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!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

portishead - bristol continues it's bid for least green city in briatin award!

The Portishead branch possibly has the best case for any line reopening in Britain. Yet still we have to wait, having to endure an average car journey time of 1 hour for the eight or nine miles (sometimes up to three!) against the 17 minutes on the train.

What is the problem? Is it that the government and local authorities don't want to be seen to be giving the green light to what will be the first of hundreds or even thousands of rail reopenings in the UK?

Most of the line is in situ. It already carries heavy freight trains, yet there are plenty of paths for passenger trains. Portishead is a large town with no modern transport link. Everyone wants the railway back. It even has space for a station at Ashton Gate, allowing football fans to come to the matches at Bristol City without using their cars. It would also be easy to build a second route into Bristol alongside the Create Centre and terminating at the M Shed, or even continuing tram style into the centre, giving huge flexibility. Portishead could have two trains an hour and trams in between! It would push house prices up, bring new businesses in and just make life a lot easier for everyone.

Bristol is probably Britain's least Green city - it doesn't even seem to understand what it means! Or why it's needed. We still don't have trams!!!! The city is an embarrassment to be honest. So let's start with the Portishead line, then a revival of the Weston route from Portishead, then a proper tram network throughout the city with interurban routes into the suburbs, then full support for the Bristol to Radstock line as part of the S&D revival, followed by restoration of the old Midland route from Bristol into Bath. We could become a showpiece city for a green future, rather than a running joke.

Back in cloud cuckoo land here is today's report about the lack of funding for the tiny Portishead revival.

PLANS to reopen Portishead’s desperately needed rail link have received a major blow – after a bid for £43 million of government funding for the project was turned down.
North Somerset Council learned this week that its multi-million-pound bid to the government’s Regional Growth Fund for cash to open the defunct rail link had been refused.
It had been hoped – if the bid was successful – to get passenger trains running out of Portishead from as early as 2015.
Council leaders have said that, although the news the bid had been unsuccessful was a blow, it in no way meant the end of the road for the railway reopening project.
And they said they still plan to bid for cash for the scheme from future Major Transport Programmes or any replacement programmes promoted by the government.
The authority will continue to work with Network Rail on its Guide to Rail Investment Project (GRIP) studies on the feasibility of reopening the railway and look at other possible funding streams. North Somerset Council deputy leader Councillor Elfan Ap Rees said: “Admittedly this is a blow to our plans to reopen the rail link. But it is a setback and it is certainly not the end of the road.
“We knew it was only an outside chance of us getting the funding from the growth fund. If we had been successful it would have meant we could have got rail services running out of Portishead more quickly.
“However we will be continuing to work with Network Rail to look at alternative funding streams.
“The local transport fund is currently fully subscribed and we will be looking to make a bid for funding at the next round of allocations, which will probably take place next year with the money possibly coming available around 2014.
“As a council we are still very much committed to reopening the Portishead rail link.”
It is estimated that the total cost of reopening the rail link would be around £50 million.
A further £4.8 million needed for the project would be funded from council resources and planning agreement money earmarked from developments in Portishead.
Studies have revealed that if the line was to open, trains could travel between Portishead and Temple Meads in Bristol in 17 minutes – slashing the current journey time by car.
Members of the Gordano Councils Transport Group, which was set up to campaign for the reopening of the railway, said they were ‘deeply disappointed’ at the news.
Group founder and Portishead councillor David Pasley said: “I am deeply disappointed this bid for funding has been turned down.
“Portishead has grown massively over the years and is due to grow by a further 40 per cent by 2015.
“Good transport in and out of the town are essential and should have been put in place before all the new developments were allowed.
“It is now important that all other funding streams are explored for this project.
“There is strong public and commercial support for the reopening of the rail link out of Portishead.”
The work to reopen the railway would include re-laying the three miles of redundant track between Portishead and Portbury and building a new station.
A new road bridge would be built over the railway at Quays Avenue in Portishead and a station would have to be built on land already earmarked at Harbour Road.
Money would also have to be spent on upgrading the six-mile section of the track between Portbury Dock as currently it is not of a good enough standard to run passenger services.
The track is currently only used by freight trains which carry coal and cars from Royal Portbury Dock to locations around the country.
The track, which was reopened in the 1990s, is capable of taking trains at speeds of up to 30mph, while passenger trains operate at speeds of up to 60mph.
The existing track could be used, but major realignment work would be needed and some new lines would have to be laid.
Further work is also needed at Pill tunnel to improve the drainage and lines to allow passenger trains through there safely.
The reopening of the railway would mean an end to the gridlock often seen on the Portbury Hundred – the main route out of Portishead.
Brunel first proposed the line in 1839 but it was actually built by the Bristol and Portishead Pier and Railway Company and opened on April 18 1867.
It was laid as a single line broad gauge branch running from Bristol to Portishead.
The line was closed to passenger traffic in September 1964 and freight in 1981 and lay unused apart from the occasional steam specials.
Among the funding options for further exploration are the re-letting of the Great Western franchise from 2013 and the proposed recently announced Local Transport Consortiums. The council will make the case for the scheme with the Department for Transport to identify a funding package to take the scheme forward.
The next major milestones for the scheme are to compile a detailed scheme business case, to commence GRIP stage 4 with Network Rail and to pursue planning consents to build and operate the rail line. 


Neil S. said...

I went to school and university in Bristol: a great place which cannot be bettered.

However, and as usual, the population of Bristol and its environs are represented by complete morons: there are derelict station from Charfield to Portishead and from Chipping Sodbury to Puxton. The Thornbury IS there. Why isn't it working, Mr Politician? I demand a straight answer.

Why are these others not in use to relieve the major traffic congestion on weekdays and even weekends?

No more excuses. Restore proper train services and don't pander to the road traffic lobby. It is a serious enough problem for the establishment of local representation, free from the main political parties, which are clueless.

There is no good reason not to do so.

Knoxy said...

It will happen. maybe just not yet, but happen it will..

i used to drive for a living; gave it up for a career on the railways when i had read 'the great railway conspiracy'

railways need to return all over the country. stuck in road traffic isn't a viable long term option, especially if we intend to have an extra 10 million soles in this country. i would have said fine, but i don't think it is, nor will be with current trends?

Sunshiner said...

I also used to drive for a living but it was clear that it was hardly a career choice!

I think the point now is that these events that we've long predicted are a LOT closer than we think - we are talking a few years rather than decades. The economic crisis is as much a response to peak oil, diminishing resources and the end of growth as it is to specific events in the financial system.

So the cities, towns and villages that get ahead of the events that lie ahead are the ones that will survive and flourish. Bristol, the S&D, some of the other connecting routes, and the places that lie along them, are the particular places that matter to me. It is a disgrace that Bristol is SO backwards, that they haven't even begun to understand what's needed for the future. That's both very sad and very dangerous. We can just do our tiny bit.

Anonymous said...

There was a piece on BBC today about a special train run for various politicians and representatives (including the MD of FGW) - so hopefully, this bit of news is only a minor setback. Who knows, maybe we'll get a Chiltern type franchise where the franchisee can actually make strategic investment decisions in increasing network capacity/reliability without having to go cap in hand to the DfT every time. In the mean time, lets keep the pressure up on our local politicians and ensure that all the regional pressure groups are aligned in the message they send out.