Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Monday, April 27, 2009
would you believe it?
Bristol and Bath could be connected by steam train within a decade.
The Avon Valley Railway has announced plans to extend its service from just outside Saltford to Newbridge on the outskirts of Bath.
The charity has started a consultation process to gauge local reaction to the plans.
A spokesman for the Avon Valley Railway said it would also like to run a commuter service if it can gain planning permission.
"Based on what we hear and the support of the local community, there is no doubt in our minds that we can achieve the extension," said David Cole, development manager for the Avon Valley Railway.
"We are doing our bit to reverse what happened under the Beeching axe.
"If we had some of our railways back the problems of congestion on the roads would not be anything like as bad."
Hmmmm. Even the Avon Valley Railway is beginning to look at reintroducing real trains. The original intention of the AVR (when it was the Bristol Suburban Railway) was to do just this. They were 30 years ahead of their time.
So rather than building a real rail link that would have provided an excellent alternative to the roads they ended up running a strange little museum operation taking people from Bitton to nowhere, to nowhere again, then back to Bitton. It's an odd little line, the scenery is duff, half of it is through a vandal infested housing estate, it shadows a cycle route and it doesn't even try to imitate the steam era. Bitton station is great, and they are developing it more. Whilst this will improve facilities it will detract even more from the 'feel' of the station.
This is both its weakness and its strength. Any development of the route will have to be an improvement, and to begin to develop it as a genuine, community railway is a very bold step forward. But it's exactly what it needs.
The plan is to get back to Newbridge - this is old news. Newbridge is a park and ride area for Bath. That's bus park and ride unfortunately. Ideally a tramway should be built from Newbridge into the centre of Bath. The AVR could then look at adopting tram-trains for their commuter service, running as a train on the AVR and a tram into the city.
Westwards I assume the intention will be to build back to Bristol. This would put the AVR in the enviable position of having commuter flows in TWO directions!
This will totally transform the AVR and put a modern, community railway (making a profit!) on the doorstep of the New S&D.
The New S&D has always intended to return to Bath Green Park station. When we do, then it opens up even more opportunities for modern rail travel around Bath. It would not be a huge job to connect Bath GP with Newbridge and give the AVR access to a rebuilt S&D. At the same time, providing the AVR has finally reconnected to the network at Bristol, the S&D will have a further access point to the network, giving us the flexibility that will be so important on our new railway network.
This is an excellent first step.