Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Welsh Highland Railway.
Gartell Railway. (John Penny).
Jinty at Midsomer Norton 2005.
One of the oddest things about all this New S&D thing is that I still occasionally get asked 'Is this a serious scheme?' It's deadly serious. I have studied the economics of Peak Oil, of transport and of railways and I still can't see any way - short of apocalypse - that this can't happen.
Consider two futures. One in which - somehow - economic expansion continues and some sort of alternative/s to oil is found. Roads would become increasingly congested, towns would continue to expand. Already our railways are bursting at the seams - new lines are not just desirable but inevitable. And in this (extremely unlikely) scenario economic expansion could lead to increased carbon output. How long before every government finally 'gets' what the rest of us have for years - that fuel efficiency is one way of reducing atmospheric carbon? Railways are at least FOUR times as efficient as road transport, much more than four times as efficient as air travel (which even in this scenario is doomed). Light and ultra-light rail are even more efficient.
The other future, the far more realistic one, will see economic expansion halt and even contract, and the road system grind to a halt due to a mix of sky-high oil prices, deteriorating maintenance of roads and ever greater limits on carbon output. This could happen over decades, years or even weeks. In this scenario rail expansion won't only be desirable but a matter of life or death, for communities if not for individuals. New railways will be opening everywhere, not just totally reversing the Beeching cuts but reaching places that never got a railway first time round, because in this scenario no railway = no way of continuing as an economic community.
The New S&D has never been about dreams, but more about stopping a nightmare. A New S&D is already needed, many feel that the original line should never have closed, in twenty years time only a few rocking lunatics won't see the need for it.
What we need - HAVE - to do is get organised NOW, develop our networks and contacts, within the rail industry, among local people, at local, regional and national political levels. It will be a struggle to get resources, human and financial. We will be competing with hundreds or even thousands of other routes desperate to reopen before the oil runs out. Serious? You could say that!