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, January 07, 2009

the customer is king (or queen)

Wetherspoons is a business that's riding the recession well, gaining a lot of free publicity recently when they reduced the price of some beers to just 99p!

What's that got to do with the S&D you may well ask!

Well the S&D is a business too, and it needs, in all its incarnations, to put its customers first. Wetherspoons has an excellent in-house magazine. These are usually pretty bland affairs, trumpeting the agenda of the organisation issuing them. But right away this is different - the letters page contains about 90% complaints, and these are then carefully answered. They don't try to hide problems and by bringing them out into the public sphere they can not only show they're a customer-based business, but they can explain why the situation has come about and what they can do about it.

Many years ago I used to work for the Lead Mining Museum in Wanlockhead, Scotland. Before we even met a customer we were all put through a customer care course. A lot of what we learned was counter-intuitive, particularly that a good company always encourages complaints, because once these are known about they can be dealt with.

Wetherspoons' business is catering. Many small heritage railways, particularly those that do not run trains, have catering as their backbone, and the ones that think deeply about it do it really well. But some are dreadful. Lukewarm, unimaginative and overpriced food, served in a couldn't-care-less atmosphere by people that have little interest in the line they are supposed to be the ambassadors for. And what is worse than turning up hungry and thirsty and finding the catering facilities CLOSED? This has happened to me a few times!

The New S&D will be customer-focussed above all other things. Hopefully many of the officers and directors will be businesspeople who know how to treat customers. And they'll ALL be put through a customer care course first!
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