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, 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.


Andrrew said...

Nice thought but can't quite see scenario 2 working that smoothly in this country - it frankly needs the sort of high level of organisation found in Switzerland, certainly not here given the UK's usual track record...

Sunshiner said...

I think the point is that we don't have a choice! It's scenario two or we are totally ruined. So that's really why we're doing what we're doing - I only read this report for the first time last week and it's interesting how closely it follows our own perspective - in fact it goes further by suggesting that motorways should be converted to railways. This is a bit of ano-brainer really, and suggests that at least part of the money wasted on motorways will be recouped in the conversion.

Freddie said...

I saw in December Railway Magazine a small article about a proposed new rail system linking the Gulf States - Qatar, Bahrain, USE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait. If these ultimate petrol based states are thinking about the need for a rail system, the writing really must be on the wall for cars and lorries!

Stewart said...

I'm afraid that the former "scenario" smacks of the apocalyptic predictions of some rather less reputable politicians. Instead of looking at polar oposittes, we should consider how our world will change gradually. I'm certain that 2025 will be to 2011 as 2011 is to 1995.

Sunshiner said...

I'm firmly of the gradualist school of thought - there'd be no point in doing what we're doing if apocalypse was just round the corner. Both od these scenarios are more Holywood than anything else, but they can provide a starting point for discussion.

My only worry is that as an economist I'm well aware of how changes can suddenly happen if the financial system starts to wobble under too many pressures. That way the apocalyptic scenario could kick in quickly - and that's the one we have to avoid.

We shouldn't be too scared but also we shouldn't be complacent.