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!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

the alternatives ...

Jungi - different every time!

Unfazed bird.

Recycling and composting.

We joined Bristol Zoo last year, but weren't sure at the time whether it was money well spent.

Six months later I can definitely confirm it was! We go there normally about once a week.

Now the zoo is an alternative destination for the sort of people the heritage lines on the S&D hope to attract. Families with a bit of spare cash and a reasonable amount of time to spare. In a way they are competing with us, especially when times are hard. A family visit to the zoo is not cheap at around £35.

So what do you get for your money? A nicely stocked shop with a lot of original gifts, almost all with an animal connection. A decent though rather expensive restaurant. A few other concessions around the site. Regular events during the year. But most of all the animals.

The thing is the animals stay pretty much the same, but they are different every time we visit.

So what am I trying to say?

Firstly the visitor facilities have to be excellent - a good shop and, most importantly, good catering facilities. No catering and people won't stay around and they certainly won't recommend the site to their friends. Midsomer Norton in particular doesn't seem to have got this yet. A couple of years ago the catering coach was a hive of activity, open every Sunday and Monday, offering regular events and a wide ranging menu. Now it appears it isn't even open every Sunday!

Again the shop needs to have regular injections of fresh material, if it starts to look stale regular customers tend to just ignore it. And not to offer internet and mail order sales in the 21st century is taking nostalgia too far! Again, this applies to MN, Shillingstone have these options in place.

The animal analogy in railway terms means that there needs to be something new to see every time a regular visitor appears. This can be infrastructure work or changes in locos and rolling stock.

And the other important point is that EVERYBODY on site needs to enthuse about the line. Negativity has no place at all, and anyone in the public eye needs to drop everything they are doing to attend to visitors, not wait to be asked. Because heritage railways aren't only in competition with every other heritage railway but also with every other tourist attraction.

For any of the S&D heritage set ups to flourish they need to put customers first, to put themselves in their place. It's a harsh world out there, but if you get it right it can be brilliant!
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