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, December 21, 2011

the new railway

Someone on the Shillingstone Facebook group sadly posted a petition to renationalise the rail network! I wasn't alone in pointing out how daft and unworkable this idea is! My last (final?) post on this issue goes as follows -

I think you just have to look at today's railway - busier than at any time since the 20s, freight on the rise, stations and lines reopening and a real buzz. This is no coincidence. This is because private enterprise now sees the value in working hard to promote the railways. The Swiss model is the best, with most lines being private yet having much of the equity owned by the communes, towns, cantons, and local individuals through which the lines run. Compare it with the mess that BR was, through no fault of its own, but because it was used as a political football. The real story of the complicity between Labour, Tory, Marples, Beeching and the vile road lobby has yet to be told. Renationalisation is impossible as the cost of buying back the infrastructure would place a charge on a new nationalised railway that would take decades - and genuinely HUGE fare rises - to pay back. Nationalisation is never an economic move, only ever a POLITICAL one, and we've seen what politics can do to the railways! The world is changing (despite what Occupy and most politicians tell us) and the future will be far more localised, almost totally rail-based and will be robustly capitalist. There's no point looking backwards through rose-tinted specs at a cosy past that never really existed. We have to work with what we've got, and with what we've got coming!


Chris Warren said...


Currently the infrastructure is in public ownership, it is only political dogma that says Network Rail is a private company. Yes, I have to agree that the TOC's certainly have introduced a competitive edge to running services. Our dealings with FGW have found them very supportive of Saltford Station and they have suggested possible funding streams. I was thinking the other day about what would have happened had Nationalisation not happened in 1948. Would the Big Four have been far more aggressive in the face of competition from roads? I would imagine they would've fought tooth and nail to retain their market share. I suppose the Gov't of the day would've skewed the market against rail but the Railways themselves would have had the financial clout to fight such legislation. After being aquired by the state, when it came to rail closures, being owned by the state, the state could do as it wished. The roads lobby dictated policy and the policy was ruthlessly carried out. Makes me sick!

Sunshiner said...

Throwing off nationalisation was the best thing that ever happened to the railways. It's allowed private companies to start marketing the railway, investment has boomed and train services have improved. In the 60s the railway was wrecked from both sides - from idiots in government who thought oil was an infinite resource and from the unions who thought that ordinary workers were demigods with an entitlement written in stone. All that is now history. I was amazed that there were still a few people who thought it was acceptable to return to this - at what cost £50 billion, £100 billion?? - and even more amazed that someone thought a heritage group would contain members who would agree!

The road lobby is seeing power slipping away as the environmental advantage of rail is so clear for all to see, the challenges of Peak Oil aren't even on their radar yet!

Knoxy said...

In my view; had the big four remained they would have been the four most powerful companies in the country. Just look at what they owned. not just the track, but most of the office space around their stations. they owned the ports, hotels, airstrips etc. I doubt we would have all the road based freight that we have today, as most of it would have remained on the railways as the railway would have adapted to fight off the competition. Its politics that skewed transport to a road based system, not necessarily economics. Look at the Square Deal campaign of the 1930’s and the way the Government set the rates the railway companies could charge!

I reserve comment on the set up today….


Anonymous said...

I think that the commonly held view prior to nationalisation in 1948 was that the major railway companies had been run down during the war years to such an extent that no private company would have the resources available to reconstitute them to their former glory.
My belief is also that the huge advantage over their competitors that railways had at their inception bred an ethos of complacency into their top management that is still apparent to this day, even after all the reincarnations.
Unless we can beat a mentality into railway management blended from say Ryanair, Virgin and Tata (or Steve or put your own names in) then we will be consigned to an unending cycle where the organisation’s assets will be up for grabs by whoever is seeking their own short term advantage to the detriment of us all.

Knoxy said...

the Government owed the railways too much money after WW2, hence nationalisation....

fast forward to today and we now have the worst of all ways. not private, not public..