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, January 24, 2009

peak oil and the new S&D

(Bottom three photos courtesy Mick Knox).

Peak Oil is a worldwide issue but I think all any of us can do is concentrate on how it will affect us, our family, our community and our area.

The New Somerset and Dorset Railway is probably the first railway business in the UK to have Peak Oil as its principal raison d'etre.

I've just been reading Matt Simmons superb book 'Twilight in the Desert', a technical analysis of the prospects for Saudi oil production. It is a very sobering read and even if you take a more optimistic view Saudi oil production is already in decline, with no real prospects of new oil finds coming on line. Saudi Arabia is by far the world's biggest oil producer, when it begins to fail we all do. Notice how keen Saudi Arabia was to reduce oil production recently, claiming it was to force up the price (which didn't happen). It is far more likely that they are trying to rest their oil wells. Rapid production often leads to a larger percentage of unrecoverable oil.

Few people now dispute Peak Oil theory, oil is a finite resource and what's left (less than half) is running out quickly. But you still hear a lot of uninformed people blithely claiming science will 'save' us. Ask for sources or more info and they look blank. It won't. Science itself depends on cheap energy to make much of science possible. Hydrogen? Not a chance. It's not a fuel, it's a delivery method. Biofuels? A total joke and now being abandoned everywhere. All it does is compete with scarce land for food. Electric vehicles? How exactly will we generate the extra electricity to power all these inefficient vehicles? Nuclear power? Okay for a few more decades, but uranium is rapidly depleting with even the best estimates only giving it 60 more years before the lot has gone.

It may be that some of these technologies will fill some of the energy gap, but not enough. It is almost certain that in the future we will need to manage on a lot less energy. Things will get simpler but harder. We will get rid of most of the nonsense that currently blights us!

The one thing that will certainly happen is that transport will switch totally away from roads to railways/tramways, to bikes, to horses and walking. But rail will be the only high-tech option remaining.

Towns and cities will reorientate themselves so that rail becomes the prime mode of medium to long distance travel. Businesses needing transport will relocate alongside railways and tramways. Farming will become 100% organic (all fertilizers are made from oil, so will at first become expensive, then unavailable). Farmers will need to transport surplus product to market, probably no further than ten to twenty miles, by rail mainly. Most people will work from home or at most at a small business in their own town or village. There may be some residual commuting flows to serve a much smaller bureaucracy, but nothing like what we see today. People will holiday mainly in their own country (although hopefully a high speed European rail network should replace the dying air routes), nearly all holidaymakers will travel by train. Roads themselves will quickly vanish as the cost of repair quickly outstrips the availability of money from a falling motoring tax take.

For the New S&D this will mean concentrating on providing mainly local passenger services, but also faster services bringing holidaymakers from further afield to Bournemouth and beyond. Freight will be commonplace, with both local (to market) traffic and through traffic, taking up at least some of the slack from the end of road transport. We may even see renewed coal flows from the mines in North Somerset. People will still want to get about, I can't see us all withdrawing to our villages! There will be plenty of private sidings running into business areas, tram feeders in Bath, Bristol and Bournemouth and probably branch lines linking the classic S&D with villages and towns currently not served by rail.

This is not really a radical vision of the future, merely a realistic one. But it will inform the progress and detail of the New S&D.
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1 comment:

WestfieldWanderers said...

Agree with most of what you say.

The exception being:
Roads themselves will quickly vanish as the cost of repair quickly outstrips the availability of money from a falling motoring tax take.

You're falling for the common misconception that motoring taxes directly fund highway maintenance.

It doesn't.

Highway maintenance is, and has been since long before the invention of the infernal corruption engine, the financial responsibility of the the local Unitary or County Council. Therefore we all pay for the roads. If users paid directly then we would need some form of pedestrian tax to pay for the footways.

However, you are right in the sense that roads will disappear, but due to reduced tax income from a drastically reduced population (assuming, of course that some kind of civil administration actually exists at this point). For the reasons you already state the Post Oil world will be unable to support present day levels of population. In the UK, the last time that these islands were self sufficient in food was at the time of the Civil War when the population was probably about a tenth of the present day. To put it bluntly, not being able to fuel our cars or heat our houses will be the least of our problems when most of us will die of starvation.