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!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

towards car-free towns

Something I hear occasionally is that 'we can't survive without cars and lorries'. But of course we can and, in a few places, already do. For example Wengen, Murren and Zermatt in Switzerland are all car free, and rely entirely on the train to bring in visitors and freight. They cheat a little with the sort of small electric vehicles seen in the bottom picture, but these may well survive peak oil on self contained roads within communities. Such roads would not need the high levels of maintenance that interurban roads do and could be maintained by the communities which they serve. Larger factories, shopping areas and markets would probably be better served by light railways bringing in goods and taking out finished materials. All rails - and roads - would of course lead to the station, which will become the hub of activity and centre of every community.

There are two totally car free places in the British Isles - Herm and Sark in the Channel Islands.

And others throughout the world - check out this list!


will said...

Dont forget the isles of scilly- tresco is on that list, and St Agnes is damn close - there are a few landrovers and tractors but thats about it!

Anonymous said...

The train doesn't go to my workshop or deliver any parts there also couldn't carry my tools around! Doesn't stop at asda either unless i walk 3 miles

Sunshiner said...

Not yet of course - why would it? But in the future there will be services that do this - the Paris Tramway for example is trialling freight deliveries to shops along its route. I suspect a lot of horses and carts will appear (but bear in mind that horses and their feed use a lot of land so they will be expensive), and bikes can pull trailers, especially if they can utilise small electric motors using renewables. Supermarkets if they survive will need to be able to bring in customers (as well as produce) so may well invest in ultra-light rail or something similar, though we'll probably be growing a lot of our own food and perhaps do a 'big' shop every 2 or 3 weeks using the train or tram to get into our nearest town.

We're all going to have to adapt but remember that the transport infrastructure will change as a response to changing patterns of work, food production etc.

I'm sure there are tradespeople living and working in Zermatt, Murren etc who are already finding solutions to these minor problems.

We don't have any choice remember, this will happen regardless of what we do, so those of us who are forewarned and forearmed have rather an advantage over those to whom this will come as something of a shock! This is WHY we're putting railways and tramways back as quickly as we can!

Knoxy said...

So, like the rest of us, you are totally reliant on cheap oil?

At what point would your business flounder? £7, £10, £15 or £20 per gallon?

This is the problem for all of us. Our states transport infrastructure is totally based on cheap oil. But, this is also why oil is so expensive, as we have no choice, but to use it. If we had alternative method of transport, such as rail, trams etc we then wouldn’t be so hooked on oil and therefore it would be cheaper. We are now paying the price for the Maples/Beeching era and the lack of foresight in safeguarding the closed formations.

So the train won’t take you to the 3 miles to Adsa. Quite right, but if oil is too expensive, Asda probably won’t be located where it currently is? Less oil, less customers and more expensive goods. Their supply chain is hooked on oil too…..

Sunshiner said...

Of course. It's a rather odd argument to say that because things are as they are now then somehow, miraculously, we'll find some supernatural way to keep them as they are forever. People's lives, jobs, homes change even now, when oil is incredibly cheap. This blog isn't really the place to go deeply into the economic and social impacts of climate change and peak oil, there are plenty of other sites that do that, but it is a KEY part of why the New S&D exists. There are numerous forecasts for the future ranging from gentle change to apocalypse. Steps we take now will determine which future we'll get. To me the need to create a sustainable transport system is paramount, otherwise we'll all withdraw to our small communities or, worse, our families. It's amazing that some people still seem to think that their own little lives and jobs will have ANY effect on future oil supplies!

I know that there are still many people out there, perhaps even a majority, that just don't get Peak Oil yet, and that's not entirely their fault when morons like Boris Johnson seriously put forward plans for new AIRPORTS, despite having no idea where the fuel for the planes is going to come from. The idea that in 2050 there will be any commercial flights is hilarious to anyone with even a basic economics background. But this is the fog we have to fight our way through. It is thinning ...

Anonymous said...

I guess the in the future when they build a new housing estate that is situated miles from any railway the first thing they will do is build one so the work force can get there. But hang on how can you build a railway with no other transport THAN the train lol. I love seeing whats happening on the s&d but i can't see rail dominating the world. If oil run's out what would be used to even lubricate moving part's ???

Sunshiner said...

We'll be able to produce enough lubricating oil from biofuels etc and by careful filtering and reuse. What we won't be able to do with expensive oil (which we're nowhere near yet) is run a huge industrial society with personal transport for all. There simply isn't enough land, not if we want to eat! And it's not 'if' oil runs out, it's when. But that is of course the normal oil we get out of the ground. There's no dispute that oil is a finite resource, or that we're probably half way through all the conventional oil we'll ever be able to access.

Remember the original railway network was built entirely without oil, the first commercial oil not being available until about 1860, most of the network was built by then. Contractors' railways were generally used (and of course still are) as much rail construction is not accessible to rubber tyred transport.

At Midsomer Norton early use was made of a Landrover to haul rails etc, but as soon as a little track was laid we couldn't access any other part of the site. For a while everything was done by hand, which was very hard work. Then we got the roadrailer which suddenly made access much easier and now of course engineers' trains are made up as the line is extended.

I don't quite get your point about railways being constructed with no other transport than trains, as this is the way it's always been done and no doubt always will be!

Sunshiner said...

And of course in the future they won't be building any houses more than a few hundred metres from a railway or tramway. It's not like they build housing estates miles from roads now is it? I think you rather missed the point about everything changing as the oil runs out that Mick made in an earlier comment!

Anonymous said...

When or if oil runs out how will you run trains what fuel will you use? I can't see devolopment sited solely near railways and tramways or every supermarket upping sticks to relocate there. What a bleak picture of the future world you paint. I was glad at firdt to see a new website supporting the S&D but now i think it makes a mockery of the whole line.I wish you luck in your railway dominated world and i'll take my hat off to you IF it happens

Sunshiner said...

This isn't the bleak view!! This is the extreme optimistic view. The bleak views are absolutely vile and I do worry that people who fall for them will get so depressed that they'll lose the will to survive. I've always approached this from the most optimistic standpoint, and have yet to be swayed from that.

As for fuel remember that rail can utilise both electricity and steam, so can be oil-free. Electricity can be supplied via wires, studs or conductor rail, and can use flywheels as well. This gives an edge over road for two reasons - the locos don't need to carry their own power source, so are immediately more efficient and secondly steel wheels on steel rails is between 4 and 25 times as fuel efficient as rubber tyres. None of this is contentious. As long as the electricity is generated by renewables then rail can last indefinitely into the future. I don't think any road enthusiast would even attempt to present a similar case for road!

Energy efficiency will become the overiding parameter in the future which of course will always give rail the edge.

Bear in mind also that roads are even today multi use. Bikes, horses, pedestrians are all able to use them, as could small electric vehicles in areas not yet covered by a rail route.

Steam of course is the other option, providing it is biomass or wood powered. This may become a transitional form of power on lines that aren't electrified right away. But again it is sustainable.

I'm sorry you feel that this site is a little challenging but it becomes easier with time! And also bear in mind that it's a personal blog - the New S&D has around 150 members, the other S&D groups over 1000, so I'm just a lone voice, although most S&D rebuilders are well aware of Peak Oil and so do veer towards the optimistic end of Peak Oil awareness, something that I hope I cultivate with every post! If we didn't then of course nobody would be trying to rebuild the S&D.

And please don't shoot the messenger. Okay, the Economics degree does perhaps give me a bigger range of tools to analyse the future but I don't think anyone would sincerely accuse me of pushing an agenda or taking a pessimistic view of what humans, with all their ingenuity, are able to come up with.

In a few years you'll be on board like everyone else!