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!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

your future transport needs you

Just to return to Tavistock for a moment, Devon County Council have formally supported the proposals passed by WDBC last week-they were supportive anyway, but now the project is officially endorsed by them, so another piece of good news. Secondly,the local newspaper, the Tavistock Times, is currently running a poll online to gauge the percentage of people who would use the rebuilt railway. I was browsing another forum last night [First Great Western coffee shop] and it mentions this poll, along with a theory that the anti railway brigade in Tavistock may well have been organising themselves to influence the outcome of the poll. To counter balance this, I was wondering if as many people who use this site could pay a quick visit to the Tavistock Times website and register a positive vote. I don't think this is cheating, because Ii imagine that if you were in the vicinity of Tavistock you would use the railway. I don't think ultimately the poll will influence any major decision making either way, but you never know how propaganda can be twisted, so best be on the safe side. Co-operation would be much appreciated. Website is here.

Personally I'm amazed that there is an anti-railway faction in Tavistock. Not only will the railway mean quicker journey times into Plymouth, but will raise house prices, especially those near to the railway. Idiots!

The article in the paper (below) is more 21st century!

THE reinstatement of the railway between Bere Alston and Tavistock has moved a step closer, following this week’s decision by Devon County Council’s executive. Councillors agreed to support the principle of entering into a joint venture partnership with Kilbride Properties Ltd to deliver the multi-million project which would re-open the line from Bere Alston station to a new station at Tavistock, with a regular through train service operated to and from Plymouth. Sections of the railway track bed of the old line, which closed in 1968, have been purchased by the county council — with the transfer from BRB Property completed in March. Some land clearance has now also been carried out along the route. Cllr Margaret Rogers, the executive member for environment, said: ‘Re-opening the railway line and developing a new walking and cycling route will provide people with real alternatives to using their cars. ‘This formal partnership will hopefully enable the development of walking and cycling trails running alongside the railway to access the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape Heritage sites. ‘Not only will this scheme help the county council to make Devon even greener by cutting congestion, but it could provide an economic boost for local tourism.’ The re-opening of the railway line and provision of a railway station at Tavistock are among the key transport proposals in the adopted structure plan, Devon to 2016, and the current West Devon Local Development Framework includes proposals for 250 homes next to the proposed railway station, south of the A390 Callington Road. West Devon Borough Council last week voted for its core strategy proposals which included backing for a rail link ‘in principle’ for Tavistock.
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it'll do for now ...

Info courtesy of Nick Howes.

Tangmere - London to Swanage.

Timings for the express (Waterloo-Swanage) on Parkstone Bank
Sat 2 May 2009 1155 down
Mon 4 May 1725 up

Not quite the S&D but very close and with the right sort of loco! And great to see that trains can now really run from Waterloo to Swanage again ... we're getting there!
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the big picture

(This has arisen from a message board post suggesting we apply for planning permission for the whole route)

That is an interesting thought and an option which I had been thinking about a while back. There is no requirement to be the owner of the land upon which a planning application can be made, however....... failing an all inclusive act of parliament, practically speaking and unless there is a more straightforward alternative, before Richard Gurney proceeds, we should probably note that it will require:-

- that the names of every landowner of the former track bed route are discovered in order to serve notice upon them, probably by way of the Land registry, with a cost of £20-£35 per land ownership (we could be talking of 20-50 odd owners of the former track bed along the route?)
- that there would be a need for an individual planning application for each piece of former track bed land under different ownership at a potential cost of between £170 - £335 per application
- the cost of ordnance survey plans of the relevant sections of the route at £26.50 per map
- partial overlap here - a need for environmental and planning impact assessments for each application
- sustainability assessments - probably similar for each application
- design and access statements - reused for each application
- structural details of new and existing bridges, embankments, cuttings, tunnels etc,
- arboricultural assessments of trees to be removed
- acoustic calculations of the effects of any future passing trains
- probably similar for each application - conservation area issues and so on.
- applications for land ownership areas to Bath and North East Somerset , South Somerset. North Dorset and East Dorset District Councils (I hope that is all) and a recognition that generally planning permissions are valid only for 3 years before the expiry of which time a renewal application should be lodged with the associated costs. Hopefully there would be supporters of the S&D who are professionally qualified to undertake some of the assessments, thus avoiding some additional costs..............

Well, this is what the New S&D is all about! Is there anyone out there with the time and skills to work out this total cost, whether there are exemptions, particularly with the 3 year limit on planning permissions and whether there is a form of association where some of these costs could be reduced or even avoided?

Also of course whether there are any of you out there, existing or future members, who could provide some of these services at a reduced cost or at no cost?

Of course once the New S&D start buying up packets of land this whole process will be simplified!
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

a US view

From the great James Howard Kunstler's blog - wise views on future transport in the USA, that could equally be applied to the UK and Europe.

[W]hat people of good intention and progressive predilection want to know is how come Mr. Obama doesn’t just lay out the truth, undertake the hard job of cutting the nation’s losses, and get on with setting this society on a new course. The truth is that we’re comprehensively bankrupt, and no amount of shuffling certificates around will avail to alter that. The bad debt has to be "worked out" — i.e. written off, subjected to liquidation of remaining assets and collateral, reorganized under the bankruptcy statutes, and put behind us. We have to work very hard to reconfigure the physical arrangement of life in the USA, moving away from the losses of our suburbs, reactivating our towns, downscaling our biggest cities, re-scaling our farms and food production, switching out our Happy Motoring system for public transit and walkable neighborhoods, rebuilding local networks of commerce, and figuring out a way to make a few things of value again.

What’s happened instead is what I most feared: that our politicians would mount a massive campaign to sustain the unsustainable. That’s what all the TARP and TARF and PPIT and bailouts are about. It will all amount to an exercise in futility and could easily end up wrecking the USA in every sense of the term. If Mr. Obama doesn’t get with a better program, then we are going to face a Long Emergency as grueling as the French Revolution. One very plain and straightforward example at hand is the announcement last week of a plan to build a high-speed rail network. To be blunt about it, this is perfectly ******* stupid. It will require a whole new track network, because high speed trains can’t run on the old rights of way with their less forgiving curve ratios and grades. We would be so much better off simply fixing up and reactivating the normal-speed track system that is sitting out there rusting in the rain — and save our more grandiose visions for a later time.

I don’t like to be misunderstood. With the airlines in a business death spiral, and mass motoring doomed, we need a national passenger rail system desperately. But we already have one that used to be the envy of the world before we abandoned it. And we don’t have either the time or the resources to build a new parallel network.
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sturminster newton and all that

There's some controversy over the proposal to build 14 new houses on S&D trackbed at Sturminster Newton. The message board's been addressing this.

Nick Howes put the current situation very succinctly.

[C]ouncils don't consider it because they dont believe anyone would have the money or justification to do it. The railway is just a bygone scar in the landscape to these people, just like the fragmented canal beds and roman roads, nothing more, nothing less. They see the modern network struggling and run down with £30 billion subsidy so they can't possibly see anyone with any clout or money knocking on the door to their town, simple as that. This is the cold hard pre peak oil reality that we are up against. Its a loss making brown field site and they need money to fuel their short term local budgets and political aims. Everything is short term and no-one looks ahead and they have a housing quota target to fulfill as well.

My reply -

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Things are gradually changing. I've an appointment this afternoon with a local development agency who approached me through Transition. Bristol is the only city in the UK with a Peak Oil Task Force set up by the city council. Awareness is slowly developing. In ten years time all we're saying now will just be the generally accepted concensus.

Too many rail types live in the present or, worse still, the past. They think the rules that apply now will for some reason apply in the future. They clearly won't. There will be a huge modal shift from road to rail simply because rail is so much more flexible, and economic, in energy inputs. This won't so much be a conscious change but one forced on us by market forces.

The New S&D is designed to flourish in the future. At the moment it is still something of an anachronism. This is the whole point - we will move into a future of ever more opening doors. But we need to organise now to steal a pitch on our rivals, ie all the other groups pressing for their lines to be restored.

The more of us that get involved in the New S&D the quicker this will happen.

We don't need to worry about some puny housing development. When push comes to shove the railway will get priority and all other considerations will be ignored. That's the reality of the future.

In a couple of years, when we are ready, we'll approach everybody on the route - landowners, councils etc - and present them with our plans. Until then all we can do is build the structure of the New S&D.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

would you believe it?

Bristol and Bath could be connected by steam train within a decade.

The Avon Valley Railway has announced plans to extend its service from just outside Saltford to Newbridge on the outskirts of Bath.
The charity has started a consultation process to gauge local reaction to the plans.

A spokesman for the Avon Valley Railway said it would also like to run a commuter service if it can gain planning permission.

"Based on what we hear and the support of the local community, there is no doubt in our minds that we can achieve the extension," said David Cole, development manager for the Avon Valley Railway.

"We are doing our bit to reverse what happened under the Beeching axe.

"If we had some of our railways back the problems of congestion on the roads would not be anything like as bad."


Hmmmm. Even the Avon Valley Railway is beginning to look at reintroducing real trains. The original intention of the AVR (when it was the Bristol Suburban Railway) was to do just this. They were 30 years ahead of their time.

So rather than building a real rail link that would have provided an excellent alternative to the roads they ended up running a strange little museum operation taking people from Bitton to nowhere, to nowhere again, then back to Bitton. It's an odd little line, the scenery is duff, half of it is through a vandal infested housing estate, it shadows a cycle route and it doesn't even try to imitate the steam era. Bitton station is great, and they are developing it more. Whilst this will improve facilities it will detract even more from the 'feel' of the station.

This is both its weakness and its strength. Any development of the route will have to be an improvement, and to begin to develop it as a genuine, community railway is a very bold step forward. But it's exactly what it needs.

The plan is to get back to Newbridge - this is old news. Newbridge is a park and ride area for Bath. That's bus park and ride unfortunately. Ideally a tramway should be built from Newbridge into the centre of Bath. The AVR could then look at adopting tram-trains for their commuter service, running as a train on the AVR and a tram into the city.

Westwards I assume the intention will be to build back to Bristol. This would put the AVR in the enviable position of having commuter flows in TWO directions!

This will totally transform the AVR and put a modern, community railway (making a profit!) on the doorstep of the New S&D.

The New S&D has always intended to return to Bath Green Park station. When we do, then it opens up even more opportunities for modern rail travel around Bath. It would not be a huge job to connect Bath GP with Newbridge and give the AVR access to a rebuilt S&D. At the same time, providing the AVR has finally reconnected to the network at Bristol, the S&D will have a further access point to the network, giving us the flexibility that will be so important on our new railway network.

This is an excellent first step.
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Friday, April 24, 2009

welcome aboard

The New Somerset and Dorset Railway has just acquired its first junior member. Matthew Sheasby of Bromley suggested we offer junior membership and he's the first person to take it up. I'm sure he'll be the first of many! He also very kindly gave us a donation, which is really appreciated.

It's absolutely essential that we offer loads of incentives for young people to get involved. They will almost certainly be lucky enough to see the line restored in their lifetimes, so they have a lot to work towards. Their world will be very different from ours. Cars and aeroplanes will be a memory, and rail transport will be everywhere.
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

new resource

An excellent photographic resource discovered by Nick Howes is the Bath in Time website which as well as having loads of classic rail images around Bath also covers other transportation including trams and canals.
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the future is almost here ...

Mick Knox writes (referring to the Tavistock decision) This is undoubtedly the future for rail and I have believed this since the 1990's. Just building houses and office space without decent transport links defies the lessons of history. Roads can't do this anymore, so rail is the answer. Sooner or later Radstock will realise this and it will apply to all of the country. Lost lines will return as transport is king, and without it you have nothing.....

Things will really kick off when it's obvious even to the government of the day that without rail transport the nation will go into serious decline as roads no longer are viable. Sensible businesspeople will already be realising that building (and probably even operating) new railways will be a good way of making money in the future. Genius US investor Warren Buffet realised this a few years ago and started buying up US railroad stocks. His reasoning was that once the infrastructure and equipment are in place almost all income is profit.

Hopefully local councils will also realise that modern rail transport is not only essential in an energy-constrained future, but that it will bring an income in at the local level, where railways and tramways are locally owned.

Not only will just about all the Beeching cuts be reversed, but many places that never even saw rail transport in the first railway age will get trains and trams in the second one.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

lineside fact

Thanks to Nick Howes for the following -

Amazing pre Marples fact 1:

Did you know that in steam days there were 55,000 men on the pway and 50000 track miles (20000 route)

That means that one man had a mile of track, associated cess embankment, civil work to maintain each year

1 mile =5280 feet in 52 weeks
100 foot per week
That’s fifteen feet per man length per day.

No wonder our pway was so immaculate…………….
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excellent news - Tavistock returns!!

(All Okehampton 4.12.1984)

West Devon Borough Council, to their credit, last night voted through a plan to build 750 new homes in Tavistock, by a company called Kilbride, who will also rebuild the 6 miles of railway to Bere Alston and thus a direct link to Plymouth for the first time since 1968. [Google This is Plymouth, Western Morning News for further details]. Planning, consultation etc, is going to take another year, but it definitely looks good. I know there was a scheme to build a lot of houses on railway land at Radstock- is that signed sealed and delivered, or would it be possible to get a company like Kilbride to come up with a similar model? Or indeed, in future, maybe parts of the S and D could be rebuilt in this way. Just food for thought really, wonder what your opinions are.

From a message board post.

This is fantastic news and indeed will serve as a model for future large housing developments. A point often made to me is that there is little point building new homes if there are no modern transport links in place. In the 70s and 80s roads would have provided these links, but that's history now, or very soon will be. This should certainly apply to Radstock and surely the Midsomer Norton Trust and North Somerset Railway are making this point to everyone who will listen?

Hopefully restoration of the line to Tavistock will reinvigorate calls for the whole route to Meldon and Okehampton be restored, giving an alternative route to the sea level rise threatened Dawlish route. At the very least it will take some of the capacity restraints off the existing line as traffic continues to climb. Really the whole Dartmoor route needs to be reopened and double tracked as quickly as possible.

If this government had any balls it would make putting in modern transport links compulsory for all major new housing, retail or industrial developments. This could be heavy rail (restored or new build), light rail, ultra light rail or tramway. Soon there will be no other option in any case. Better still if rather than the new line be appropriated by a large concern they are set up as locally owned and run co-operatives, ensuring that the route is geared towards local needs and is maintained and run to the highest standards. We are getting there slowly ...
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

gartell works train

(All coutesy John Penny taken 19.4.2009)

Some nice sunny views of engineering works on the Gartell Railway last Sunday, showing the gang building a path alongside the new headshunt.
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coach trip to shillingstone

(Courtesy NH/IH)

When I was last down at Shillingstone in February there was a lot of talk about setting up a buffet coach, both to serve people visiting the station and passing trade from the Trailway.

Well this is the coach, a Long Marston mark one TSO destined for Shillingstone cattle dock as a buffet seating area within the next 12 months. It's currently painted Southern green one side, BR corporate blue and white the other. Guess which side looks best!

This will look fantastic when restored - we are missing Southern green on the S&D (apart from the rake at Gartell of course!) and this is probably the most emotive rail livery of all for me as I grew up on the Southern Region in the 60s, albeit on the electrified system.
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Monday, April 20, 2009


I've had a couple of offers of help for the New S&D website.

Could you please email me directly on leysiner@aol.com so we can discuss this further? Thanks!
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