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!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

long arch bridge






Some shots of Long Arch Bridge, which forms the northern boundary of our land at Midford. This would also presumably form the southern boundary of the Up Goods Yard land. Judging by the SAD-17 marker in the bridge it's still owned and maintained by Network Rail. If we do proceed with developing a sustainable engineering facility at the Up Goods Yard it may be that we could negotiate rights to running through the bridge without having to take on the liability of ownership.

When we are running regular trains we'll be more than happy to take these redundant bridges, viaducts and tunnels over from BR Residual and Sustrans but until then I suspect they would be too big a drag on our finances to maintain with no clear cash flow emanating from them.
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17 comments:

Knoxy said...

We could always go South from the Midford B Goods Yard?

Sunshiner said...

As a reserve option that would be ggood. I've heard the landowner there is desperate for the trains to return, always a good thing!

Eddystone said...

Seems sensible to look at all the options at this stage, especially if the landowner to the south is positively minded. I know that the Long Arch Bridge is an attractive piece of infrastructure,but maybe 'going with the flow' is worth considering at this stage

chairmaker said...

Surely best to head for Radstock. Could meet up with the Midsomer Norton guys coming the other way to give a railway from somewhere, to somewhere, via somewhere!

Maybe also hook up with the Frome line in Radstock too - then it really gets interesting

In the meantime, Sustrans can open the two tunnels for us and then it'll be time to get back into Bath.

Bunny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bunny said...

Great that the locals are on side here, let's hope that those on the way back into Bath are as accommodating and supportive. Whilst heading to either Bath or Radstock seems a logical proposition, is there any thought of working towards a main line connection, that could bring in charters/tours etc, effectively, any means of generating income for the growing railway?

Sunshiner said...

As an incremental and leveraged project the eventual aim is to link with the network at Bath, Bristol, Bruton, Possibly Shepton, Templecombe, Broadstone, Wimborne, Highbridge/Yatton and Poole.

Midford is of course only a couple of miles from the Network (at Limpley Stoke), in the south Spetisbury is some distance from the Network, but these are developments that won't take place for many years, unless some seismic event takes place that makes connection extremely urgent.

The aim is to only open sections as they become viable, each step in this journey has to be not only self-supporting but also generate a surplus to allow us to then take on another project.

In addition to the New S&D operating modern sustainable freight and passenger trains we will encourage steam (possibly even diesel if diesel survives long enough!) operators to use the line - I imagine they'll be queueing at the door!

To this end infrastructure will where possible reflect the S&D in its heyday (1950s) to give a full experience, but we also believe that travellers in the future will expect proper manned stations with facilities, not bus shelters! We fully expect stations to become the heart of the towns and villages they serve.

As always the pace of development depends on financial and physical support both from the railway fraternity and the locals who will be using the line on a regular basis.

Eddystone said...

'An incremental and leveraged project'-the best analogy I've heard yet Mr Sunshine! You also hit the nail on the head about the stations becoming the heart and hub of the communities they serve. They could well encompass postal services,licensed premises,community centre,tourist office, local shopping facilities oh and of course the local population's travel and communications point...

yamfaz said...

Does Midford have a local shop where newspapers and milk can be bought. If not...

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible for a little bit of insight into how the Sustrans network will work through the site as progress seems to be moving along through the linear park. A lot of fundraising money has gone into the project yet if a previous commentator was to be believed then all their hard work would all be turned over to you guys..

Sunshiner said...

Although this section of the S&D was single track at most points it was engineered for double track, so there is room for a cycleway alongside the railway when it is rebuilt.

Railways will inevitably get priority over cycleways as roads begin to close down, but many roads could then be converted to cycleways.

We certainly hope that Bournemouth to Bath will be both a railway and a cycleway, but obviously the railway is limited to where it can go whereas cycleways can be far more flexible.

The railway will offer concessionary fares to cyclists and there will be cycle facilities at all stations along the route.

Remember we don't have a choice in this. The railway will have to return, it's just that with the New S&D in the driving seat we'll protect the interests of cyclists - being another sustainable form of transport - whereas I doubt a Network Rail restoration will even acknowledge the existence of a cycleway!

Whilst cycling obviously has advantages over trains in the use of energy, many people simply will not be able to cycle - the elderly, disabled etc. Trains can also carry large amounts of freight which bikes can't do.

We're both thinking about the future but it will have to be horses for courses, and railways will have to have priority over cycleways for all the reasons stated above.

Bear in mind also that public railways also have automatic compulsory purchase powers that we will doubtless need to use in a few cases. This will help us get both the railway and a cycleway between Bournemouth and Bath!

Eddystone said...

Thankyou for that informed post.I'm still finding my way around the New S&D- I'm sold on the principles and it's great that Sustrans are very much part of the picture. If anyone believes that railways could ride on the work done by this excellent organisation,Sustrans have also jumped on the bandwagon of work done by railway groups who have protected trackbeds. But it doesn't matter anymore as it's a common cause- prepping for when the oil runs out. There are absolutely no grounds for suspicion or resentment from either side. Joint working and fellowship are the way forward.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response to my query, though I am also wondering what your opinion is towards the charitable money that was raised by the King Bladud Pigs scheme that was hugely successful and contributed significant money to the works that are now taking place...

Without meaning to be blunt, but I cant put it any other way - surely you dont expect as a small group just be able to come in and somehow reap the benefits of that scheme and tailor it towards your own vision? It would seem disingenuous and if that was the case then maybe that money should be repaid back..

The Two Tunnels scheme is a way of preserving a a transport corridor for multi use and the restoration of its key components such as the viaduct and tunnels are coming from the public purse to an extent - I dont think you have earned the right to start claiming that in the future it will be under your groups control.

It seems that there is an inherent conflict with the two schemes that will have to be resolved. I just cant understand why it hasnt been been brought up by yourselves or Sustrans. Its the elephant in the room.I know they are negotiating with the landowner for Midford Castle to gain the access rights from the goods yard to the viaduct, but if you say it will all be yours anyway then maybe you should be putting in the hard graft instead, and reopening the tunnels, repointing the brickwork, repairing Watery Bottom Bridge and replacing the missing tunnels in the urban section yourselves.

Anyways it is all a very interesting situation and is good to see positive things being done to the and its industrial history that has been neglected for far too long.

Sunshiner said...

The New S&D has identified a new route into Bath via Limpley Stoke - I don't think we've ever looked at the Two Tunnels section for restoration. We obviously support the Two Tunnels scheme as we hope, certainly in these early years, that it will bring a lot of traffic our way. The New S&D is unlikely to rebuild this section of the route because of its heavy engineering and because it ran to Bath Green Park, not the existing network routes. This was a single track section of line, we hardly expect that a single track will be suitable for the amount of traffic we expect to be using the S&D in 20/30 years time!

I think you need to think of cycleways on former and future railways as guardians of the routes, and as a short and medium term prospect. In the longer term probably all railways closed under Beeching (and many totally new routes) will need to be run as railways ie for the whole community, not just a section of it.

None of this is new or contentious. These railway routes should have been protected, we will have to spend far far more money actually reinstating these routes than we would have had to had the routes been properly protected. Has it never occured to cyclists that the governments used you to take over liabilities in the in between time when these railways were temporarily abandoned?

Be realistic, we're not going to drop our plans for some short term and, let's face it, rather anachronistic scheme to create just cycleways on railway routes. These routes are going to be needed sooner rather than later - as railways. New cycleways can be built alongside rebuilt railways in places and on new routes elsewhere. The rail routes will have to take priority once the roads start to vanish.

Freddie said...

I think there was a cycletrack along the Airdrie-Bathgate route that was re-opened in 2010. They just moved it aside to put back the double track railway.

As far as a route into Bath goes, there's not much scope in increasing capacity through Bath Spa, and there's bound to be more services on the existing lines by then, so you may well need the original route from the off. A shame the planners haven't thought fit to leave a route into Green Park, but a link from the end of the existing linear park across to Weston Station at the start of the Midland route might be feasible - you'd at least have freight route that didn't go though the bottle neck of Bath Spa, and maybe could send some passengers trains to Bristol over the old Midland line. I know the single section between Midford and Bath was itself a bottleneck, but perhaps an extra passing loop at the south entrance to the long tunnel would mitigate the worst of it?

Sunshiner said...

You are of course hitting the nail on the head! I don't think people yet get just how busy our railways are going to be in the future - Peak Oil or no Peak Oil!

Chrsitian Woolmar had this vision of a car free Britain (no longer a vision of course but an inevitability!) where the main line railways are 12 tracks across. But hopefully we'll be able to produce more locally, and more of us will be able to work from home so perhaps we can dampen demand a little.

This is one reason we've always included the Bristol-Pensford-Radstock line in our plans, it would give a further route to the north, with perhaps two routes between Bath and Midford to ease bottlenecks both on the S&D and the network.

As I said, I really don't think many people realise just how busy railways are going to be in the future!

Freddie said...

Absolutely! Who would have thought, even five years ago, that by 2017 we shall see
- electrification of GWR mainline to Bristol and Cardiff, with big increase in capacity
- re-opening of east-west route form Oxford and Aylesbury to Bletchley
- Waverely route re-opened from Edinburgh to Tweedbank
- direct trains from London to the Netherlands and Germany

The evidence of the new age of railways is all around for those who bother to look. It's great to see New S&D being so proactive.