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!

Monday, June 15, 2009

everything's coming our way ...

Move to reinstate lost rail lines

Train operators are calling for widespread expansion of the existing rail network, with 14 extra lines and about 40 new stations proposed.

The Association of Train Operating Companies said there was a need for expansion to cope with rising demand.

It said the expansion, which would cost £500m and possibly reuse lines closed under the 1960s Beeching cuts, could serve more than 1m extra passengers.

Any decisions on future expansion rest with government and Network Rail.

Atoc chief executive Michael Roberts said: "Record passenger numbers and rising demand require us to plan for the long term, while climate change and population growth make it vital that in doing so, we adapt the rail network to meet tomorrow's needs.
"Providing attractive new services and easier access to the rail network will encourage passengers to switch to rail from other, less green, modes of transport.
"We have established that there is a strong business case for investment to bring a number of towns back on to the rail network.
"Now we need to safeguard these routes and develop the detailed case for investment."

The Beeching report by Dr Richard Beeching in the 1960s resulted in the railway network being cut by a third, closing 2,000 stations and 5,000 miles of track.

The Atoc report says 40 towns not currently on the rail network could benefit from the 14 new lines.

Freight potential

It says the new stations could be operational within five to 10 years.

Any decision on whether any of the plans get the go-ahead would be taken by local and regional government, Network Rail and the Department for Transport.

Atoc argues infrastructure from some of the old lines closed in the 1960s could be refurbished to form part of the new network.
Freight lines could also be adapted to serve commercial routes, it said.

Transport Minister Chris Mole said the government would consider the findings of Atoc's report.

"The government's priority is to bring about changes, such as capacity improvements, which will deliver benefits for rail passengers now," he said.

"For the longer term, we will work with local authorities who want to improve links to the rail network, and will plan to make funding available from 2014 for successful schemes which demonstrate value for money."

Financial constraints

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said the research was "interesting" and made "an impressive case" for reopening disused rail lines.

She added: "Conservatives recognise the value of these transport corridors, which is why we have called for a moratorium on building on any disused rail lines still in public ownership.

"Certainly, housing growth and the need to cut emissions from transport and tackle road congestion means that all political parties should look seriously at the ideas put forward in this report, though it is clear that the state of the public finances will put constraints on what is possible over the next few years."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said: "RMT has repeatedly called for an expansion of rail services to create green jobs and green transport options as part of our campaign for a people's railways.

"However, any expansion should be publicly-owned and free from the chaos and profiteering of the privatised franchise system."

The areas which would be served by the 14 possible new lines identified in the report are:

• Cranleigh in Surrey
• Bordon, Hythe and Ringwood in Hampshire
• Brixham in Devon
• Aldridge and Brownhills in the West Midlands
• Wisbech in Cambridgeshire
• Leicester to Burton in the East Midlands
• Fleetwood, Rawtenstall and Skelmersdale in Lancashire
• Washington in Tyne and Wear
• Ashington and Blyth in Northumberland

Thanks to all of you who brought this to my attention. It has also been on the News24 Channel all day, though sadly accompanied by imagwes from the 50s and 60s, which rather misses the point!

Note that Ringwood is included - though not Wimborne! Of course we want this section restored to give us a second outlet in the south eastwards towards Southampton, we already have a line monitor for this section.

This is still only a tiny step in the right direction, and most of these routes have had agitation for restoration for years, which shows how important it is to get organised - notice the S&D ISN'T on this list! Note also the surprising omissions of Bere Alston-Tavistock and Lewes-Uckfiled - perhaps these are already considered 'in the bag'.

Things are clearly moving our way - remember that this is a response to capacity restraints, Peak Oil and - except for one tiny quote - even Climate Change are not mentioned.

The problem with the Beeching Report was that it was totally inflexible. It assumed that - for some peculiar reason - rail traffic would continue to decrease and that - somehow - roads would be able to cope. We all now know that isn't true at all, and that the roads are beginning their slow decline into history whilst rail can only get stronger and stronger as it ticks all the boxes - fast, clean, puctual, efficient, flexible, sustainable, cool, profitable. It's amazing how quickly things have changed in just a few short years. People used to think I was mad proposing a rebuilt S&D just five years ago - now I'm having a job keeping up with you lot!
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Toddingtonted said...

Some excellent news although, as you say, several of these re-opening schemes have been demanded for some time. There is no doubt that we are now seeing a change in the way we travel in the UK and perhaps the current recession is helping this rather than hindering it. In any case, I had thought it was sheer folly to even think about re-opening the entire S&D again; that may still be the case but its looking less like folly and more like common sense every day so pass the humble pie this way! Also congratulations on the Midford project. I know that there's much to do, not least to pay for it but its all going in the right direction at long last. Well done.

Pugsey said...

Dear sir.I was indeed surprised to see in "Heritage railway" about the ambitious plan to open the Somerset and Dorset.I cannot help but feel it is going to be an enormous task as the dear old railway has been smashed and obliterated in many places and sunstrans own a fair majority of trackbed.I will contribute towards Midford station and await more news.