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!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

environmental responsibilities

We've always taken our responsibilities towards the environment seriously at the S&D. From protection of the animals and plants that share our site through to caring for the woodland alongside the station in cooperation with Wildspace, and trying to recycle and use kinder methods of controlling weeds and pests. Soon we'll be growing some of our own catering coach food in the greenhouse (organically of course!) and we've always used free range eggs in the food we sell.

Ten years ago few of course took much of this into account, but the environment - particularly climate change and peak oil - are rapidly taking over as our principle causes for concern over and above the old issues such as unemployment, education and defence. As we run out of oil and the world continues to heat up will the big guns of big brother turn towards the wider railway heritage movement? As we turn from oil to coal for our fossil fuels will heritage railways even be allowed to buy coal? How will we run our diesels and steam engines?

Diesel has no future, very soon the costs of fuelling a diesel loco will make them uneconomic on all lines. Steam will struggle on but soon everyone will be after coal and the price will skyrocket. There is an option of course, and I've touched on it before. Steam engines being simple and sturdy constructions can run on anything that will burn, and the obvious solution is to burn wood. It's renewable (if not over-exploited), can be grown on our doorstep and if planned well costs very little. Growing new trees to replace those burned for fuel keeps the carbon-cycle pretty much neutral.

But another aspect is that we need our passengers to come to us - today many use cars but few if any will have this option in the medium-term. Only lines with a connection to a much expanded rail network will be able to survive and flourish. But they will also need to serve a real transport need - and this should be part of any line's strategy. Most of today's heritage lines would serve a real transport need, whether for freight, passengers or both. Whether a real 'heritage' aspect will survive in this new world remains to be seen, but then today's heritage lines are very different from the enthusiast-targeted 'preserved' lines of the 1950s and 60s. We shouldn't be frightened of change, in fact we should embrace it. Careful planning is the secret, and we engage in plenty of that at the S&D!


Derek Andrews said...

If you want to encourage passenger traffic, don't forget cyclists in your planning.

I used to live in Bedford and work in Milton Keynes. I often cycled rather than use my car, using the Bedford-Bletchley line that had a good old-fashioned guards waggon that I could put my bike in. The guard was always very pleasant and we often had a good laugh.

This is in contrast to the rail trip we took to Thurso en-route to a cycling tour in Orkney and Shetland. The first leg was fine in a high-speed train which had a guards waggon (or whatever they call them on an HST) though we did have to book the bikes on. But on a later leg, a small electric service IIRC, we had to unload our bikes of all the panniers to get them to fit. It was a right pain in the butt, not helped by the guard who was really abrupt and really didn't want us there.

Peak Oil Dreams said...

We're very cycle friendly on the S&D with our support in particular for the Radstock-Midsomer Norton combined cycleway/railway, and would welcome all the opportunities that cycle-rail synergy offer, including trips one way by cycle and back by train etc. Rail and cycling are quickly becoming the big boys of transport as Peak Oil approaches - both are sustainable, leave a very small footprint on the environment and aren't dependent on imported fossil fuels!

There will always be room for cycles on S&D trains!