Welcome to the 'New 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!!