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!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

prepare the stocks

(Evercreech Junction 1968 Jeffery Grayer)

I was leafing through a copy of Colin Maggs' 'The Last Years of the Somerset and Dorset' and found the chapter on the run down of the line really interesting. The S&D was closed despite an assurance from the (surprise surprise!) Labour government of the day that no major railway closures would be implemented without a review of the Beeching Report. Evil witch (surely an oxymoron?) Barbara Castle went ahead and closed the line anyway, making it the longest line closed under Beeching. The bits about the poor people of Wellow and Shoscombe (in particular) having to cope without their trains was heartbreaking. At one point a minibus was put on to replace the trains! Nobody on this side of a lunatic asylum could ever claim that was progress. From having fast modern transport using a dedicated right of way they were suddenly thrown back a hundred years and forced to crowd into a six seater bus that was expected to crawl along little single track roads and then fight its way through the Bath traffic. (This is starting to sound like the Cambridge Guided Busway LOL!)

This madness needs to be dissected in the 21st century to find out what really inspired the closure of the original S&D. Perhaps a few of the perpetrators are still alive and can be called to account. The deliberate switching of freight to less direct routes, the deliberate running down of stations and rolling stock, the dreadful timetable that made almost every journey unbearable if not impossible, the refusal to consider track rationalising or using DMUs - the whole thing was a national disgrace.

It merely confirms to me that the S&D should never have closed, which basically means that there is now no reason for it not to be rebuilt.

Next year the new limited company charged with rebuilding and operating the line will be born. Hopefully the board will, as well as including prominent local businesspeople, have the Chairs of Midsomer Norton, Shillingstone, the New S&D and Washford as members.

At the same time I'll be working on 'The Case for the S&D' taking an incisive look at the hard-to-believe mischief used to deprive hundreds of thousands of people of their trains. And the now unarguable case for bringing them back.

I'm glad I'm on THIS side of the fence and not theirs!!
Posted by Picasa


Anonymous said...

I wish this venture every success in acheiving the ultimate goal, it is a line that should never have closed.

However, this is a monster of a task as much of the line has since been built over: Poole - Broadstone, Bailey Gate, Blandford Forum, Sturminster Newton, Wincanton and not to mention the big Sainsburys in the former Bath Green Park (and those are just the ones I can recall) How will you guys overcome all these obstacles?

That aside, bloomin' good luck!!!

Sunshiner said...

The first step is to build the organisation so we have the weight to stop any further 'development' on the route. So it's essential that everyone that does support what we do joins as soon as possible. Or at least hands over a large donation LOL!

As the line develops any obstacles will be dealt with by diversion, tunneling, bridging or, probably in most cases, compulsory purchase.
For example the current rebuilding of the Waverley route involves the compulsory purchase and demolition of 65 properties. Similar numbers were demolished when Croydon's Tramlink was built, some being built less than 10 years earlier!

The vast majority (95%+) of the route is not only clear but also protected as transport corridors ie Bath-Midsomer Norton, the North Dorset Trailway etc.

Don't worry, these are minor problems and will be easily overcome. Once the roads start to close down there will be no other option in any case!