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, April 29, 2009

sturminster newton and all that

There's some controversy over the proposal to build 14 new houses on S&D trackbed at Sturminster Newton. The message board's been addressing this.

Nick Howes put the current situation very succinctly.

[C]ouncils don't consider it because they dont believe anyone would have the money or justification to do it. The railway is just a bygone scar in the landscape to these people, just like the fragmented canal beds and roman roads, nothing more, nothing less. They see the modern network struggling and run down with £30 billion subsidy so they can't possibly see anyone with any clout or money knocking on the door to their town, simple as that. This is the cold hard pre peak oil reality that we are up against. Its a loss making brown field site and they need money to fuel their short term local budgets and political aims. Everything is short term and no-one looks ahead and they have a housing quota target to fulfill as well.

My reply -

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Things are gradually changing. I've an appointment this afternoon with a local development agency who approached me through Transition. Bristol is the only city in the UK with a Peak Oil Task Force set up by the city council. Awareness is slowly developing. In ten years time all we're saying now will just be the generally accepted concensus.

Too many rail types live in the present or, worse still, the past. They think the rules that apply now will for some reason apply in the future. They clearly won't. There will be a huge modal shift from road to rail simply because rail is so much more flexible, and economic, in energy inputs. This won't so much be a conscious change but one forced on us by market forces.

The New S&D is designed to flourish in the future. At the moment it is still something of an anachronism. This is the whole point - we will move into a future of ever more opening doors. But we need to organise now to steal a pitch on our rivals, ie all the other groups pressing for their lines to be restored.

The more of us that get involved in the New S&D the quicker this will happen.

We don't need to worry about some puny housing development. When push comes to shove the railway will get priority and all other considerations will be ignored. That's the reality of the future.

In a couple of years, when we are ready, we'll approach everybody on the route - landowners, councils etc - and present them with our plans. Until then all we can do is build the structure of the New S&D.
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