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!

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.
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John said...

The public hearing for the developments in Tavistock,which include the reopening of the railway between Tavvy and Bere Alston, takes place between November 16th-25th.There were a about 80 placard waving protesters to greet the planning inspector last week,how much influence they will have on the outcome i don't really know.In fairness,they are not against the railway as such but are protesting against 750 houses being added to Tavistock as part of the overall package which i must confess is rather a lot,although the building will be phased over a period until 2026.Tavistock would indeed benefit greatly from a connection from the town northwards to Exeter and beyond.The town has grown greatly since 1968 [the station was actually still well used even then]and is now bigger than Totnes,which seems to have no trouble in maintaining a main line station.With the continuing growth of Okehampton also promoted in the West Devon strategic plan,this could be further ammunition for the pro reopening argument as well as the possble shaky future for the GWR line through Dawlish.Lets hope so.

Knoxy said...

Over the next few years this country has got to wake up and work out what it does? Build houses for whom? A rising population sustained by what? Along with our railway lines we have lost much of our manufacturing industry and now the banking industry needs a bail out of unbelievable proportions! What would have been said if British Rail had demanded such a bail out?

In order for this country to compete in our globalised world it needs decent infrastructure and by that I mean railways which can run on various forms of energy. I.e. not reliant on oil? It’s sad that we once had it, but need it we will, once again...

John said...


Not sure if the link will work [Bude People is the name of the magazine] but found this on Great Western Coffee shop website,residents of Bude being asked if they want their railway back in conjunction with a proposed service from Okehampton to Exeter.Big problem in the short term would be that the A30 dual carriageway has wiped away some of the old formation not far from Meldon Junction,it [the A30] would need to be lowered and bridged for any hope of this happening.I don't think there would be many major obstructions after that until Halwill Junction,which is now a housing estate.Holsworthy station site is now a supermarket,but i think there would be enough room to get through comfortably,Bude station is also a housing estate.I can see the Okehampton-Exeter proposal coming to fruition,but,at least in the short term,not an extension to Bude.Should never have closed,of course,but lets hope the people of Bude give a resounding yes to a new railway and you never know what may happen.