Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Monday, July 20, 2009
toe in the water
The New S&D appeared 'out there' over the weekend.
It wasn't a New S&D stall, but the Wessex Society stall at the Tolpuddle Martyrs' Show carried some hastily printed leaflets for us. Below is David's report back.
Take-up of the leaflets was very slow and I have most left over. Bob Craig took a batch of them over to the RMT stall, where they were apparently well-received.
I had three good conversations with folk who expressed interest, along the lines of 'nice idea, but it'll never happen'. They were all concerned at how practical it would be to deal with route obstructions. Buying-out what is now prize real estate and constructing diversions were both viewed as hopelessly expensive. Nevertheless, the idea of trying to secure whatever bits of trackbed come onto the market was applauded as very far-sighted. Although it was thought that the planning system might also have a role in protecting the route its limitations in this respect were appreciated. Where a route is safeguarded at all, it is likely to be no more than the width needed for a footpath or cycleway, as reportedly has happened at Radstock. A visitor from Midsomer Norton also welcomed the fact that New S&D would be looking at the line as a whole and hoped that it would enable the groups on their three different sites to work together more closely.
A teacher from the Blackmore Vale recalled that pupils used to travel by train to school but that the pattern of schools has now changed so that this would no longer be practical today. She did think that the Blackmore Vale - with the Dorset/Somerset boundary winding through it - was one area where an over-arching Wessex identity could help in addressing rural deprivation, especially access to facilities. She also recalled that the railways had had quite a socially divisive effect on Templecombe, as a barrier to movement within the village. She still finds bits of coal in her garden and wondered at the pollution involved in re-instating the railway.
There are some interesting points raised here. We overcame the 'nice idea, but it'll never happen' mindset years ago, but it's clear that we've got all that to look forward to again once we bring the message to new areas and new people. No problem! Many of the naysayers from a few years ago are now active members and supporters of the New S&D. At Radstock the protected piece of land is wide enough for a single track. In any case it is very rare that development takes place right up hard against a protected right of way, and it is more often that not just a garden extension, hardly a problem. It's also pretty clear that 90% of the population are still unaware of Peak Oil - or 'energy security' as our 'rulers' like to call it. It wasn't that long ago that 90% of the population were ignorant of climate change! As for development on S&D trackbed - there is very little, none of it is 'prize real estate' but poorish farmland. I doubt there are 65 dwellings on the whole trackbed of the S&D - but this number have been compulsory purchased and will be demolished as the Waverley route south of Edinburgh is rebuilt. This really is a non issue, and stems from ignorance.
To me the most interesting comments were those about Templecombe, that the S&D tended to be divisive there. How this compares with a motorway, A road or indeed airport runway wasn't gone into!
None of these are major issues, and we've been here many times before.
I'm really looking forward to the New S&D going 'out on the road' later in the year, bringing the message to those villages and, disgracefully, towns, that are still waiting for their trains to come back.