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!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

bike to the future

A recent message board post suggested that we should oppose cycleways. This may have been a valid argument 20 years ago, as a reaction to the dinosaur thinking of some of the cycle groups in the 80s, but I really don't think it applies today.

Look ahead 20 years. Cheap oil will have disappeared from the market. Private cars will be the preserve of a few very rich people. Air travel will be the same. Economies will be much more locally and regionally based. Roads will fall into disuse as people refuse to pay taxes to maintain them. Railways will be being feverishly rebuilt across the country. Cities and larger towns will be rushing to build tramways. Rail will be in the ascendant ...

But even rail requires energy. A new nuclear industry may well allow many lines to be electrified, as long as uranium remains available. Many lines will use wood burning steam. But a transport system that requires almost no energy at all should also be allowed to flourish - the bike. There is already a reasonably large cycleway network in the UK, but Sustrans struggles to raise the money to keep it going, let alone expand. Some Sustrans routes use rail trackbeds that will inevitably have to revert to rail in the future. But of course within a decade or two there will be a whole new resource for Sustrans to transform - the dying road network! This should mean that a transformation of our transport from road to rail and bike should be fairly easy to achieve. Railways will be able to take the medium to long distance traffic, plus freight, whilst the cycleways will allow individuals and families to range up to 10 or 20 miles from their homes. The climate will benefit, people's health will benefit, wildlife and the countryside will flourish and we'll still be able to keep a reasonably high standard or living.

So let's not pretend the rail revivalists and cyclists are somehow at odds, we're actually destined to work TOGETHER in the future. Rather than knock Sustrans let's join in droves and invite them to join us ...
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Bogie said...

We could always operate using a hub and spoke system, where trains form the hub (town to town, city to city) and bikes form the spokes (town/city stations to outlying suburbs/villages).

Sunshiner said...

Sounds good! And let's not forget that narrow-gauge light or ultra-light railways could also serve a very useful purpose linking smaller communities to larger ones in the future. Or perhaps a French-style velorail model could also be a useful idea.

Toddingtonted said...

Perhaps just driving there in a 4x4 car would be better still, especially if there's 100 year's worth of oil deposits left in the Alberta Tar Sands as per today's "Telegraph" Magazine, which they now dig out in 400 ton truck loads at a time 24/7. Not very "green" of course but most people really do not care so it seems to me as long as they can have the freedom to drive or fly where they like. That said, cycling is a healthy activity (until someone smacks you with their 4x4 or white van). I think the S&D will flourish again once coal extraction recommences - after all, railways were originally built with goods in mind not passengers weren't they?

Sunshiner said...

I prefer to get my information on something as important as Peak Oil from the Oil Researchers and professionals rather than a feelgood lefty tabloid mag, but if that's what people want to hear then it just makes life easier for those of us that are preparing for the real future rather than a marxist materialist utopia! But I agree entirely - use your 4x4 whilst you still can. For the same reason I'm taking three flights between now and February because it may well be the last time I can afford to. The oil age was great and we all had a lot of fun during it, but those days are nearly gone so why not live it up just a little longer?

(The Alberta Tar Sands may well produce some useable (if expensive) oil, but at a huge environmental cost which I doubt will be affordable. It needs conventional oil to extract and the return is often less than 3 barrels for every 2 put in, when conventional oil dries up then the tar sands will be unextractable. There may be '100 years worth' at current extraction rates - but they are only producing 1 million barrels a day 365 days a year 24/7. A million barrels may sound a lot, but current daily worldwide use is around 80 million barrels, and that's growing by around 4 million barrels a year at the moment. All the tar sands will do is perhaps delay the peak by a year or so.)

These 'miracle' sources are really a symptom of desperation. They are only economic at all because of the persistently high price of conventional oil, itself a symptom of being at or near the peak of production.

We all have to accept that the days of cheap oil are numbered and that is going to have profound effects on all of us. The masses tend to choose to hide from reality which is great whilst things are okay but disastrous when things go wrong. And believe me, after Peak Oil, the smallest of our worries is going to be transport!

The S&D represents the future. A form of transport that can be run by sustainable power (wind/solar/nuclear electricity, wood burning steam) and that will serve an essential purpose - carrying people and products for a few tens of miles.

I haven't even touched on Climate Change, which will also have a profound effect on the way things work in future (and again rail will benefit) but the rubbishing of Peak Oil 'Theory' has uncanny echoes in the daft words of Climate Change deniers from a decade or two ago, very amusing to us today but taken seriously by some gullible people at the time. It's easy to get support when you're telling people what they desperately want to hear!

Of course in reality Climate Change is now happening far faster than even the most pessimistic (realistic) forecasters dared to suggest even just a few years ago.

But as always the S&D abides!

Toddingtonted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toddingtonted said...

Blimey! I didn't have to wait long to get a bite from Mr Sunshiner! As for the Saturday Telegraph being left-wing, well, my dear chap!
Oh, by the way, I don't own a 4x4!
I don't want to worry about Climate change, I want to see the S&D rebuilt. To do so will take tons of rock, steel and other heavy products which will all exact a toll on the environment. I believe climate change is nothing new and if it does change there is absolutely nothing puny humans can do about it unless, which is highly likely, we all become another extinct fossil species in the rocks in which case some other species will no doubt be adapting to it quite nicely thank you!

Sunshiner said...

Nobody wants to worry about Climate Change! But we'd be daft to not see it as an opportunity to push the rail agenda. Of course its rebuilding will need lots of materials, hopefully much of this can be recycled. Just a few years ago remember this country was still building new ROADS LOL!

If we do become extinct (and as an unreconstructed right winger I don't plan us to!) let's hope whoever takes our place keeps the S&D going!!

Toddingtonted said...

Of course, the successor species to us humans might have a penchant for a certain blue colour and paint everything on the S&D that colour! Incidentally, being in anorak mode for a moment, what colour were structures on the S&D painted in pre-British Railways days? I suppose they would have used Southern Railway house colours or even Midland. I wonder what the original S&D Company used - not that it is of great significance, just curious.

Savannah said...

Well said.