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!

Monday, January 31, 2011

surprise surpise ...

Rail travel is at it's highest peacetime level since 1928, when there was twice as much route and far less road traffic. Mind you this only applies to passenger traffic and I suspect that freight traffic still has some way to go before it reaches the levels of 1928 - but it will get there and quickly surpass anything seen in the past.

Privatisation was such a good thing for our railways, at last they had proper marketing and a reason to look ahead. Train travel today, if you can disregard the overcrowding which is a symptom of success, is better than it's ever been. Trains are classy, and cheap (if you book ahead). But we are only at the very beginning of the golden age of rail. We need to be opening 200-300 miles of new track every year. There are still far too many large towns not currently on the network, including many in Somerset and Dorset. As the roads vanish everyone will be clamouring for new lines, new stations, more trains. We need to be ready to satisfy these demands, and politicians need to make the right moves now, to ease the transition from road to rail. It's not just the current network, plus reversal of the Beeching cuts (how stupid they seem now!) but a huge expansion in light rail and tramways, plus industrial lines.

95% of people still rarely use a train. That is a HUGE potential market for railways. How many of them will be able to afford to run a car in five let alone ten years time?

These are indeed interesting times to be living through!
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Anonymous said...

The suggested £8billion sounds impressive, and could possibly/feasibly be part of an initial tranche towards new/reopened routes. I sincerely hope that it, or later investments, are.

However, a note of caution would be wise. There is a current Government McNulty review is underway, and due to report in March. A transport journalist has noted that branch line closures could result? This Coalition is ruthless, and similar predecessors have form, e.g. Beeching. No certainty yet, though.

Related links are:


My best wishes are behind the NS&D project.

Sunshiner said...

I honestly couldn't ever see this happening. The whole thrust nowadays is for new lines and stations opening. Beeching didn't even manage to cut the deficit - it would have been far better to have marketed, rationalised and developed the railways and I think 99% of commentators would now accept this. I suspect this one 'journalist' was looking for some sort of shock value! It made you look, didn't it LOL!

Chris Warren said...

It strikes me that no prominent politician has the balls to put their head above the parapet and say "We were wrong! Railway closures were the biggest peacetime policy f**k up of the last century" because both Conservative and Labour administrations played their part in decimating the network. Governments are there primarily to do the bidding of big business and do just enough to pacify the electorate. At the time, the Oil Industry wanted to dominate the world economy hence the policy of rail closures.

Economics will drive rail expansion, not politicians!

Sunshiner said...

The problem is that as soon as a politician does state the obvious every town and village in the UK will want THEIR line opened ASAP. That's why the New S&D is so important NOW.

And of course it will be economics that drives the change, just as it always does. The nostalgists and dreamers may want to hang on to their cars (with an endless supply of super cheap petrol no doubt) but that's simply not going to happen because it's impossible.

Knoxy said...

The politicians have been messing with our railways since inception, but the real divisive meddling was in the 30's with the denial of the ‘square deal' campaign, followed with the Marples/Beeching road lobby era. The current set up has to be the worst, as it is neither public, nor private and is riddled with bureaucracy. Things will change....

The goal for the S&D has to be a return of a community railway run for the economic benefit of the local area.

Generally economics will see a return of local railways, more freight and even more people moved.

Some of us have believed this for years and my only surprise is the time taken for the country as a whole to realise this. I suppose £6 per gallon helps!

Sunshiner said...

As the roads die the best action that politicians can take is to set things up so that it is really easy to reinstate railways and build totally new ones ie introduce very simple planning rules, not allow challenges to compulsory purchase orders (except over the compensation levels) and to bring in a general law that requires a majority (51%) of the shares to be available only to small shareholders, possibly even with a residency requirement (if that's not too intrusive) to ensure community ownership and involvement.

This is pretty similar to the Swiss model, which works brilliantly, where much of the equity is owned by Cantonal governments, local authorities and individual small shareholders.

Grants can of course be made available where the environmental benefits of rail can be priced. This should ensure that the market responds with large cash inflows to fund the construction of these routes. Many of the lines will be very profitable, in fact almost all of them will be, once road traffic is no longer an issue. Expect good dividends from most 21st century rail operations!

Ben said...

"Privatisation was such a good thing for our railways, at last they had proper marketing and a reason to look ahead."
I'm afraid I have to disagree...
At the time of privatisation BR was about as efficient as it could be, but was still privatised by people assuming there was lots to be saved. This was not the case.
If you look at the subsidy the government has to put into the railways, it is several times higher now than during BR days- even compensating for inflation.
The system we have now is so fragmented and useless it's a wonder it works at all, really it's just a way of turning public money into profits for private companies.
I should point out I'm not against privatisation, I just think the system we have now is terrible. The preservation of one large national company would have been much better- look at the success of SNCF and DB. If we're really lucky DB may well take over the whole lot, they're making a good attempt at it already!
Ok rant over, I'm getting back behind my parapet!

Sunshiner said...

There is of course a 'perfect' form of privatization, and we don't have it. The franchise system is daft - the companies need to OWN their lines, they need to be able to buy and operate their own locos and stock, and normal market conditions need to be allowed to operate freely. What we have now is a nationalized railway with a sheen of privatization, possibly the worst of both worlds.

Amazingly there are still some people who would like to see the railways renationalized - what would be the cost of buying up their shares?? And would any government-owned organization ever understand marketing for example?

But of course the old dinosaur nationalized railway was a disaster because it was riddled through with the idea that the railways were a dying industry. We couldn't trust cash-strapped governments to put in the right level of investment and the 90% of people who didn't use trains couldn't understand why they should pay subsidies - no-one explained to them that the railways keep a lot of traffic, freight and passenger, off the roads.

In the future railways will serve first and foremost a local function, and the way lines are owned and operated will need to reflect this. Like you I don't think the current structure works towards this, but I don't think one big national company will get it right either. But a big trans-national company may, perversely, be the best organization to run a Europe or even world-wide HS network, which of course will be the other great strand of railway development.

Knoxy said...

Funnily enough the talk at work today was about the possible return of profit centres as this era of BR, around 1992 was probably the most efficient?

On another train of thought, if the government were able to re-constituent the big four and return all they formally owned, the railways would be making massive profits!