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

not just us ...

Still fighting Beeching's cuts

Campaigners want to get passenger trains running again on a line in Northumberland 44 years after the axe fell on the service as part of Dr Beeching's cuts.

In June 2008 a passenger train ran on the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne railway line for the first time in more than 40 years.
It was part of a campaign by the South East Northumberland Rail User Group (Senrug) to bring back a passenger service to the line.
It was timely as 2008 is the 45th anniversary of Dr Richard Beeching's report into the rail network, The Reshaping of British Railways, which led to the closure of 2,000 stations and the uprooting of 5,000 miles of track.
One of the sections hit was the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line which meant the last passenger train between Newcastle and Ashington ran in 1964.

Train showing Ashington destination. Photo: John Brierley Train showing the Ashington destination

Help regeneration

Campaigners are convinced it would make sense to reintroduce passenger trains to the line to help commuters and regenerate the area.
South East Northumberland Rail User Group deputy chairman John Earl said it was difficult to understand all the decisions made under the Beeching review.
He said: "It's hard to say that they shouldn't have closed some of the lines because obviously they were unprofitable but some of them I just can't see why they were closed.
"If you look at some that survived the rationale isn't clear."
John said the decision to close the line cut off that area of Northumberland from the mainstream and Senrug believes restoring passenger services would boost regeneration and help commuting by cutting the number of cars on the road.
The line is still used for freight trains and is sometimes used by trains diverted from the East Coast Mainline.
In June 2008, Senrug ran three passenger trains on the line and tickets sold out.
It ran a petition which closed in March 2008 with 1,200 signatures on it.

Reverse historical trend

John said while there was a level of nostalgic interest in terms of people remembering trains running on the line, that was not what it was about.
He said: "It's not just nostalgia, it is very practical. We are not preservationists in whatever form. We want to run a proper mainline service.
Passengers crossing Wansbeck Viaduct. Photo: John Brierley Passengers crossing Wansbeck Viaduct

"It's the ideal line for it. There is not another line in the UK that has the rails and has the good will."
Senrug is proposing the line is reopened in stages with the first to extend the existing Newcastle to Morpeth services so they would also stop at Choppington and Bedlington. It estimates the cost would be £4m.
A study is currently being done into the cost of extending the service to Ashington.
Further plans would involve a station being built at Woodhorn for rail access to the museum and Wansbeck General Hospital.
And phase three would involve opening the southern section from Benton up through Seaton Delaval and Bebside to Bedlington.
John said: "There are plenty of us around the country on various different projects who are trying to reverse the historical trend.
"I do think this is the most important one to open first. It would benefit so many people. I am sure so many people would use it."

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