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!
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, October 20, 2011
modal shift part 2
It's not easy for me to get into a 1960s mind set. I was around at the time of course, but hardly engaging with the big outside world!
But in retrospect it looked like the 60s, and the attitude to rail, was 'it's finished. It has no future role, except perhaps to run commuters into were applied to roads serving smaller places. Even the lines that survived the Beeching cuts were run down - stations were closed or staffing reduced, buffets closed, lines were singled, the whole network began to look run down. It was almost as if the railways wanted passengers to desert them! Freight was switching from efficient and fast rail to inefficient and much slower roads.
In fact EVERYTHING was expected to use the roads. It really was as if oil would last forever. Extra lorries and buses flooded on to the roads as the parallel railways were closed, cyclists were expected to brave the traffic, you'd still find horse and carts, tractors, mobility scooters, milk floats - everything was thrown onto the roads.
You had ridiculous scenes like the congested A33 running alongside a closed cross country railway that should have been carrying most of the freight and many of the car drivers. A few railways were still closing as late as the 1980s.
The seventies were probably the most dour and depressing years for the railways, and oddly most people who don't use the railways seem to think they are still like that! You still get jokes about British Rail sandwiches for example.
And what of the roads? They have just got busier and busier, though they seem to be spluttering a bit now. Apparently a million people have given up driving in the last year - the reason 'high fuel costs'! Don't make me laugh, fuel is still ridiculously cheap. It will be 5 to 10 times as expensive in ten to twenty years' time. But something must be afoot, because it's no small decision to give up driving, however much most of us would love to. There are still far too many places unreachable by rail or even bus today. It's like a drawing in happening across the board, people are worrying about the cost of driving - they are going to be in for such a huge shock over the coming years! This is just the very beginning. The high cost of insurance makes it almost impossible for young people to be able to drive - driving test applications have fallen by 19% in the last year.
We are building a demographic that will probably never drive, but so far we're doing very little to put in process transport infrastructure that will enable them to get around cheaply and safely. That'll be the subject of the third and final part of this article!