Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
the new s&d - out there
Well, we're getting our name around.
David Robins, vice-chair of the Wessex Regionalists was at our Blandford meeting and this is his article which recently appeared in the Wessex Chronicle.
ONCE MORE SHALL WE GO?
No more will I go to Blandford Forum and Mortehoe
On the slow train from Midsomer Norton and Mumby Road.
No churns, no porter, no cat on a seat
At Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Chester-le-Street.
We won't be meeting again
On the slow train.
Slow Train, Flanders & Swann (1963)
The Wessex Chronicle has mentioned the Somerset & Dorset Railway before. Resisting absorption all the way up to nationalisation in 1948, it is emblematic of ‘provincial’ defiance of a top-down managerialist world. Until 1966 it also provided a very useful north-south rail link of which Wessex, strung out along routes serving London, has so few. But change is in the air.
This year has seen the launch of a group calling itself The New Somerset & Dorset Railway. Its long-term goal is no less than the re-opening of the line – or as much as proves practical. To provide extra capacity at the ends it includes within the project two non-S&D routes also axed by Beeching, the North Somerset line from Radstock into Bristol and the Hamworthy to Brockenhurst line into Hampshire. More immediate plans are to encourage preservation of the trackbed and station sites and to promote awareness of the potential for rail to meet future transport needs.
In September, Chairman Steve Sainsbury informed a supporters’ meeting at Blandford’s Railway Hotel (above) that re-opening is no pipe dream. Some 90-95% of the trackbed remains unobstructed by development and over time the rest can be acquired and cleared, or else diversions built. The Scottish Government is re-opening 35 miles of the Waverley line south of Edinburgh, buying up and demolishing 65 houses in the process. Growing congestion on the roads is forcing transport planners to think the unthinkable, while dwindling oil supplies can only add momentum to the cause.
In the longer perspective, the railway has only been closed temporarily. Three small stretches of line have already been brought back into use by preservationists at Midsomer Norton, Templecombe and Shillingstone. Steve emphasised that New S&D is not in competition with these groups; its aim is to ensure that the bigger picture remains to the fore, with the new railway accommodating a mix of passenger, freight and heritage trains. With careful planning, tourism can benefit greatly, the railway being both a means of access and an attraction in its own right