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, 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.
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WestfieldWanderer said...

Perhaps it should be noted that when Sustrans acquired the trackbed for the Colliers Way cycle route it was to the original width - the original fencing is still in the undergrowth somewhere.
Lets regard the cyclepaths as "custodians" of the integrity of the routes they use pending restoration. And when the railway is restored the reinstatement of the cycle track alongside would cost very little in the great scheme of things.

Sunshiner said...

Agree entirely, and indeed that is what Sustrans agree nationally. That where the route is required for real trains then they will give up the route provided an alternative is built. We are both in the sustainable transport business after all!

I wonder if the New S&D should really throw its hat in the ring and aim to provide both a railway AND cycleway between Bath and Bournemouth and along to Glastonbury? This could bring in a whole new tranche of members and will surely remove the rail/bike divide that others have been so keen to nurture ...

Anonymous said...

how about moving into the future as oil is running out and make our S & D futuristic by building a monorail powered by wind farms, solar panelling etc ?

build this monorail along, near by the S & D.
but you will have some moaning and groaning it will be an eye sore but if we could get them to take off their blinkers and look at the big futuristic picture, well, we will see.
am i alone on this thought or are you all going to moan and say, get a life ?
life, is short and unless we think ahead we are going to shorten this planets life even more.

maglev springs to mind.

Sunshiner said...

Why a monorail? They are extremely expensive and they can't employ points. Maglev would be excellent for a dedicated high speed intercity route, but would be no use on a rebuilt S&D with 30 stations or more. It would never get up to speed. Can monorails move freight - I don't think I've heard of it happening.

Obviously any rebuilt S&D (indeed all future railways) will need to source sustainable energy. Solar, wind or nuclear generated electricity or wood burning steam spring to mind.

We don't need some complex, expensive and untried system - we need a proven, cheap and supremely flexible technology ie normal rail! We need a system that can carry through trains and local trains, passengers and freight and be easily expanded as traffic increases. The whole idea of the New S&D is to bring back these sadly missed services, not build some monstrosity totally out of keeping with the environment that whizzes through (without stopping) at 200mph! The future is local transport feeding into a 21st century high speed European rail network. Somerset and Dorset were betrayed back in 1966, let's not make the same mistakes again!

Anonymous said...

The never happen brigade will wake up in a panic when the reality of reduced oil supplies hits home and they'll want something done about it immediately! Remember the panic during the fuel protest back in 2000? The only way to safeguard against our total dependency on oil is to build better railways, while we still have an oil supply. Why do you think we were in Iraq? Oil, oil and oil: we certainly didn't find any weapons of mass destruction? They were in North Korea! Just imagine for one moment how you would manage without oil?


Anonymous said...

Not that we would want a maglev anyway, everyone is used to rails and wheels and a maglev would be a change which would not go down well. Most people would want to stick with Rails and wheels. Also a recap needed here please are we planning to use a mix of steam and modern rolling stock? The only steam locmotives the S&D trusts own is a 7F, radstock Sentile, a
9F which will take a long time to restore and a small industrial locomotive. the bluebell railway have the largest locomotive fleet in british heritage railway exsitence and they can barely handle a 10 mile section of track each day. The S&D is around 100 miles long so what then? The answer is modern stock. But for that we wouldn't be regarded as a tourist attraction 'heritage railway' except for a few steam speicials. What do we do?

Sunshiner said...

The New S&D will use modern stock to run its own trains - anything from Parry People Movers to electrically powered locomotives (but not using overhead or conductor rail!) pulling new generation coaches. We will also look at sustainable steam ie wood burning, if feasible.

As well as the regular passenger and freight trains we will of course encourage steam operation by third parties on the route, probably using a steam centre on the route as a base and an additional attraction. The S&D was a unique steam railway and we will certainly encourage its continuing use as such!

The Bluebell is a totally different operation - the incredible thing is that a line so heavily overloaded with steam locomotives keeps going! The economic case for owning so many locos when normally only two trains are in operation escapes me - but I'm glad it works!

Anonymous said...

So just how are these electrical locos going to get their juice?

Sunshiner said...

The Parry People Movers recharge as they are standing at teh station. the energy is transferred to a flywheel which is very efficient. We have 20 or perhaps 30years to develop the technology. Locos (which are far more flexible than MUs) could employ super efficient batteries again which could be topped up either at stations or on short sections of overhead or conductor rail (in tunnels, viaducts or open country for example).

Anonymous said...

What about the Government's latest weez to electrify the GWR! It would be much better spending the billions on opening the old branch lines and the S&D!!!!

Anonymous said...

Im sorry but I can't stop laughing at this site...don't get me wrong a service over most of the route could be a possiblity but the whole route as it once was? get a grip. the ATOC plans to reopen Frome to Radstock could give you a service opening there i.e an FGW Bristol - Weymouth service splits at Frome with the rear postion going to Radstock and then on to the opened part of the S&D from there but theres no way you can go from Broadstone to Poole and have a station in the Bournemouth west area again, Templecombe just stick to a low level and a footbridge or esculator to the SWT station that's if firm that owns the engine shed ever goes? good luck though if you think you can manage it? but these things cost money look how much Network rail are spending (£20 million) on the 3 mile loop around Axminster station! that's a lot of donations

The Brockenhurst to Ringwood will just be that as Westmoors and Wimbourne are so built on and isnt part of the ATOC plans as for sharing you self powered electric trains over Network Rail metals yeah right keep on dreaming

SWT slave

Sunshiner said...

As long as we amuse that's what we're here for! But just take another look at what you're saying - that a service over most of the route is possible. Well, that's exactly what we're saying. You mention a few tiny blockages as if they are major problems - they are not. All this 'blockages' nonsense has been covered many times. It belongs in the 70s ...

When the oil starts running out every council, every community will be pressing for the practically immediate return of their trains. A few houses or buildings (or - LOL - roads) on a rail route will be diverted around or simply compulsorily purchased.

Your views will soon be those of a backwards looking minority. The New S&D passed a major turning point on Saturday (more to follow) and the impetus to restore the route is now stronger than it ever was. Pressure to restore Blandford to the network is growing daily with 90% of our membership now coming from that area.

Our only genuine problems are going to be capacity restraints and possibly competition with other restored routes for materials and manpower. That's why we're pushing ahead of the rest.

The S&D WILL be rebuilt, we've always started from that premise, the only real controversy will be between whether WE open it as WE want it, or that government messes the restoration up in their own inimitable way, forcing out Midsomer Norton, Shllingstone and Gartell in the process.

We all need to look forwards rather than backwards. You'll come round. Some of our strongest and most committed members were once dinosaurs too!