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, November 30, 2011

a week of peace

For you lot - not me!

We're off to New York for a week tomorrow so I'll be taking a break from the blog until next Thursday. But please keep your comments and emails coming!

another cross country line starts to stir

The Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway appears to be stirring from 50 years of deep sleep!
Rex Hora is looking into practical ways of restoring most of this route, primarily for freight.

The DNS was a bit of a dark sister to the S&D with its cross-country services, north-south orientation, its mix of double and single track and weight of traffic. It closed a little earlier, with Newbury to Shawford closing around 1960, the Newbury to Didcot section remaining open a few more years, and a short stretch remaining open to freight for a little longer. It was an incredibly busy route in WWII, but declined quickly afterwards.

With the need for increased rail capacity and the inevitable shift of freight from road to rail I suspect the DNS's time will soon come! Who knows, bearing in mind the above, that separate route from Winchester to Southampton may even eventually be built!

Rex has set up a basic website here - let him know you support him!

Friday, November 25, 2011

come on ...

Possibly the daftest of all rail closures was Uckfield to Lewes in 1969. Even when railways were in decline this closure made no sense at all. It turned a through route into a dead end branch. I suspect the idea was that once this section was closed the rest of the line would follow. Of course since then the world has changed completely, railways are in the ascendent and are desperate for more capacity.

The whole trackbed is safeguarded, so the intention to reopen is clear. Once open the line will offer loads of new opportunities including a diversionary route from Brighton to London and easy access for Uckfield and Crowborough residents to get to the south coast. Whole new commuting opportunities will also arise.

Here's the latest developments in parliament on this essential route.

Villiers reaffirms interest in Lewes–Uckfield to Baker PrintE-mail
In a letter about the threat of another East Sussex County Council road scheme slicing across the safeguarded Lewes–Uckfield trackbed, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers appears eager to reassure her departmental colleague and Coalition partner Norman Baker.

She told him “Given the importance of the points raised by Robert Chubb [sic] in his letter, and my personal interest in this issue, there were various matters on which I asked for further briefing from officials.” She also made the point “I am very much aware of your long-standing support for re-opening the Lewes–Uckfield line” and said he was “correct that both parties in the Coalition have expressed support for protecting track beds where possible”.

She referred to the route being “safeguarded by both Wealden and Lewes District Councils” as part of the changeover towards “Local Development Frameworks”. This shifts responsibility away from County Councils following the abolition of County Structure Plans.

Mrs Villiers said she had spoken to the DfT’s Head of Property, Malcolm Twite who “assures me that the plans have been specifically designed to ensure that they would not prevent the Lewes–Uckfield line from re-opening in the future”. She had also been advised that “the proposal to move the road could actually make it easier to put together a case for re-opening the railway. This is because a re-opening would, in all likelihood, require a bridge to be constructed.” She continued “Although there was a level crossing when the line was formerly in use, you will appreciate that the current policy of Network Rail and ORR is not to introduce new level crossings. I am advised that it would be easier and more cost effective to build a bridge over the railway using the new alignment for the road rather than the current one.”

However, BML2 project manager Brian Hart said “Firstly, we are advised that the County Council, as the Local Transport Authority with wide-sweeping powers, will be able to override any so-called ‘safeguarding’ by the less-powerful district councils, so I fear this is a hollow guarantee. Secondly, no one has ever suggested the old level crossing should be reopened because it’s quite obvious a bridge will be necessary. The problem is that the County Council intends slicing the critically-important station site completely in two with this new ground level road. This will worsen the business case for reopening because the road will have to be elevated over the station and railway, or moved elsewhere to allow trains to pass through. This is simply loading costs onto Network Rail.

Mrs Villiers also mentioned the impact a redevelopment of the site would have on the trackbed. She told Norman that the BRBR (the Rail Property Board) would “retain ownership of the freehold” – although this refers only to a narrow linear strip which would be used as car parking associated with the new buildings. “A term would be
included in the contract giving BRBR the right to terminate the lease in the event that the land is required to re-open the railway. This option has been deliberately selected in order to ensure that the land could be taken back promptly if re-opening became a viable proposition”.

An unimpressed Brian Hart said “It’s unclear who will retain ownership as the BRBR is supposed to be on David Cameron’s ‘Bonfire of Quangos’ so how can a body being abolished take back the land? More importantly, though, I’m afraid the minister is not being given the whole picture and the valid concerns of Network Rail and many others need to be taken into account. Any reopening of this line – whether just as Lewes–Uckfield as Norman Baker wants – or as part of BML2, will necessitate the relocation of Uckfield station to its original site. The town’s station cannot go anywhere else. The cramped terminus opposite is on an embankment constrained by the river with just one reversible line from London, whilst the single platform straddles the former Down Main Line which was dismantled in 1990 to accommodate it.”

The plans Network Rail supplied for the ill-fated County Council-led 2008 Lewes–Uckfield Re-opening Study, show two 12-car platforms either side of a double-track railway will need to be constructed on the original site. This is right where Rupert Clubb, ESCC’s Director of Economy, Transport and Environment, intends building his road to manage additional in-town traffic demand from housing development in Uckfield which hasn’t yet occurred. Brian Hart added, “It looks to be a pre-emptive strike in a final effort to stop the line ever reopening and settle the matter ‘once and for all’ to use the aspiration once uttered by ESCC’s appointed chairman overseeing the 2008 re-opening study.”

Campaign chairman and Uckfield Deputy Mayor, Duncan Bennett said: “Given the astounding turnaround of the Uckfield line in recent years, the unimaginable rise in rail demand generally, as well as the looming capacity crisis facing the south’s main lines into London, it would be sheer folly to throw away this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Norman Baker is plainly right to say we need more capacity between the Sussex Coast and London and, as he says, investment in the Uckfield line is the only way we are ever going to achieve it”.

He went on to say “On a more local level, I am keen to see Network Rail get involved and take possession of Uckfield’s station site so it can be developed into a major transport hub. It may well be that at some point a new road may be required, but it must be properly-designed to accommodate the all-important railway. We must also take into account residents’ fears about serious flood risk posed by having another road bridge built at grade across the river. Uckfield is a booming and expanding town with a fantastic future and I am determined we get the best. The town desperately needs parking for commuters, as well as renewed rail links with the surrounding towns such as Lewes, Brighton and Eastbourne. I want to see imaginative and truly creative thinking deployed. This would be a good opportunity for Network Rail to demonstrate the flair it has shown with successful commercial station redevelopments in London and elsewhere. We can all be winners on this.”

Theresa Villiers concluded by saying to Norman “If I can be of any further assistance in this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me. I remain happy to discuss it at any time”. With the door open, we hope Norman will take up this invitation since he has been an immensely admirable, outstanding and long-standing campaigner on this subject.

“It was a tragedy that this line was ever shut. It survived Beeching only to be closed by the County Council. I have, with many others, been fighting for reinstatement for more than 15 years. The logic is unquestionable and the issue won’t go away. It is one of my ambitions in my political life to be at the reopening of the line and I intend to achieve it.” – Norman Baker 2004

“The case for reopening this line is overwhelming and any sane national transport policy would have achieved it by now.” – Norman Baker 2005

“I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the negativity of the Department for Transport, which refuses to recognise that there are now more rail passengers travelling each year than ever before, on a network about the half the size it was post-war, and react accordingly. Clearly we need more capacity on the network, and that must include reopening stations and sections of line that in most cases should never have been shut. Lewes-Uckfield is clearly one of those.” – Norman Baker 2008

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

where next for washford?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

more masbury

(Copyright Mick Knox 17.2.2009)

Attached is a picture taken from the site of the DMU picture from May 1958 on the blog. This picture was taken in Feb 2009 and I believe the fence on the Upside of the DMU is the same fence, to the left of the fence in my picture? The approach to the former Masbury Summit Bridge (Oakhill Rd No 69) has been filled in, where the DMU is.

As an aside, this is a very nice shot of a quiet rural corner of Somerset. Imagine a motorway going through this! But at the same time imagine just how well the revived S&D will fit into this scene, one more HUGE advantage rail has over road. In fact from a short distance away the railway will completely blend in with the environment.

Another problem with busy roads is that there is a constant procession of vehicles, creating noise and pollution, and danger to other drivers as well as the many animals that take their lives in their hands when they cross roads. Even the busiest railway has gaps between trains, there's not an endless procession of trains causing the same problems. Hopefully there NEVER will be, despite the HUGE increase in rail traffic that is inevitable as the roads die. With long powerful trains and less need for people to travel to work there should be  a better balance of supply and demand - which will be the subject of a future blog post!
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masbury 2009

(Both copyright Mick Knox)

Further to the picture of the DMU at Masbury, Mick Knox has dug out some 2009 shots taken at or near the same location.

Former trackbed, without infill near bridge No 68, the one behind the DMU and another from the site of Bridge No 69, likely to have been behind the photographer of the DMU picture. It doesn’t look like he was standing on in it, although I wouldn’t know having never seen the bridge.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

midford today

Today's report (and photos) courtesy Stuart Seale.

We had our work party at Midford today. Tom and I were joined in the morning by Tony England and his Grandson Josh who made a grand job of clearing the fallen leaves from the platform and clearing the gutter at the base of the retaining wall. Hopefully with further clearance this winter we may be able to get rid of the leaf problem once and for all.

Tom and I concentrated in clearing the brickwork slabs that had been dumped behind the station buildings. We would have completed it but darkness set in. We removed all the brickwork but there is still a residue to dig out, which will make for a quick win at the start of our next session. Tom managed to exercise Thor's hammer again to great effect.

On our next visit we plan to finish the digging and then commence clearing the bank above the platform starting from the steps and working in a Northerly direction.

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dmu on the s&d


(Masbury 10.5.1958)

Took some finding but here's evidence that DMUs did work on the original S&D!

Friday, November 18, 2011

fantastic news!

(Photo copyright Jeremy Woodrow)

This is incredible news, probably the biggest S&D story of the last forty years. Midsomer Norton has taken delivery of a DMU, which will move them well up the ranks of new heritage lines. This will enable them to offer a real ride and should bring in thousands of extra visitors. I can't wait to get down there and photograph it. When I started there the track was only just beginning to reappear, the signalbox was a pile of stones, the up platform was practically a lawn and there was no loco or rolling stock, apart from a couple of old vans.

Some will say the S&D was always a steam line and the DMU is out of place, but DMU's did very occasionally run on the line up to 1966 on specials. Steam will come ... let's keep doing this a step at a  time.

More pics here.

Fantastic news all round!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

two futures

Scenario 1.

Scenario 2.

Here are two visions of 2025 taken from the excellent Busby Report on UK Survival in the 21st Century.

Britain in 2025

Here are two extreme scenarios - the first assumes that none of the recommended actions have been taken, the second assumes that all have been implemented.
Scenario 1
All significant oil and gas reserves are exhausted or have dwindled to an uneconomical level except for those of the Middle East. The USA managed to find some of its needs in the Gulf of Mexico and North Alaska, but these provided only a moderate amount and are now exhausted.
In South America weak governments failed due to the increase in conflict between them and the drug cartels and revolutionary forces. US troops moved in to maintain the running of the oil fields and refineries and were constantly under attack from armed groups so that when the reserves depleted they withdrew, leaving a devastated continent.
In order to revive its post-Communist economy Russia emptied its reserves, but retains its remaining modest oil and gas reserves for its own use, returning to a pre-revolution peasant society.
Following a revolution, and a failed counter-revolution supported by the USA, Islamic fundamentalists now govern Saudi Arabia, bringing Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain into their hegemony. Only Oman, with British support, remains as a Sultanate. Iraq, after Saddam Hussein, retained a secular government which emptied its oil reserves to fund its economic recovery.
This result of this turmoil was that the only remaining oil reserves of any significance were denied to the West and were in any case needed for water de-salination to support life and irrigation of crops in areas of desert.
The USA seeing its life-style threatened had reacted militarily to these events, but this only succeeded in having its oil supplies from the Middle East cut off. This meant that it exhausted its remaining natural gas reserves for production of liquid fuels and petrochemicals feedstock. By mining its 25% of the world’s coal reserves, the USA supplies its heavy industry with energy, provides for domestic gas by coal gasification and manufactures liquid fuels for transport by coal liquefaction.
Moreover, using the extensive wind farms and with its technological ability it successfully implemented alternative energy programmes which are reserved for essential services like water, sewage and hospitals. The dominant communications industry allowed the creation of a more distributed mode of working and abandonment of massive office complexes.
On the other hand Europe, weakened by failing economies and massive immigration from an increasingly turbulent Third World is in turmoil having failed to implement sufficient alternative technologies and unable to secure adequate oil from the Middle East and gas supplies from Russia.
Britain failed to conserve its oil and gas reserves by exploiting them for short-term profit and tax revenues, using them up by 2010 and, due to the high cost and shortage of imported oil and gas, stagnated. The shortage of liquid fuels led to the collapse of the motor and aircraft manufacturing industries. Capital which could have been employed to create an alternative energy sector was wasted on expanding airport terminals and runways which now lie idle. The 20th Century trend towards urbanisation has reversed and food supplies are derived from labour-intensive smallholdings as in medieval times. Unfortunately much productive agricultural land was taken for housing, more being needed than before because oil-based fertilisers are unavailable to give a high yield. Horses previously used for recreation were turned to practical use and are employed in agriculture and for the transport of goods. As in the 1930’s high unemployment led to the return of an allotment society with home-grown food aiding survival.
However, communications developed, so that it is quite normal to see a horse and cart with the carter discussing customer requirements with a mobile telephone.
Scenario 2
By adopting many of the proposals of this manual, Britain managed to reduce its energy requirements to around 25% of the 2000 level at which alternative energy sources and a restored coal industry manage to cope. The biggest contributor to savings was the revolution in communications and home-working and restrictions on travel.
Heavy energy users such as motor manufacturers are few and road transport provides only for the needs of essential services such as health care and food production. In that manufacturing survives to provide essential supplies, it is limited to that employing energy-lean methods, as energy dominates company costs.
Domestic air travel is largely replaced by railways and tramways, being totally electrified and run efficiently from wind- and tidal-power generated electricity. Under-utilised motorways provided suitable routes for additional railway tracks and tramways. Air travel is restricted to essential and intra-governmental business as alternative sources of jet fuel failed to be produced in sufficient quantities.
The motive power needs of agriculture is met from crops supporting the manufacture of bio-diesel and food is distributed as rail freight on re-opened branch lines. Because manufacture of plastics was curtailed by a lack of oil-based chemicals, only partly substituted by coal-derived alternatives, more food is produced locally as processed food cannot be packaged so readily. This has eased the re-cycling and disposal problem originating in the 20th Century and land-fill sites are mostly closed.
Lifestyles have improved with better health from fewer accidents on empty roads, participation in healthy sports and local activities. Drug-taking was finally brought under control not by policing but by the reduction in international traffic which curtailed supply opportunities. Measures taken to make the provision of the health services dependent on the individual’s self care have made smoking and other life-threatening activities a rare phenomenon.
The development of a vast communication infrastructure meant that intellectual and cultural life has been enriched but not in mass attendance events. For example, football supporters view matches staged on pitches equipped as inter-active audio-visual centres with seating reserved for sport officials, press and TV, radio and internet commentators.
Postal services have been replaced by electronic mail and due to the lack of fuel for vans, the mail order business reverted to the old system of a rail-served parcels service. Domestic goods are largely made by local craft industries from sustainable materials.
Unemployment is not the problem it might have foreseen to be, as the lack of energy to drive machinery, means that many functions have reverted to manual labour. For instance, trench-digging and excavation are performed by pick and shovel instead of by mini-excavator, which cannot be fuelled. Some lorry drivers have converted to train and tram drivers.
Scenario 2 is similar in many ways to Scenario 1, but the difference is that the train and tram infrastructure is completed and sustainable alternative energy sources make their appropriate and limited contribution. The public was prepared for the demise of road and air transport by enlightened government. Instead of a bewildering and drastic breakdown of the economic life at the beginning of the century, the changes were anticipated and the transition to a different lifestyle was calm and considered.

weekend activity

There will be a working party at Midford next Sunday, 20 November, 2011.
If you are able to come along please do - any time after 10am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

AGM Facebook group

Your chairman enjoying a rare (but well deserved) rest!

The Facebook group for the AGM is here.

2012 AGM

Bedminster station is just a five minute walk from the farm  - if coming from Weston the trains are direct. Otherwise it's an easy change at Temple Meads, or if you're feeling fit  you can walk all the way to Bedminster from Temple Meads - it's under a mile.

Some bucolic shots of the farm!

The New Somerset and Dorset Annual General Meeting for 2012 will take place at the Windmill Hill City Farm, Philip Street, Bedminster, BRISTOL, BS3 4EA.

Entry to the farm is free but donations are welcomed! There is an excellent cafe on site which does hot and cold food. This is a great place for the kids too.

The meeting will run from 14.00 to 15.00 on Saturday, 21 January 2012. The meeting will take place in the John James Room. We have the room from 13.30 to 15.30 so there will be time to talk before and after the meeting.

All members are encouraged to attend - this will be our first AGM.

The last big meeting of the New S&D was in Bournemouth and all previous meetings took place in Blandford. We felt it was important to have the AGM near a working railway station but attempts to find somewhere at Templecombe proved a dead end. So we chose Bristol this time to make it easier for members at the northern end of the route to get to. Unfortunately with a line almost 100 miles long at least some meetings will be quite a distant from where members live! The farm is an excellent sustainable initiative so it's great to be able to support them. We'll ensure that the 2013 AGM takes place in the Bournemouth/Poole area. Hopefully as time passes there will be more places on the route reconnected to the network so we have a wider range of options!

Please do try to attend. The energy crisis is now becoming apparent to everybody (apart from our local and national politicians!) so we feel that we are all going to have to work harder in the coming years - so if you have the time and/or skills to get actively involved we have plenty for you to do!

I'll set up a Facebook group shortly so you can set up car shares etc = I'll announce on this blog when done.

the view from bristol

Thanks to Jim Type and of course Chris Warren for this!

I WOULD like to thank everyone who was involved in organising the excellent Rail Conference that took place on November 4 in Bristol. It was great to hear about the GWR electrification project and the outcome of a workshop session that resulted in the Evening Post-backed 'Bristol Metro' being given top priority by those attending.

A practical demonstration of how such a scheme could work was laid on by the fantastic people at First Great Western.

We started by travelling along the Portishead Branch. It was a lovely trip, passing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge as we trundled up the Avon Gorge. We travelled through Pill, across the viaduct and through the derelict station. We paused to look at where the line would diverge as it carried on into Portishead, tantalisingly close. Next up was a ride around the 'Henbury Loop' then back along the Severn Beach line.

The purpose of this tour was to indicate that a 'Bristol Metro' using existing infrastructure and re-opening closed stations such as Saltford is eminently feasible. It also put into sharp focus the absurdity of the continuing debacle of the re opening of the Portishead line.

Our local politicians really should hang their heads in shame as to why this much discussed proposal to bring relief to the good people of Portishead has taken so long.

I congratulate the Evening Post and First Great Western for championing a cause, the Bristol Metro, that thousands of people who have to live and work in Bristol so desperately want.

I ask all our local politicians of whatever political persuasion, to forget the folly of having a transport system based around the private car, bin this ridiculous and failed 'Bendybus' idea, and put serious money into the local rail network.

We owe it to ourselves and future generations.

Chris Warren

Saltford Station Campaign

bristol starts to stir

As many of you know I live in the tramway and railway desert of south Bristol. We were supposed to be the terminus of one of Bristol's tram routes but this scheme was sunk (for a while) by Dawn Primorolo, who thankfully is stepping down as an MP at the next election.

Bristol is at last about to get an electrified route to London, and the commuter network in waiting (including the Bristol to Radstock route which will form part of the New S&D and WILL serve parts of south Bristol) is beginning to stir. The following report is basically good news but where's the Portishead route, and where are our trams?? It's a start, but only that ...

Bristol Rail Commuters Put On Fast Track

Tuesday, November 15th 2011 12:00

Longer platforms, faster journey times and more services promised as Network Rail sets up new Bristol and WestCountry unit.

Network Rail has today announced a new unit to control improvements across Bristol and the WestCountry.

It says "Network Rail Western", has been created as part it's drive to give local management the power to make independent funding decisions - to reduce costs and raise value for money, so that the savings could be reinvested in the area.

NRW has cited Bristol as one of THE highest forecast growth in rail passenger demand in the UK, at around 44% by the end of the decade - up from a previous 41% after taking into consideration the future electrification to London - cutting journey times from Bristol to the Capital by around 22minutes.

Part of the plan sees potential redevelopment of land around Temple Meads for more platforms, better car parking and an integrated transport hub. There's also plans to enhance the railway to and from Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood to improving journey times.

By the end of 2014, Network Rail Western also sets to achieve at least 93% in punctuality, by tackling cable thefts and implement a robust 7-day railway strategy to minimise disruption during major improvement work.

Network Rail Western will be spending around £400m by 2013 to operate, renew and enhance the 995miles of railway in the new Western region.

Priority schemes over the next two years include:

* £300m to modernise life-expired signalling equipment including those around Bristol so that the infrastructure is compatible with an electrified railway to London.

* £55m to build and design a unique factory train to install electrify the railway.

* £8m to improve journey time between Bristol and Birmingham

* Improvements to journey times between Bristol and Bridgwater, and potentially Plymouth, by enhancing line speeds

* Reducing congestion at Bristol Temple Meads, where around 8.9m passengers enter and exit per year

* Boosting capacity between Dr Days to Filton Abbey Wood by providing a four track railway

* An extra down line platform and passenger area to enable additional fast trains per hour to operate between Bristol and Paddington and also to Parkway after electrification

* The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has recently announced their new Enterprise Zone, known as Temple Quarter, which includes the area of land alongside the former Royal Mail post office site and the large area of disused land leading down to the former Bath Road diesel depot.

The area covers 70 hectares of land with initial estimates suggesting the potential to accommodate over 250 businesses and 17,000 new jobs over a 25-year period. The focus is on creative and digital industries with retail opportunities as part of a wider mixed use development.

The Temple Quarter site is seen as a major gateway that has huge potential to generate jobs and investment for the area that is highly attractive to businesses looking to relocate, demand for transport services from Bristol Temple Meads will significantly increase.

supermarkets look to the future

Thanks to Jim Type for this!

Tesco train service will remove 40,000 truck journey's [sic] annually

Thursday 10 November 2011 17:10
Tesco has launched a new rail freight service from Daventry to Thurrock which it says will help remove 40,000 lorries from the roads each year.

A second service, from its Daventry logistics hub to Magor, south Wales will begin later this month.

Trains leaving from Daventry will transport shampoo, deodorants, confectionary and wine and will return loaded with washing powder, washing up liquid, and detergent from Proctor & Gamble.
“Utilising rail services allows us to transport products across the country in the most sustainable way, taking thousands of lorries off the road each year and reducing our carbon emissions,” says Nigel Jones, Tesco UK logistics director. “In addition to transferring goods from our central depot to other points for distribution to the stores, the trains will also return to our depot with goods from our key suppliers making the service even more efficient.”

The supermarket says the two rail services will also save it 10,000 tonnes of CO².

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

here we go ...

This is a gem from Mick Knox. Unbelievably people are STILL complaining about the so-called 'high' cost of fuel!! Are they living in a complete fantasy world or are they so stupid that they can't see what is happening around them?

We need to accept that the car is dying - there is no way it can survive the coming oil shock, and the 'replacement' technology of electric cars will be even more expensive, and will be in such short supply that they simply won't be an option for most of us.
We need to move on from this posturing and decadence, trying to hold on to something that is already lost for ever. We need to forget trying to prolong the agony and start planning for the future. Nostalgia is NOT an option.
We need to start running our road network down before it happens anyway. All infrastructure projects should be abandoned immediately and the bare minimum for safety needs to become the norm. Speed limits need to be reduced to take this into account.
We need to immediately start reopening closed lines, starting with important cross country routes such as the S&D, Great Central, Woodhead, Waverley, Plymouth-Exeter via Tavsistock, Dumfries-Stranraer etc, then begin to put the branch lines back in. Then new interurban light railways and tramways need to be built to fill in the gaps, so that nobody is more than a mile or so from a station. Freight facilities need to be built at all points. Urban tramways need to be built in all larger towns and, of course, cities. Standard equipment needs to be built - locos, coaches, freight wagons, track panels, catenary etc, so that the cost of rebuilding and operating are reduced. Energy generating methods, from solar and wind through to wood burning need to be optimised. ALL infrastructure expenditure over the next three or four decades needs to be thrown at rail development at all levels.
I know the following is really an exercise in nostalgia and will not be to most reader's tastes, but try to read it!

MPs urge ministers to scrap a planned rise in fuel duty

Petrol pump Ministers say they have acted to alleviate the burden on motorists

The government should scrap a planned increase in fuel duty to help "hard-working, vulnerable Britons", a Conservative MP has said.

Robert Halfon said the government must show it is one "that cuts taxes for millions of British people and not just for millionaires".

He tabled a Commons motion urging action on fuel prices in response to an e-petition signed by 110,000 people.

It was approved by MPs without a vote but it is not binding on ministers.

Treasury minister Chloe Smith said the government was listening to people's concerns but "now was not the time" to change duty rates as such decisions must wait for the Budget.

The government plans to increase fuel duty by 3p a litre in January - meaning an extra £1.50 to fill an average car - and Chancellor George Osborne is under pressure to scrap that as part of his autum statement on the economy later this month.

Petrol prices have tripled in the past two decades, but ministers say prices would be even higher had they not scrapped automatic fuel-tax increases imposed by Labour.

Mr Osborne scrapped the annual fuel tax escalator - a mechanism under which duty rose by 1p above inflation every year - and cut fuel duty by 1p in March's Budget.

However, he has only postponed the planned inflation-linked part of the duty rise from April 2011 to January 2012, and from April 2012 to August 2012.

Opening the debate, Mr Halfon said: "Fuel duty is not just about economics, it's an issue of social justice and this is especially true in rural communities which are being destroyed by fuel prices."

He said the government had to be "realistic and truthful about who pays the lion's share of fuel duty".

Petrol and diesel prices versus the oil price

"It's ordinary families driving to work, it's mums taking their children to school, it's small businesses who can't afford to drive a van or their lorry, it's non-motorists who depend on buses who are also being crushed by rocketing food prices as the cost of road haulage goes through the roof."
In his motion, Mr Halfon urges ministers to consider whether current fuel tax rates are economically competitive; what impact they are having on economic growth and unemployment levels; and to examine the case for a price stabilisation mechanism to even out fluctuations in pump prices.

The Treasury has already said it will introduce a "fair fuel stabiliser" to ensure price rises are capped to inflation when oil prices are high.

Lib Dem party president Tim Farron agreed that people in rural areas were hardest hit because "demand is so inelastic for petrol because people have only one way of getting to work".

AA president Edmund King: "High fuel prices are already bringing in record amounts of tax"

Labour have welcomed the chance for a debate on the issue, but said there must be "concrete action" to help business and families rather than "warm words".

The party's leadership had backed an amendment by backbench MP Dave Watts urging the government to reverse January's rise in VAT to 20% - which they say would cut 3p off the price of a litre of petrol.

Russell Brown, MP for Dumfries and Galloway, said: "I have some people in remote areas who have discovered that to get to work has become far too costly and some of these people are considering giving up working all together."

Conservative Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, highlighted the struggles of haulage companies.

"Profit margins for hauliers are very tight. This makes it a very vulnerable business and in particular fuel companies are not willing to extend credit terms, leaving payments in some cases to as little as three days.

"Now when haulage firms may not be paid for work for up to 60 days, this proves to be a very hand-to-mouth industry and companies can only afford to think ahead to January."

Motorist: "Petrol prices are appalling at the moment"

The AA said the latest fuel price rises were already impacting on drivers, and that for the average motorist the planned increase would equate to an additional £38 a year at the pumps.

AA president Edmund King told BBC Radio 5Live the AA's latest survey showed that some 70% of motorists were already cutting back on journeys - or other expenditure, like food shopping, to pay for petrol.

He said price increases were "socially divisive", saying the nation was being divided into "drives" - people who can afford to drive - and "drive nots".

'Strangling the economy'

Motoring journalist Quentin Wilson, who speaks for FairFuel UK, a pressure group behind the e-petition, said he and others "want the whole fuel pricing issue to become open and transparent", adding that high fuel duty is "strangling the economy".

"There are desperate, desperate people who cannot afford to use the roads. The effect on society at the moment has been absolutely desperate. Fuel duty is strangling us," he said.

Meanwhile, Richard Hebditch, of Campaign for Better Transport, said the "big problem" is that Britons are reliant on their cars and dependant on foreign oil supplies, which are "quite risky oil supplies".

He said: "What we need to do is take the money from fuel duty and invest it in giving people real alternatives and modernising our transport systems so we aren't so dependant on foreign and risking oil supplies."

Tuesday's debate, which lasted three hours, was approved by the Backbench Business Committee.

How the cost of petrol and diesel breaks down

Monday, November 14, 2011

excellent example

One of my favourite lines is the Kent and East Sussex Railway, which managed to survive passemger closure in 1954 and freight closure in 1961 to reach the preservation era - with some serious problems along the way. The section from Tenterden northwards to Headcorn closed completely in 1954, the remaining section was reopened in stages from 1974, but the original intention was only to reach Bodiam - the remaining line to the network at Robertsbridge was abandoned completely, mainly because of the 'problem' of a level crossing on the A22. This was back in the days when roads were given priority over rail.

Of course things have changed completely now and this missing section is being restored - and at a cracking place. Take a look at the Rother Valley Railway's website which shows construction of this missing link. Hopefully when restored proper passenger and freight trains can return to the KESR, proving that Colonel Stephens was spot on with his light railways for rural areas - which are going to become a VERY important part of our transport infrastructure.

Hopefully when reopened it will spur other light railway construction, including the route north from Tenterden, the Selsey Tramway (desperately needed) and in our area, the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway, to name just a few!

solar so good ...

On my drive to the post office on Saturday I noticed that about fifteen houses had sprouted solar panels since my last trip three days before. It got me thinking!

My first reaction was that if all these houses were going to start to provide their own electricity, and sell the surplus to the grid, then would there really be an energy crisis in the future? Thinking like the average 'man in the street' my conclusion was 'no, there won't be'. I even, briefly, thought that (electric) cars may survive!!

But the bubble has since then popped. Whilst we can still provide solar panels for all the houses that need them at the moment, how long will this last? One big problem for solar panels is that they require a small amount of what is known as a 'rare earth' metal - as the name suggests these are not easy to find. Most rare earths are found in China, and China is holding back a large percentage of these for their own use, which is fair enough.

So this suggests that the price of solar panels will inexorably rise, and supply may tighten up. The next thing that sprang to mind is that whilst the solar panels going up now are new and bright and shiny, how long before they will need to be replaced? They are exposed and nobody seriously expects the climate to improve over the coming decades. There will come a point when the cost of rare earth components plus replacement makes their supply very difficult indeed. This is of course where scalability comes in. To encourage take up of solar panels the government was making installation free plus there was a guaranteed income for 25 years. This is already being scaled back.

This problem of resources and scalability comes into play wherever a replacement for fossil fuels is introduced. Biofuel died before it even began, because it straight away began to put pressure on food prices. Hydrogen will almost certainly face the same fate. Windmills need rare earth metals as well as a lot of conventional metal, plus maintenance. No doubt the same applies to hydroelectric, tide and wave power. There are always costs, and things that are trumpeted as panaceas often have a very short shelf life.

It brings us back to the initial problem of how we replace fossil fuels, and also to the enormous superiority of rail over road. It will be energy-efficient designs and modes that triumph in the long term, and the idea that we can continue to live energy-wasteful lives IF THAT ENERGY IS GENERATED SUSTAINABLY will soon be shown to be a greenwash and cop out.

So if seeing all these solar panels and windmills going up gives you a warm feeling remember that they will have huge problems once they take off on a large scale. We'll still be here waiting to lay our rails ...

Saturday, November 12, 2011


(Copyright Rail Thing)

An unusual distance shot of Templecombe taken from the site of the second S&D station in Templecombe. You can make out the signalbox on the main line station which was converted into a station building when the station was reopened in 1983. This shot is around 1970.

As the S&D begins to reappear the historical aspects of the line become even more intriguing and I'm still picking up unusual shots whenever I can. I reckon the S&D will become the most recorded and photographed line in the whole world as the decades pass, and more and more old shots will surface at the same time as new photographic opportunities arise as more and more of the line comes back into use. But PLEASE keep recording the line between closure and reopening - it is all history and all relevant. This Inbetweener time may become one of the most fascinating of all - future generations will find it almost impossible to believe that there was a time when this most important transport asset was not even being used and that we were forced to rely on cars on tiny llittle roads!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

future junction

(1970s, copyright Rail Thing)

These were the remains of West Moors station in the 1970s. This line retained a freight service until about 1973, when the route was further cut back to Wimborne, which itself lost all its trains in 1983. But until 1964 this was a junction with trains on the main double track route between Poole and Brockenhurst plus trains on the branch to Salisbury.

West Moors has developed surprisingly since the railway closed and would now produce a fair amount of originating traffic. All the routes serving West Moors are likely to reopen over the next 20-30 years, the New S&D has always planned to reopen the old Castleman's Corkscrew route to Brockenhurst to give greater capacity and flexibility for trains on the southern end of the route, and a group is likely to be formally constituted to restore the Salisbury-West Moors line any time now.

Closure of these lines was always a little strange, depriving Ringwood, Wimborne, Broadstone, West Moors and Fordingbridge of modern transport - a mistake that will be corrected soon enough!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

for our engineering fans

Thanks to John Penny at the Gartell Railway for this!

Monday, November 07, 2011

stop the scrap stealers

David Bailey has asked me to highlight this e-petition that seems to have the solution to theft of copper cables from railways. PLEASE SIGN!

Cashless Scrap Metal Trade - Amendment to Scrap Metal Merchants Act 1964

Responsible department: Home Office
Due to a significant rise in value, metal has become a much sought after commodity. This increased demand has resulted in a sharp rise in metal theft nationally. Metal fencing, gates, manhole covers and other metallic items are stolen on a regular basis. Property is raided for lead, copper and cabling. War memorials and statues have been taken. Overhead power lines are stolen at serious risk to personal safety with huge costs for replacement and major inconvenience to the public. Historically the scrap metal trade has been a cash in hand industry. This creates difficulties as there is no audit trail, making identification of individuals who may be trading stolen metal or who may be committing tax or benefits fraud, a difficult proposition. An amendment to the Scrap Metal Merchants Act 1964 to prohibit cash transactions would make payment by cheque or directly into a bank account mandatory and would be a significant component in reducing metal theft.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

made my day!

Thanks to Joe for this wonderful (if extremely short!) 'article' in a pro-road rag, which amazingly still exist, dripping in nostagia.

Museum piece LOL!
The future LOL!

Even without Peak Oil the car/bus/lorry is on its way out. Trams and rail are clearly the future, and are better in every respect. Perhaps the prof has Alzheimer's, or is simply thick?

Here goes!

Why Trams Belong in Museums
Do trams,
belong in
John Kay, an
eminent economist who has just been
commissioned by the Government to review the
operation of the stock market, obviously
believes so.
He published an article in the Financial Times
recently with the headline "Why trams belong in
museums and not on city streets" which nicely
demolished the arguments for trams.
He recalls being a small boy in Edinburgh and
watching the last tram roll along Princes Street.
He asks what has changed since that time to
make trams more attractive than buses as a
means of public transport and finds that nothing
has changed. They are still very expensive to
install and operate, and less flexible.
He says that the new Edinburgh tram scheme
would have been a marginal proposition if it had
cost nothing to build. But the projected cost of the
Edinburgh project was £545m
". He goes on to say
that the actual cost might now be £1bn, so the
total cost is about £500 per resident.
Anyway, for fans of trams everywhere, Prof
Kay’s article is surely worth a read and it can no
doubt be found on the FT’s web site.
The Government seems to have recommenced
funding new tram schemes such as the ones in
Birmingham and Sheffield though.

My email reply to Joe -


Thanks for this!

What a brilliantly insightful article. I started reading it, waiting for the argument to develop, then it stopped before it even began, just quoting one idiot (and obviously elderly) professor. No counter arguments about their increased speed, separation from traffic, lack of pollution at source, adoption throughout the world, resiliance to oil depletion, the fact that people actually want to use them (unlike buses) and that they employ cutting edge technology.

If this is the argument against (which is no argument at all) no wonder we feel all powerful and are pitying the petrol head dinosaurs!

Oh and his solution – buses!!

Great stuff!

street running US style

Just had to share this! Anyone who doubts that street running isn't an option should remember that the USA (supposedly anti-rail) has MANY places where this happens. This is Salem, Oregon, which sees 2 to 4 freights a day on this route. Hopefully I can catch some of this in real life either in December (New York City, Brooklyn) or next October (Florida, lots of locations!)

So who knows, we may one day see a 9F pulling a half mile long freight down the road somewhere in Somerset or Dorset!

Friday, November 04, 2011

barely believable

Now let's get this right. There's no £47 million for restoration of the Portishead branch, desperately needed and something everyone wants, a transport system for the 21st century which will reduce the average travelling time between Bristol and Portishead from an hour or more to 17 minutes ...

... yet there IS £90 million to WASTE on signage and cameras on the Almondsbury Interchange, a ROAD!!!!! The argument is that congestion is creating problems and losing drivers a few minutes each day. Er ... congestion will vanish quickly enough as oil prices rise and few of us will be able to continue to drive. Roads are 20th century, a dying transport mode. Not another penny should be wasted on them. ALL tranbsport funding now needs to go on transport modes that can survive Peak Oil.

This is disgusting and we need to make it stop. Money and resources are running out, it is CRIMINAL to misallocate either now.

Forget playing with cars, the £90 million should be spent on getting Portishead linked to Bristol and Norton/Radstock to Bath.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

useless blogger

Blogger has been losing my pictures for about a week now, and everyone else's no doubt!

These are the pictures that should accompany the previous post - they will probably be visible for an hour or so then mysteriously disappear.

If they do do this please let me know through the comments section. The pics WILL be visible on the sidebar under 'Midford 2011'.
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