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!

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.
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