Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
1970s - this is how stupid it got ...
My teenage stamping ground was Littlehampton in Sussex. Unusually we had - and of course still have - our own branch line with two different routes to London available. You could also go west to Portsmouth and east to Brighton. This was all double track, and all electrified. The stations - and there were a LOT of them - were always busy, taking commuters to London and carrying a lot of local traffic to Portsmouth, Havant, Chichester, Worthing and Brighton. The route along the coast was branded as Coastway West.
Yet for much of the early seventies there were serious plans to CLOSE this route. This shows how low morale had got within the railways for such madness to be even considered. The roads were, and still are, atrocious along the coast. You get a whole different sense of time down there - a 20 mile road journey can easily take an hour. Just imagine how much worse things would have been had the line closed!
Yet the S&D DID close, the towns along the S&D are in some cases as big or even bigger than as Havant and Chichester, and Bath and Bournemouth are every bit as important as Brighton and Portsmouth. Had the S&D survived into the 70s, even with the anti-rail mentality that was still everywhere then, there is no way it would have been closed.
Are we really going to let the fact that the S&D fell just short of the era when railways never closed stop us getting the line up and running again? Of course not. It is ridiculous that every town along the route isn't absolutely up in arms that every councillor, MP and professional in the area isn't yelling for the return of their trains.
So whilst the towns along the Sussex coast have modern trains offering 2 or 3 trains an hour at dozens of stations Shepton, Radstock, Blandford and several other large towns in Somerset and Dorset have empty trackbeds running through them. It is crazy.