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!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

the interrupted journey

Things are falling into place and have been for some time now. I'm talking about the bigger picture rather than specifically the S&D, though the end will be the same.

Britain began the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century and railways were perhaps the most important element in industrialisation. Railways quickly reached every corner of the UK and in the cities rails spread into the suburbs and onto the roads. We were well set up for a proper sustainable transport system that could last indefinitely, a system that carried freight and passengers with equal ease. Light railways were beginning to fill the gaps.

But then some fool discovered oil and for some odd reason transport development switched to the roads, indeed it did for a few decades become the primary transport mode. But road traffic had a fatal and terminal flaw - it was dependent on a fuel source that had a finite life. It should have been clear to everyone that it was only a stop gap, a downmarket way of moving things for a short while.

But it didn't work out like that. The planners ignored that simple geological fact and acted as if road transport and the fuel that powered it could last for ever. They even CLOSED railways even though it was clear that they would soon be needed again. And the average person in the street began to believe that roads and cars would always be around, because we have short memories and like to ignore reality as much as possible.

The age of the car is now ending. Not just stopping or slowing down but ending - probably for ever. The car will never be able to compete with trains on energy efficiency. And you could even argue that with rails reaching every corner of the land as the interrupted journey is started again, and with the roads crumbling and motoring becoming out of the reach of most of us, rail will even have the edge on flexibility. As the Beeching cuts are reversed, then brand new lines built to fill the gaps, and light railways, tramways and industrial lines built to reach every business, factory and market, we'll soon forget that roads ever existed, except as quiet, unmade tracks that wind through woods and villages, somewhere to walk on a warm evening, or perhaps to take the horse out for a hack, or of course to cycle along. Nostalgia for the coming generations, shattered as a sleek and fast train flashes by.
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Chris Warren said...

I certainly think we are in for big changes in the next 20 years. Electric cars will become more prevalent as the technology improves, but if they match the numbers of conventional cars the strain on the national grid will be immense. Railways are the most energy efficient way of moving large numbers of people about, very little friction between steel wheel and rail. I am a member of the Helston Railway, that is a line where eventually the local authority under pressure from residents will have to re instate the line fully. Look at what has happened to the Falmouth branch!

Freddie said...


Sound stuff. I was in Switzerland a few weeks ago and rail really is the prime mode of transport there.

Also, everything you say for roads applies to air travel too. Network Rail's plan to build an extra platform at Manchester Airport is hardly a realistic response to long term international travel needs. All our main cities need high speed connections to the rest of Europe - and once you've travelled on a Germance ICE, who'd ever want to fly again anyway?

Finally, there there was an article in the Times a couple of weeks ago about a Russian plan to build a railway from the Tran-Siberian to the Bering Straight. The first 800 miles are opening in 2013, the remaining 2000 odd miles to be completed by 2030. So they are now looking at a tunnel under the Bering Straight to Alaska with a view that a line across Alaska will link to the Canadian network and hence provide a linkn on the US. There's definitely nothing wrong with thinking big!

BertieBeatlefan said...

A well-written piece, however the writer ignores three very relevant facts; GREED, CORRUPTION and VESTED INTEREST! Remember we do NOT live in a democracy but a plutocracy. Money rules, and the sheeple are just conned into believing our vote counts. Wake up everyone!

Sunshiner said...

I'm off to Switzerland on Thursday - obviously will be using the train whilst I'm over there, even just to pop up the hill to get the shopping!

I don't even consider air travel any more as a viable future option. Apparently there is no alternative to kerosene, so air travel will end with the end of oil.

I posted a Facebook link about the Bering Strait line - it makes what we are planning for the S&D look like a walk in the park.

And finally on electric cars, Chris brings up the point about electricity generation which is set to fall rather than rise over the next decade or so. But there 's the other huge oil inputs which are the oil in ashphalt and in car tyres, both which require huge amounts of oil. The costs for both will rise enormously, resulting in VERY exepensive tyre changes and a big reduction in road maintenance costs - result, less cars being used and less tax money and investment going into roads - a recipe for collapse of the road network. Everything will be going into rail in any case by then. I just don't see how roads, let alone cars, can survive.

Sunshiner said...

Bertie - I've posted your comment as I like to post everything unless it's spam, but needless to say I don't agree with any of it! We've seen things get done all over the country and further afield, I don't buy into any conspiracy/NWO crackpot theories and I have seen many times how people working together make things happen. We ARE a vested interest.

So please, to everyone, whilst I do allow almost all comments anything based on crackpot conspiracy theories, that thinks we're still in the 70s or goes over old ground about 'you'll never do it' will probably not make it to the comments section, unless they carry the argument forward, have new information or are just so daft that they are entertaining!

Anonymous said...

Britain is an island built on coal.
Just think,if the amount of money that has been spent on oil exploration,oil exploitation,wind farms,and nuclear power had been used to develop remote underground working and clean fuel burning,we could be independent of the need for huge oil imports.

Anonymous said...

I hope that was not too crackpot.

Sunshiner said...

Not crackpot - we've often said something similar but bear in mind that coal is a finite resource so really we'd only be putting off the moment of reckoning by a few years. Most of the coal would be exported I suspect. And they still haven't created economic clean coal burning technology, so it wouldn't solve the climate problem.

Wood is of course a far better option because it's sustainable and also the growing of large amounts of trees would fix a lot of carbon dioxide, tackling the climate and energy problems together.

There's a part of me that would love to see the Somerset coalfield revived, but I wonder if it's technologically and economically feasible (and elsewhere of course).

Anonymous said...

I Don,t want to be too political but the battle to reduce the power of the mine workers, thus closing the collieries and fostering Northsea oil and gas ,came before the huge increase in environmental concern.
I know that this concern is real and i share it.
I was pointing out that with the will and finance All Things are POSSIBLE.
(as you say about reinstating the S&D)