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, February 14, 2009

battle lines drawn

There was a special gift in one of the comments boxes the other day.

The North Norfolk Railway have no intention of getting back to Melton Constable and it would be finacially stupid to do so.

We hardly have enough volunteers and paid staff as it is without having to look after even more railway. An extension into Holt proper would be just about right, providing someone coughed up the huge amount of money required.

The former works at Melton is now a very busy industrial estate but not busy enough for any rail transport, and believe me the only good thing about Melton is the road out! It is not a tourist destination and would end up costing a lot of money and probably lose money on a daily basis.

As for the Norfolk orbital idea, that again is a no go, even the main people behind it are now starting to admit that.

Leave the NNR alone to be the quality heritage line that it is.

This was a response to an earlier comment on the same thread.

It's difficult. Once you 'get' Peak Oil - and eventually we all will - this does seem to be rather an anachronistic approach to the whole process of future rail development. I've no idea whether the NOR will happen, although in the long term it almost certainly will, if this bit of Norfolk doesn't vanish underneath the waves.

But it's clear that even within the 'rail community' there are fault lines developing between the realists and the nostalgists. The nostalgists will inevitably lose because the tide of history is moving rapidly against them. That doesn't mean that future railways will not have any heritage aspect - certainly the New S&D will resemble the original S&D in every feasible respect. But as realists we will look at every aspect of operation to ascertain its profitability. To my mind denationalization of the railways was the best thing that ever happened, because it's set the future of rail up. We just need to get rid of this stupid bureaucratic nonsense of separating infrastructure, rolling stock and service provision, which seems designed to retain government control and increase costs. The New S&D will do the lot!

Back to the original comment. Time is not frozen, despite many nostalgists hoping that it can be. The fact that the poster claims that the 'very busy' industrial estate at Melton Constable is not busy enough for rail transport is not relevant. It may well be in a few year's time, and certainly will be in 20 years time when the road option no longer exists.

The difficulty in the Orbital Project to me is that it's trying to draw together too many disparate elements - two heritage set ups, plus a network route. I'd worry about how profits (and/or) costs would be fairly distributed. And the heritage idea of taking a trip for the sake of it, especially one where you end up where you started, is surely going to be consigned to the dustbin of history within a decade or two.

The existing NNR is a superb line, but it needs to eventually find a real reason to exist to allow it to survive. The Orbital Railway, when it is built (and I'm sure it will be!), should help to bring some of these real traffic flows onto the NNR.

Tourist railways, lovely though they are, will have to adapt in the future. And the logical way to adapt is to carry genuine passengers and freight, as well as offer trips for tourists.

Sadly in some ways we need to only look forwards, not backwards. That idea is going to leave some of us stranded ...

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GMasterH said...

It doesn't matter where we are going, but if everyone keeps bickering we won't get anywhere fast.

Anonymous said...

I stand by what I've said. I am not a 'nostalgist' but a realist.
At 25 I have no early memories of steam to cloud my judgement which happens so much else where.

Although, yes I do prefer steam to diesel. But everything has its place.

I would love for the NNR to extend into Holt as I mentioned before, and if it did so then maybe a commuter service in some form could operate, providing it was profitable.
That would be difficult as there are already 3 seperate bus companies running good value for money services from Holt to Sheringham and beyond i.e Melton, Weybounre etc.

I would also love to see the cromer bypass link re-instated at East Runton which would allow decent size charters to run into Sheringham once the occasional use crossing goes in at the end of the year / next year. And possibly the use of the line into Cromer itself.

But (and it is a very big but,) for this to happen a huge amount of money needs to be found, not only to fund the re-instatement of the missing runton link but to upgrade the crossing, acquire and overhaul a larger number of suitable Locos, DMU's & coaching stock to mainline standard and to find and train the relevant staff.

All this is possible, but should it be done? Can the cost be justified? Can the cost of linking the NNR back up to melton be justified? Sadly I don't think so.

Remember in many cases the initial start up cost is the cheap bit, looking after everything later on is where things get costly.

Richard said...

I think that a longer term view needs to be taken about the Melton extension which forms part of the bigger picture of linking with Fakenham, a popular tourist destination and possibly the place where one day 3 heritage lines could meet up.

The cost of the project is however definitely a problem, but that doesn't mean it should be ruled out, certainly as the project has the backing of NCC. If the promoters go ahead and buy the strip of land up for sale near Fakenham, I think that will show their intention.

Anonymous said...

"The existing NNR is a superb line, but it needs to eventually find a real reason to exist to allow it to survive."

It already has a reason - tourism and that is REALLY the way in which it will make its money for the forseeable future. The NNR cannot live beyond its means. Yes most people, including myself, want to see the NNR extend, but there is nowhere for the railway to go in terms of a passenger carrying railway. 99% of people, sad though it is, will chose the car or bus over a 25mph rail route that may not even take them to exactly where they need to be.

The S&D is different in the sense that it would/did link a number of large towns that would be a viable alternative.