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, September 26, 2011

exposing the criminals

(Tunbridge Wells West 31.8.1988)

I think that one of the main thrusts of the S&D revival will be to question the validity of the original closure. There have long been rumours that the S&D was deliberately killed, mainly because of inter-regional rivalries going back decades. The S&D was NOT an uneconomic line, it had heavy traffic and only an idiot would claim that a main line, with originating passenger and freight traffic all along the route, which was the sole route to several large towns (and one small city), which linked Britain's only World Heritage city to its principal seaside resort, which linked several main lines and which had VAST tourist potential, needed to close. It didn't. It should be, at the moment, a major cross country route and a huge tourist attraction.

In reality traffic was deliberately removed from the route, in all cases taking a longer route (wasting extra energy) over lines that were not threatened with closure. There was no attempt to rationalise track - much of the route could have been singled (temporarily), and no modern power was ever tried, it was steam worked to the end. There's a clear case that the line was closed purely for political reasons, not economic. In an ideal world there would be an enquiry and the line would be rebuilt over the next few years.

Unfortunately we have to do it the hard way!

There was a peculiar and perverse political thrust to the attack on the railways in the 60s. I have no idea why the politicians at the time thought that oil would be an infinite resource, or that it would be economically beneficial to throw so much extra traffic on to the roads. They were idiots, pure and simple, and the British public for some reason let them get away with it. The people that closed our railways out of ignorance are nothing less than criminals. Unfortunately most are now dead so we can't bring them to account, but it is important that we move on and start getting our railways reopened.

There's a programme on TV this week that you should try to watch. No doubt it will be dripping in that vile nostalgia, and probably Melvyn Bragg, not the brightest of people, will lament something 'lost for ever', but I'm sure that amongst the mush and gnashing of dentures there will be a few bits that hit the spot! Details here, courtesy of Mick Knox.


Freddie said...

Beeching was an old boy of the school I went to - Maidstone Grammar School. I remember one year (sometime in the later 1970s I guess) there was a suggestion he might be invited back to talk at speech day. Mass protests from train loving boys, a good few of whom were volunteers on the Kent and East Sussex. The idea was quickly dropped!

Knoxy said...

There is a reason why we haven't rebuilt our lost lines in this country, while China gets on and builds new. I'm afraid the establishment don't want to admit they were wrong. To rebuild these lines now would mean that all the strife of closure was a waste of time and totally unnecessary. Which, in my view, it was! A way of life destroyed and communities disenfranchised, for nothing really.

The same sort of politics continues now, with the McNulty report into the high cost of Britain’s railways, that wasn't allowed to question the fragmentation, brought in by the same politicians almost 20 years ago?

I’m up for a debate about closure and if needs be, we can conduct the enquiry into closure on line….

Sunshiner said...

With you as judge and jury? I'd certainly back that. I'll even help build the scaffold outside ...

Anonymous said...

Totaly agree with everything said here. A public enquiry should be held and people brought to account. The totaly pointless singling of the line from Salisbury to Exeter and closure of the route beyond Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton should also be looked at. Maybe a petiton for an enquiry should be started?

Brian said...

My response to this topic became too long so I binned it. Instead, I urge all (including those preening selves that they "know" all about it) to track down and obtain, read all text and take in/enjoy all pictures in this rather splendid/objective publication. Steve wont like that an "inyerface" cover logo says "Exclusive to WHSmith". Heres the identity:

Beeching, 50 Years of the Axeman, by Robin Jones, April 2011
A Heritage Railway Publication, Mortons Media Group Ltd (Tel: 01507 523456)
ISBN 978-1-906167-68-4

Punchbagging obvious targets like a cub wolfpack gets us nowhere, its circular. Lets try and inform ourselves, in the end is much more enjoyable and makes us nicer people to know ! Those of you who refused to hear Beeching missed an opportunity thats gone now. I would have attended and listened, even if I disagreed with everything that the "doctor" had to say. Then I might have had some right to criticise him, as a man and a commercial decisionmaker.