways in Croydon and Sheffield, and 60 more will go when the Waverley line is reopened in a few years' time.

Fortunately Radstock-Shepton is just about clear of idiot development, but there are a few houses on or close to the Radstock-Bath protected route.

Rockers said...

THe S&D is surprisely quite free of obstructions from Bath to Shepton, apart from that housing estate in Radstock which is a major one. The thing that concerns me is the cost of removing all of these obstructions, not so bad when houses were £40000, there 4 times the price now. Councils should act now to further comprimise these routes, BANES have done something but it does'nt seem like the others have.

Dean said...

One idea that I think might be useful reconsidering to make life a bit smoother is a very successful one borrowed from the Bluebell. In short to reduce any fermenting opposition to reinstating the railway the Bluebell started a campaign to write to anyone from local councils to lawyers to estate agents to landowners etc. This campaign made sure in writing that everyone knew what the Bluebell was up to. This had the effect of "pulling the teeth" of a lot of potential opposition before it happened. This could be something to keep in mind. Modern so called developers are well known for having stern questions raised about matters regarding their parentage.

Peak Oil Dreams said...

Fortunately the developers issue won't apply to us, with Bath to Midsomer Norton protected and the climb over the Mendips not exactly attractive to commuters etc (no trains see!)

But the idea is an excellent one - in principle we are charged with and seek to reinstate the whole S&D in the long-term, but to declare this now with just the one small station may seem a little over-ambitious!

The whole idea is to develop the route incrementally, so we don't bite off more than we can chew. We can shepherd the right volunteer and financial resources at each stage of the line's development, never borrow money or risk money-losing activity. I imagine that as we reach new goals we'll make landowners etc further down the line aware of our short and medium-term plans.

ChrisCMR said...

I agree, I've been watching the Waverley Route re-opening scheme with immense interest. It would be great if the demolition work required to reinstate it busts the current perception that because a route is built on, it cannot be re-opened. That will be a historic precedent, raising hopes for other routes, like the S&D and Frome-Bristol lines, but especially (I hope!) for my local Dumfries-Challoch Junction (Stranraer) "Port Road" line, closed in August 1965.

Peak Oil Dreams said...

The Port Road was another barely believable closure that will need to be reversed sooner rather than later! What were they thinking of?

Is there any news on the Maxwelltown stretch or has that now gone? Dumfries was one of my old stamping grounds in the 90s, my son was delivered at Cresswell Hospital in Dumfries!

ChrisCMR said...

I was a member of the society which tried to set up a steam railway on the Maxwelltown stretch, but we were thwarted by Railtrack, who refused to consider releasing the line as, in their eyes at least, it still had freight potential. Eventually we stopped holding committee meetings, and I haven't heard much since. However, since news of the Waverley Line's approval was announced by the Scottish Parliament, I am seriously considering writing a detailed feature article, outlining my ideas for a potentially re-opened Dumfries - Stranraer route, which would be sent out to all the local papers in a bid to canvas support. Hopefully the idea will interest other people , and something will develop from there.

Peak Oil Dreams said...

If you do go ahead we'd be first in the queue to add a link to any website etc you set up!

Best of luck with it.