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, January 10, 2012

hs2 and sd2

So that's it, HS2 will happen. It all seemed so easy.

Of course in the real world what we need is massive investment in new railways and tramways in the UK, bringing a sustainable and modern transport system into every corner of the UK, far surpassing the rather sparse network bequeathed by the Victorians and dimished even further by the misguided idiot Beeching.

But we have to work in the world we have, not the one we want, so we're stuck with this expensive if essential piece of infrastructure, the cost of which would have rebuilt sixteen S&Ds - and brought modern transport to people that needed it, not those that already have it!

As for SD2 as it's now becoming known? Well the fact that governments are now seeing rail as the default future transport system can only be a good thing. In truth of course this has been a process that's been happening for some time, from the building of the Channel Tunnel. The 'road lobby' is now a distant memory, and HS2 will also do its bit to bring the early end of air travel, despite the rather daft idea that HS2 will link to Heathrow - as if it will still be operating in 2026, when HS2 is due to begin services.

And what about its effect on SD2? I suspect that once HS2 is finished other parts of the UK will be clamouring for a high speed link and I suspect a priority will be London to Bristol to Cardiff/Plymouth, which suggests an SD2 link at Bristol (via the Radstock-Pensford-Bristol line, part of our remit). Imagine - Shepton to Paris in 3 and a half hours! Of course the Bath line will be no less important - at least 95% of travellers on SD2 will be local passengers.

So HS2 is going to cause a lot of controversy. You can't blame residents for fighting it if they can't actually use the trains. Perhaps bundling it with a package of conventional rail reopenings, particularly in the area through which it will run, will sweeten the pill somewhat?

It's clear that our economy will be a purely rail-based one within a few decades. HS2 is a step in that process. But it needs to be presented as a small part in a  much bigger plan, the roll back of Beeching, the building of thousands of miles of new railways and tramways, the linking of industries, farms etc to the network, the creation of super-efficient, fully sustainable locomotives and, most of all, the complete reorientating of our industry and commerce to not merely be sustainable but to continue to develop into the post oil age.


Knoxy said...

At times I find it quite galling to hear these MP’s speak of how we need extra capacity on Britain’s railways. Well how about an apology for all the closures foisted on us over the last 50 years? That would be a start!
Then safeguard all routes from meaningless housing projects and out of town shopping estates!
Some of HS2 runs alongside the GC, the Victorian Channel Tunnel rail-link, so let’s re-open that for freight and passenger. HS2 can come later, if at all?
What we need is;
Piggyback freight routes linking the major ports
High speed internet alongside all rail lines
Fully integrated transport system, like 1947
Proper coaches with at seat tables; windows that line up (not difficult, but not built since the 60’s and 70’s), and free internet. (Who needs to travel fast when you can work on the train or relax).

The sad thing is we had all this years ago, just not the internet. So MP’s admit you were wrong and rebuild our lines, before the oil becomes too scarce or the Iranians blockage the Strait of Hormuz! (Maybe a bit late for that one?).

Anonymous said...

When you say sd2, do you mean S&D2?

Sunshiner said...

Yes. Blame Mick Knox - he's come up with what I think is a brilliant bit of rebranding for the New S&D. And if things do go pear shaped with HS2 we can quickly revert to New S&D!

Chairmaker said...

Whilst not being quite as dismissive of our ability to devise propulsion systems other than those reliant on oil, I do hope the s&d reopens along with many other abandoned lines.

However, the [sense of] personal freedom which a car or motorbike brings is never going to be mirrored by a public transport system of any sort, for all except the longest journeys. Add to this the fact that the naturally monopolistic nature of railways, and their tendency to operate in the interests of the staff rather than the customer, may mean that the unbridled enthusiasm expressed here is misplaced.

I hope I'm wrong, but when hs2 has over-shot it's budget by a few tens of billions, as it inevitably will, the gloss may come off the rail revival which would be really sad.

Such a shame the decision wasn't to reopen the GC and spend the rest on doubling existing lines and, of course, reopening Bath to Bournemouth.

Sunshiner said...

I've never been dismissive of our ABILITY to devise non-oil based propulsion, but of its economic viability, which is a totally different thing! Oil was a once in 150 million year cheap and easy energy source, any successor will inevitably be more complex and hence more expensive, and probably lack scalability. Then energy efficiency kicks in, and rail will always win that battle. As for flexibility - once we have an extensive enough rail (and tram) system it will be totally flexible without the cost and worry of 'owning' a vehicle. Try Switzerland - no need to own a car there and I've certainly never felt a second class citizen when using public transport there! I don't know about railways operating for staff - I suspect that was a 1950s thing, well before my time! I like the flexibility of just jumping on a train, going anywhere, not having to worry about parking, stress, congestion, insurance, repairs, road tax, servicing, AA fees or coming back to a vandalised vehicle! Plus all that lovely extra cash - more than enough to buy all that freedom and flexibility with!

Knoxy said...

Yes the car and the motorbike give one a sense of freedom, but only if the roads are clear and not full of other freedom chasers?

chairmaker said...

Indeed Knoxy - hence the "sense of" rider to the comment, although my experience when on a motorbike is that far fewer things can hold you up!

Even in the car, by moving a journey an hour or so either way of the lemming hour, a decent run can often be made. Same with the trains - travel after about 09:30hrs and the journey often becomes a pleasure, even on First Great Western. Ok - that might be exaggerating a bit.

My fear with rail restoration generally is that we'll see the sorts of staggering costs and blown budgets for infrastructure etc. which will put a brake on the reopenings which we'd all like to see.

A few years ago there was a train crash at Watford and it was decided to move a signal a few hundred yards up the track. The final bill for that came to over a million quid! When moving what is a glorified traffic light a few yards is that sort of money, I do feel the rail industry is out of control.

And whilst Sunshiner says that union dominance is a 1950s thing, I would point out that the Tube drivers get £50k a year to move a lever back and forth for a few hours a day, and further money just for not striking during the Olympics.

Is it wise to hand more power to the RMT or any other such pre-Cretaceous organisation, or should we create community owned railways which can manage their own affairs without interference from the Westminster "elite" or have restrictive practices imposed by Bob Crow?

Sunshiner said...

My own view is that railways are far too important to allow strikes, and personally I'd rather unions weren't involved in transport matters at all. But that's just my point of view.

The New S&D hopefully will be a community-owned and operated railway with volunteer input, certainly at the stations, which will become the centre of their towns and villages.

As for moving a signal? They do this at Midsomer Norton for nothing! All that network rail consultant health and safety overblown rubbish will have no place on the New S&D.

The world in the future will be a far less complex place and local communities won't have this idiotic divisiveness that's really just a hangover from the boom days of 1980-2000. I just think we're a bit ahead of the rest in our thinking!

Knoxy said...

The exorbitant cost and no doubt difficult job of moving a signal etc is down the structure of the railways as set down by the Tories during in rail privatisation in the 1990’s. A pity they didn’t go for John Major’s preferred option and reintroduce the big four, but unfortunately they let the EU determine how Britain runs its railways.
Community railways are the answer for the likes of the S&D. owned by the people, run by railwaymen, for the people.

Toddington Ted said...

HS2? It's not going to happen. No need to travel that fast twixt Brum and London. A new S&D? or a new GCR? The last 3 years convinces me that those are becoming more likely!

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine how them pieces of line would have cost to relay at Midsummer & Shillingstone if it was in the hands of Network Rail!!!!!!!!!!!!!