One of the advantages of being involved in such a large and long-term project as rebuilding the S&D is that you can focus on a small section, a piece at a time. But you always need to keep the bigger picture in the back of your mind!
At Midsomer Norton we've put all our energies into rebulding the station and getting that first tiny section to Chilcompton rebuilt. But with a return to Radstock now beginning to take on a concrete dimension, and with the inevitable talk of rebuilding back to Bath, it's easy to forget that the S&D also powered south, all the way to Bournemouth.
The Bournemouth area is a bit of an anomaly - a large conurbation with no real rail commuter flows. Bournemouth is in a dangerous position with Peak Oil looming. It was once very forward-looking, with a decent rail system and trolleybuses right up to the late 60s. Now it's so car-reliant it makes you wonder just how stupid the authorities down there are!
Bournemouth should be a real winner in the Climate Change/Peak Oil future. With Peak Oil ending commercial aviation and Climate Change making most of southern Europe uninhabitable, Bournemouth is going to see huge development as a tourist destination. People will need a way of getting there, and a single rail route from Southampton is highly unlikely to be able to cope with the flows.
Prior to 1964 there were four routes to Bournemouth - the surviving line, the S&D, the line from Salisbury and the Ringwood loop. The last three were all closed between 1964 and 1966. They were all stupid closures, even without hindsight! Nearing Bournemouth they served a large suburban hinterland, connecting important places like Blandford, Wimborne and Ringwood to the outside world. No-one would deny these places rail connection now, even before Peak Oil. Had they been kept they would today be very busy routes, and the towns would be bigger too. Post Peak Oil all these towns will need to be reconnected. Somehow the S&D will need to also thread through this area to bring in long-distance trains, which will jostle with the suburban and freight flows. In particular Broadstone to Poole is going to be an extremely busy route! It may be that a tramway or metro will prove to be the best solution to local transort needs, possibly on-street, in which case the S&D could retain a dedicated route south of Blandford and Broadstone. Whatever happens rail development in the Bournemouth area in the coming decades is going to be spectacular and frenetic!