Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Sunday, October 03, 2010
how low can you go ...
We were staying in Exmouth last week and from the hotel room you could just see the GW main line from Exeter to Plymouth through the binoculars. I think this unusual shot emphasises the fragility of this spectacular route. It also underlines the total madness of 1960s/1970s transport 'policy', a policy dominated by arrant stupidity, ignorance and craven submission to the 'road lobby'. The S&D closure was, of course, part of this idiocy. ANY transport decisions taken in those crazy decades were invariably wrong.
Back to the GW main line. This is currently the ONLY link from the rest of Britain to places south of Exeter. Those places include the cities of Plymouth and Truro, the seaside resorts of Torquay, Paignton, Teignmouth, Newquay and many others as well as numerous large towns, industries and businesses. All linked by a narrow thread which between Dawlish Warren and Teignmouth is incredibly vulnerable to the weather, global warming and the sinking of this part of the UK.
There were of course various other rail routes at one time. It would have been extremely unlikely that all would have been made inactive at the same time. The Teign Valley route bypassed this vulnerable route between Extere and Newton Abbot and the SR has a superbly engineered route between Exeter and Plymouth which skirted Dartmoor. There was also another route via Halwill Junction to Wadebridge, reconnecting with the main line to Cornwall at Bodmin Road.
The Teign Valley route closed in 1958, the Halwill Junction route in 1967 and, almost unbelievably, the Southern main line in 1968. This was organised vandalism. The last closure was the maddest of all, as the sections from Exeter to Meldon and Plymouth to Bere Alston remained open in any case, and still do. The large town of Tavistock was actually cut off (and in winter that can mean totally) despite the line being kept open to Bere Alston, just 6 miles to the south.
Now the line to Tavistock is, at last, being restored. But why on earth aren't there solid proposals to continue the line back up to Meldon, giving an alternative route when the Dawlish route is closed and, more importantly, taking some of the trains off the coastal route to improve capacity and efficiency?
Again this just shows not only how stupid we were back in the distant days of the 60s, but just how long it's taking people to realise that those days are over, or soon will be.
In a few years' time all this madness will be seen for what it is. This is the world into which we are all being propelled, the one in which restoration of the UK rail network becomes absolutely essential to our survival as a first world economy, a fiercely logical world where large towns like Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Blandford, Shepton Mallet and Glastonbury have proper, regular and extremely busy passenger and freight services, and where empty trackbeds suddenly become the most valuable real estate in the UK.