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!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

the need to travel

It's not easy to predict how we will travel in 20 years' time, but I think it's quite safe to say we will still travel. There are a few no-brainers - car travel will be much diminished due to the escalating cost of oil and the absence of any real alternatives, civilian air travel will be all but over, rail travel will have expanded enormously, most freight overland will move by rail. These are easy things to predict.

But will we still travel as much? Probably net travel around the world will decrease, mainly due to the winding down of cheap air travel, but I suspect that within the UK we will still travel as much. Visiting new places, taking regular holidays, weekends away, the geographic spread of families, all these things will keep the demand for leisure travel up. Many bus and coach routes, especially long distance ones, will vanish and their passengers switch to rail.

We'll probably commute less, as more and more of us work for smaller businesses from home. We'll see far more freight trains on the railways, and this will be one of the biggest pressures on capacity, more than making up for any losses in commuting.

I travel abroad about four times a year, flying from Bristol airport, ten minutes up the road. I know that I'll only be able to do this for a few more years, so I'm making the most of it. I visit other countries mostly for the new experiences, not for the weather, though that is a bonus. Next month we're off to Barcelona (trams!), in June to Slovakia (more trams!), in August to Switzerland (trams and light railways!!) and in November to the Caribbean (no trams, no trains but, apparently nice weather, beaches, swimming with rays etc). I've always travelled a lot, and hopefully always will. I really do think travelling is now hard-wired into most of us, and the tribulations of Peak Oil won't unravel this, though it will doubtless change the way we travel. In twenty years' time I won't be going to the Caribbean, except perhaps by a cruise liner leaving from Southampton, but hopefully will still regularly travel to mainland Europe over what will, by then, be a superb high speed electrified rail network, more than making up for the loss of all those cheap air routes.

And as our weather improves thanks to global warming the New S&D will once again fulfill it's role as a holiday carrier, bringing millions from the Midlands and North to the seaside resorts between Southampton and Weymouth.
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Ian said...

I am as keen as anyone here to reinstate as many disused railways as is feasible including the S&D but it is worth remembering some facts. Petrol is only as expensive today as it was in real terms when I started driving in 1981 nearly 30 years ago. I remember back then how the demise of the petrol car was anticipated yet the number of cars on the road has virtually doubled between then and now. People will pay the price for the transport quite simply because of the convenience and the fact that whilst rail travel is great for single travellers, if you have any more then one person travelling to the same destination it is virtually always cheaper to go by car.
I am trialling an electric plug in car which is excellent and will, as battery technology improves, be a viable alternative to petrol so we are going to need a different argument for modal shift from road to rail as the peak oil argument is going to be redundant.
I am also a fan of Eurostar and relish the thought of increased travel opportunities but living as I do on the south coast I fly from Southampton or Bournemouth to European destinations as you arrive there before you would even be in the Eurostar train in St Pancras, having to travel up to London in order to return by Eurostar to the south coast at Ashford! We need radiating routes from Ashford avoiding London (possibly upgrading the long straight Tunbridge Wells line west from Ashford).
I think we should concentrate on the issue of congestion as being the key reason why people would move from road to rail. The advent of average speed cameras which will slow down the traffic flow on major roads, together with the above mentioned doubling of car volumes on the road is our best bet for persuading people who do not share our vision for the railways in the future to join us on the railways.

Sunshiner said...

Hmmm. Interesting argument, though a little hard to grasp as you don't give any facts. You claim Peak Oil will vanish as we all switch to electric cars, but how exactly is all that extra electricity going to be generated? We are already being told that we may well face power cuts from 2013, that's without the huge extra demand for electricity that running cars on electric will make. I think I read somewhere that we'd need to increase generating capacity by 300-400% to cover this. This is the real question, not the rather minor one of method of propulsion - it's about scalability, and all the technical reports and articles I've read bring this up as the main problem.

This then leads to allocation of resources and also pricing. With a huge undercapacity in generating ability price would have to rise to ration demand, if supply could not be upped. Remember that even sustainable energy sources often have upper limits - wind power is variable, hydro is almost fully tapped and nuclear will suffer from uranium shortages sooner rather than later. In many ways all energy prices will reflect the price of oil, which will inexorably rise as it begins to run out. This is because much of all generating capacity, even sustainable, has oil inputs.

All this will lead to a fall off in road traffic, not an increase, making arguments about congestion look naive in a decade or so's time. That's not to say it shouldn't be an argument we put forwards NOW, in a popularist way, but we need to be careful not to place too much importance on it and to drop it at the right time. We don't want to look stupid, banging on about congestion, when it will be clear to everyone that their own car use and others' is falling in the real world.

Your one valid point re cost of a car trip for a family versus a rail trip for a family will need to be addressed, at least whilst road is still an option. Families travelling on a family card priced at say 50% above the cost of a single person would be an idea for example.

You need to look behind the facade that's been carefully constructed by those with an interest in keeping inefficient road transport limping on to the bitter end. They are counting on us being stupid. We're far from stupid, and our analysis goes way beyond that of the average tabloid newspaper journalist! This is all about economics, and what journalist ever understood that subject LOL??