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!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the mechanics of modal shift

I'm going to attempt a bit of an overview of this subject, hopefully published over the next 3 to 4 days!

The mechanics of modal shift part one

Modal shift in transport has quite a history. From the horse to the horse and carriage through the growth of canals, then railways, then the use of roads and aircraft. Most of the change has been over the last two centuries, and has quite clearly been powered by the easy availablity of first coal, then oil.

Early attempts at adopting the steam locomotive for road use were failures because roads simply weren't good enough. But steam locomotives were perfect for railways, and the rail network quickly expanded, killing off a lot of the canal trade in the process. This was the first big modal shift of the industrial era.
The discovery of oil (or rediscovery to be precise) quickly led to the creation of the internal combustion engine. As more cars were produced the road network was modernised, creating a virtuous circle of development. Eventually the car challenged the railways, at least for part of the share of traffic, particularly passenger travel and some of the fiddly freight traffic.
Despite the railways' fantastic contribution during world war two post-war governments in the UK began to favour road over rail, partly because of the huge cost of restoring the rail network after war damage and wear and tear which arose from the very heavy wartime traffic. The railways were nationalized on 1 January 1948, releasing the Big Four companies from the obligation of investment.
All the time this was happening more and more oil was being discovered, petrol was generally cheap and used as if it was an infinite resource. Investment decisions on creation of new transport infrastructure seemed to also imagine that cheap oil would last forever, again as if it was an infinite resource. Motorways were constructed and railways began to be closed in a wholesale manner, particularly after the Beeching Report was published in 1963. The Beeching Report was fatally flawed in two ways, it treated railways differently from roads, requiring railways to be 'economically viable' whereas roads, no matter how remote and little used they were, were treated as a social necessity, with no need to be economically viable. The second big error was to not take into account the limited lifespan of oil. Whilst the railways were now using oil to fuel its new diesel locomotives, replacing steam that used home mined (but equally finite) coal, railways were not tied to one energy source or one delivery system the way roads were.
The effect of the Beeching Report was the wholesale destruction of the rail network, not just through closure of lines (including the S&D) but the closure of hundreds of stations on lines that stayed open and the diversion of freight from rail to road.


Ian said...

Another major flaw was the failure to protect the right of way from development. Given that France, Ireland and the US had such protection as far back as the 1930s, it beggars belief that it wasn't even considered.

I remember talk before the election about a moratorium on building on old alignments, but nothing since.

Sunshiner said...

There was talk, but if I remember rightly they were only proposing a two year moratorium, which is no use at all. It needs to be as long as cheap fuel lasts - perhaps ten more years. Because at the moment we'd have a job arguing for S&D reinstatement except between Radstock and Bath, Blandford and Poole and Glastonbury to Highbridge, because the conditions that will require the reopening of the whole S&D (and many other routes) won't fully kick in until fuel becomes expensive, and then difficult to get.

I suspect I'll be covering this in part three!