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, July 18, 2011


Just added to the Rail Thing archive is this evocative late 60s shot of Cole station. This station now has new houses in the area which will need to be purchased by the New S&D and demolished. The short sighted scandal of putting houses etc on essential trackbeds will become a major talking point in future years. Ironically the very act of publicising the opening of new railways on old trackbeds will suppress the prices of houses and buildings in this strange situation, making them cheaper to buy, a virtuous circle if ever there was one! I suspect that many buildings now on trackbeds are already seeing the first signs of this blight, whilst houses built NEAR trackbeds (especially where new stations are to be built) will be seeing rising prices.


Anonymous said...

With you on this one Steve! Personally, I believe that ANYONE purchasing a property built on a former trackbed deserves to be evicted, without compensation, when that railway is reinstated. A public highway/byway/footpath is ALWAYS a public highway etc, so build upon it at your peril! JW

Chris Warren said...

Having visited Cole during the filming of First Take's 'The Somerset and Dorset Railway', I have to say it is one of my favourite locations on the line. It must have been amazing to see a double headed train come through at speed, passing over the GWR, Cole Viaduct, through the station then carry on along the ridge, under the bridge then heading south until it disappeared from view. How envious am I of people who witnessed this scene. I agree Steve, absolutely scandalous that the trackbed was allowed to be built on. Never mind, if a six lane motorway was put through Twyford Down, a bit of compulsory purchase to demolish a few non descript seventies houses in order to build some vital infrastructure isn't too much to ask.

Sunshiner said...

There are three big things the government needs to do to expedite the restoration of our rail network -

1. Automatic planning permission for all rail reinstatements

2. CPO powers without recourse to remove all blockages from rail routes. There should be a national fund that compensates property owners that are removed, so that it's not the responsibility of the railway to undo the work done by previous governments when it was clear that ALL rail trackbeds should have been protected from the start.

3. Automatic government funding for all viable rail schemes funded via road/fuel/general taxation. In return the government get a stake of up to 49% in new build railways; this represented 50% by shares given free of charge to all residents 16 and over that live within 5 miles of the rail route and 50% of openly traded shares. 'Viable rail schemes' should automatically include ALL Beeching closures including route changes where forced on the constructing railway company.

Sunshiner said...

Notwithstanding my reasonable comments (above) I do feel that anyone buying a property on a needed rail trackbed are rather like those Israeli settlers on Palestinian land, and that they should be ostracised by the general public if they dare to kick up a fuss about their upcoming removal! They are the ultimate sociopaths and should be ashamed of themselves.

Brian said...

Houses/gardens on old railway trackbeds

We got some of those along old Midland line going through Weston into Bath. Much public weepin, wailin, nashin o teeth from "pinched" people, bullhorned by our "Chronic" paper thats just calitter trayliners since. They got "off the hook" by Banes shelving of hated "bus road" but even so, would anyone be so daft as to buy said properties unless knockdown price now? Like folks are saying its always a shoo-in for whatever kind of future transport wants a "corridor" free of road traffic snarlies. Droll.

Personally I like Steve's stance on compensation fund. Its not the fault of whole families blighted by rail needing land use again even if householder dropped a clanger in home purchase decision. Not happy imagining their children left grubbyfaces scampering barefoot as result.

We as a country maybe a bit too good at creating outgroups labelled "sociopaths" or similar denegration. We need to repair social division started by Thatcher years at least a bit, so as to be all pulling together in difficult times for so many among us.

Futureworld Fuel headaches soothers

I reckon all the various little boondoggle ideas for making vehicle fuel are welcome whenever can be brought to market place. Together they potentially contribute to amount of available fuel as fossil sources taper off. Its never going to make fuel stupdily cheap again which helps concentrate our decisions on not wasting the precious stuff. It dont have to be cars, we can run the "hated bus" or even little railcars on it, thats about choices. We should not mock those who try brewing fuels, however risible their early research efforts may appear. Well thats my view.

Here is a local one for me, the famous Roman Baths green slime as a possible biofuel feedstock:


A further indication of how all total fuel inputs are failing to meet rising demand, is that even though new estimated 150,000 tonnes Andhra Pradesh India Uranium ore find may be "one of the largest reserves of uranium in the world", it still "insufficient to meet India's growing nuclear energy needs". Full story here:


Bullet train dreams panned

Oh dear, a nominal HMG "Think Tank" is throwing bricks at plans for new high speed UK rail line. Maybe some beancounters punt at kicking this into long grass without actually having to axe future funding, well make your own mind up on that.

The IEA, which is described as a free market think tank, said HS2 was a "political vanity project" and based on "bogus assumptions". Ouch, it stings! Read more here:


will said...

oh that bloody "IEA" thinktank! They were saying last week that the NHS should be scrapped.(http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jul/13/thinktank-advocates-abolition-of-nhs?INTCMP=SRCH) "Free market" is a bit of an understatement....

The west coast mainline (which follows the HS2 route) is already at capacity in many areas and brutally overcrowded on a regular basis. More capacity is desparately needed or the economy will suffer (and like hell is the extra capacity going to come from a new motorway).
The IEA must have really have skewed the statistics to make it not look like a good idea - the only other direct opposition to HS2 (as far as i know) are the landowners (maybe the same people as IEA?)
Everyone (except luddites, and apparently the IEA) agree something new needs to be build between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow - should it be a railway or a motorway?

Toddington Ted said...

I agree with the "think tank." this country doesn't need an HS2 rail link, it needs closed existing lines like the S&D, the Waverley Route and the GCR to reopen in their entirety. We also need more trains not necessarily faster ones.

Chris Warren said...

I agree Ted. The 80 billion(??) for High Speed Rail would re instate a lot of closed lines. The one you mention were trunk routes remember, not branch lines. Look at how the Settle Carlisle is booming today. The S&D, Waverley and GCR would all be in the same position. The lunacy of sweeping away thousands of miles of already paid for infrastructure only to replace it with another lot, roads!! Only in the UK could this happen.

Knoxy said...

In 1992 I read the Great Railway Conspiracy by David Henshaw, loaned by the local library, while driving an HGV around the country. Within three years I was on the railway. My vote of confidence in how things would be in the future.

The former trackbeds of closed lines should have been protected, but unfortunately they weren't. That doesn’t mean to say they won't be reused? I think they should be and before HS2.

Britain needs it‘s railways

Sunshiner said...

An excellent book.

As you know I also drove lorries in a previous life and got out when it was clear the way things were going. Didn't have the bottle to join the railway though, retiring to Leadhills in the Southern Uplands instead!

Anonymous said...

With a bit of thought there is no need to demolish any houses there. IMHO it would be cheaper to move the alignment to the side of the houses, after all the viaduct would need replacing and the cutting opening up.

Sunshiner said...

This will always be the preferred option for me, I'd hate to force people out of their homes even if they were shortsighted/ignorant/greedy enough to buy one on a railway trackbed! But if there is no other option then we'll have no choice. People tend to move on in any case, so hopefully it will always be possible to keep extending the line without teading on too many toes.

Anonymous said...

Bonkers - will have to buy these new houses, be realistic, some of what you say is relevant but then your credibility goes with comments like this one.

Sunshiner said...

???? Buying blighted houses on railway trackbed that you can monetise over several years or decades and then demolish and recycle is somehow bonkers whereas throwing people out of their houses is okay???

Remember the New S&D will be a multi-million pound enterprise. Buying a few houses will hardly appear on the P&L account! You clearly haven't grasped the enormity of what we are all going to need to do in the future!

How much money do you actually think is going to be involved? One billion? Two billion more like! That buys an awful lot of trackbed, track, infrastructure, locos, rolling stock, oh and a few properties which will be fully monetised. We'll probably even make a profit on them.

Remember that the New S&D comprises mainly professionals, businesspeople and economists etc, not dreamers. We wouldn't waste a single second on something that isn't going to happen. And without buying a few properties it won't ...

Anonymous said...

those w@nkers at b&nes and crest nicolson have built on midland bridge 43 at bath station throat, blocking further the 6 track entrance between bath junction and bath green park

Sunshiner said...

I'm sure the New S&D will have plenty of employees - when the time comes - who will be happy to demolish all this rubbish free of charge!

Sunshiner said...

It does seem that from the support shown to the Saltford station reopening plans (more to follow) BANES now has a good deal of pro-rail councillors. These really are the last few flings of the old cheap oil dinosaurs, too thick to realise what's going on all around them. We should pity 'em, they are going to find it very hard to cope with Peak Oil!!