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, March 31, 2012


The Gartell Railway has published this poster which gives details of its running days in 2012. With their extension heading steadily northwards towards Templecombe this superb narrow gauge line has been really buzzing over the last few months.

Friday, March 30, 2012

serious matters

Dean Cockwell has been very busy setting up insurance for Spetisbury and Midford and his hard work is finally bearing fruit. This was an essential prerequisite to getting control of Spetsibury from DCC. He's come up with a good policy that will allow us to operate on multiple sites and have up to 20 volunteers working on each site. This gives us huge flexibility and will inevitably have us chasing up other sites to get our money's worth!

So Spetisbury should be launching very soon. There's already loads of interst as it's not far from the large conurbation of Bournemouth and Poole. So if you're interested in getting involved right at the start of what will be a very exciting project please contact our Spetisbury Project manager Dean Cockwell at deancockwell@ntlworld.com

The insurance isn't going to be cheap so any donations will be very welcome! We don't really want to load it on to membership fees. You can make a direct Paypal payment to SDRHTSales@aol.com or cheques are welcome. Please make payable to 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway' and post to New S&D, Insurance Donation, 10 Bellamy Avenue, Hartcliffe, BRISTOL, BS13 0HW. A member has kindly offered to underwrite the insurance in any case but would welcome extra donations!

I think we may be the first rail revival group with two separate stations in two counties, but I stand to be corrected. This means that four stations are now being revived on the S&D - such a turn round from a few years ago when the whole S&D was unnaturally quiet ...


A few years ago Peak Oil was an obscure subject discussed by economists, oil industry experts and a few writers. Environmentalists HATED it and politicians ignored it.

How things have changed! Now suddenly it's on everybody's lips from Sky News to Nature Magazine, and everyday people are beginning to talk about it. The fuel 'crisis' is part of it, but it's deeper than that. Nobody now seriously expects the price of fuel to fall, kids aren't learning to drive like they used to and more and more people are doing without cars completely, because they know what is coming.

For a bit of a primer you could do worse than read the following (from Nature 2012) - which also makes the important link between energy and growth.

We've hit "peak oil"; now comes permanent price volatility

Since 2005, the global production of oil has remained relatively flat, peaking in 2008 and declining since, even as demand for petroleum has continued to increase. The result has been wild fluctuations in the price of oil as small changes in demand set off large shocks in the system. 
In today's issue of Nature, two authors (the University of Washington's James Murray and Oxford's David King) argue that this sort of volatility will be all we can expect from here on out—and we're likely to face it with other fossil fuels, as well.

Limited supply

The notion of peak oil is a fairly simple one: oil is a finite resource and, at some point, we simply won't be able to extract as much as we had previously. There really is no getting around that limit for any finite resource. The issue that has made peak oil contentious, however, is the debate over when we might actually hit it. Murray and King are not the first to conclude that, even as the arguments were still going on, we had already passed oil's peak. Even though prices have gone up by about 15 percent per year since 2005, production has been largely flat.
The strongest argument against this being a real peak is the increasing volume of petroleum reserves reported by many countries. Even assuming those estimates were reliable (which the authors aren't entirely certain about), these reserves have clearly not enabled increased production. In the US, for example, production as a percentage of total reserves has dropped from nine percent to six percent over the last three decades. 
"We are not running out of oil," the authors argue, "but we are running out of oil that can be produced easily and cheaply." This creates significant delays before any of the new reserves can be tapped, and it limits the amount of oil that can be economically extracted from them.
Non-conventional sources like oil sands have the potential to contribute to the global supply but, so far at least, they haven't managed to do so; current production estimates indicate that they won't any time soon.
The struggle to mobilize supplies has taken place against a backdrop of falling production and rising demand. Most established sources of oil are seeing declines in the area of five percent annually. Given that decline, it will be extremely difficult to meet demands projected for 2030—in fact, we'd have to add the equivalent of our total current production. In a fit of understatement, the authors deem this "very unlikely to happen."

Economic impacts

What are the consequences of being stuck at or near peak oil? The authors have produced a graph showing that, while supply is elastic enough to meet demand, prices stay stable. Once demand consistently exceeds supply, prices swing wildly. Murray and King term this a "phase transition" and suggest we'll be in the volatile phase from here on out.
That has some pretty significant consequences. Of the 11 recessions the US has experienced since World War II, 10 have been preceded by a sudden change in oil prices. The US isn't alone, either. Italy's entire trade deficit, which has contributed to its financial troubles, can be accounted for by the rise in imported oil. The world, it seems, has allowed its economies to become entirely dependent upon fossil fuels. "If oil production can't grow, the implication is that the economy can't grow either," the authors write. "This is such a frightening prospect that many have simply avoided considering it."
And it's not just oil that poses problems. US coal production peaked in 2002, and the global peak has been predicted to hit as soon as 2025. The last time global coal reserves were evaluated, in 2005, the total was cut by more than half compared to previous estimates. Fracking has boosted the production of natural gas dramatically, but even here the authors find some reasons for concern. Recent reports suggest that shale gas reserves have been overestimated, and many fields that have been in production for a while have experienced large declines in production.
The commentary concludes that we simply can't rely on any fossil fuel to provide a stable and economic source of energy for more than a couple of decades. And, given the economic shocks that result from rapid changes in energy prices, that's a serious problem. "Economists and politicians continually debate policies that will lead to a return to economic growth," the authors note. "But because they have failed to recognize that the high price of energy is a central problem, they haven't identified the necessary solution: weaning society off fossil fuel."
This weaning will require a large deployment of efficiency measures, nuclear power, and renewable energy sources. All of this will take time, which is why efforts need to be started now, the authors argue. (Not mentioned, but equally true, is the probability that taking these measures will smooth out the impact of reaching peak fossil fuel production.) Unfortunately, since most governments are unwilling to admit the prospect of indefinite economic stagnation due to our reliance on fossil fuels, they've been unable to generate the political will to even begin these efforts. Murray and King clearly hope their commentary will help get the ball rolling.

that idiot beeching again ...

Nick Howes has sent me a link to the map which accompanied the notorious Beeching Report. Most of the lines shown here to be closed - including our own S&D - were indeed closed, but a few did survive, including many of the Cornish brances, the Exmouth branch, the East Suffolk line, the Cumbrian Coast line and the Central Wales line. I'd argue that the S&D was and is far more important than any of these routes and should not have closed even if it had found its way on to the Beeching Report. (Neither of course should any of the others listed ...)

On a lighter note Compulsory Purchase Boy has returned, I suspect he has an inset day at school! He now reckons that the 'people than run the world' will continue to drill for oil (which is now so expensive to find that it would be hard to find a market for it) and will also deliberately build on railway trackbeds to block lines reopening! Ah, the addled and conspiracy-theory-riddled minds of 14 year old boys - reality will come as such a shock to him in the coming decades!

With the school holidays now almost upon us I suspect we'll be getting a few more gems from the lad himself over the coming weeks!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

right at the centre ...

Today's top two news stories couldn't be more apposite to us. Queues at filling stations because of a vague threat of a strike coupled with the withdrawal of two of the six companies that planned to fund and build new nuclear power stations in the UK.

My views on unions are well known (!) so I won't engage with the politics, but on a more visceral level just look how ridiculous people are being, all selfishly rushing to grab something that they don't even need. If this is how we react when there's a tiny threat of a strike - and one that would have to give seven days' notice anyway - just how are poeple going to react when these sort of supply issues become endemic - as they soon will? This is the biggest Peak Oil eye-opener yet, and it's not pretty.


My views on environmenalists are well known (!) so I won't engage with the wider issues, but from purely a transport perspective I would say that this rings the death knell of the electric car. We desperately need this extra generating capacity just to keep up with EXISTING demand, if we don't get the new nuclear stations you can wave goodbye to any surplus being available to charge up electric cars. Even with the new power stations we were probably almost certain to get power cuts by 2015 on a regular basis.

What both these stories demonstrate is the extreme vulnerability of the old energy order, where public perception, economics and  disinformation mix up together to cause disruption and uncertainty.

Worried? Just close your eyes and think of Midford (1950 or 2030)!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

more track laid!

There's some great work going on down at the Gartell Railway with track now beginning to head towards Templecombe. The Gartell blog is an excellent source of information and this link will give lots more specific details of the work going on there.

There is also now a Gartell Facebook group.

It's great to see that the Gartell is giving the two established S&D standard gauge groups a run for their money!

spetisbury - website content welcomed!

This is from David Bailey, our webmaster.

Given that this project is taking off, I'd like to increase the amount of information we have about Spetisbury station on the New S&D website. Would someone like to volunteer to rewrite/expand the current text and submit a few more photos?

Saturday, March 24, 2012


(Eridge 2.1.1973 copyright Rail Thing)

One of the craziest rail cllosures was that of Lewes-Uckfield in Sussex, a mad scheme to cut 8 miles of line and lose 2 stations but, most importantly, deprive the network of a genuine alternative route when the main Brighton-London line was blocked or suffering engineering works. It also created a new branch line, never a great idea economically or operationally.

Despite this line being clearly needed both then (1969) and even more so now they are STILL strugglling to get it open! It seems that this delightful part of Sussex still thinks its the 1970s.

The Uckfield line needs to reopen to Lewes, be double track throughout and electrified. There's no argument about this, just DO IT!

This is very relevant to us trying to get north-south modern transport in Somerset and Dorset as I suspect we will be in this position in a decade's time!

Latest from the people trying to get the politicians down Sussex way to accept 21st century realities.

South will stagnate without BML2

“There are many rail schemes, crying out for far smaller sums than HS2, which could offer a bigger impact pound for pound. An excellent example is BML2.”
- Christian Wolmar, Transport Writer and Broadcaster

Sussex railways are the most congested in the UK. Despite all Brighton Line trains being maximum (12 car) length in the next few years, demand is rapidly outstripping capacity. By 2020 even the longer trains – which will have less seating and more standing room – will be just as overcrowded as today.

Disruption on the Brighton Main Line (BML) will continue through train breakdowns, point failures, signalling problems, bad weather, accidents, suicides, engineering works, etc, etc.  It’s already impossible to run more trains, expand services to other towns, or offer passengers greater choice and much-needed alternative routes into London from the south.

Kent’s Tonbridge Main Line (TML), similarly described by Network Rail to be “a major barrier to growth”, is in the same invidious position. But between these two arterial routes into London is the former main line to Uckfield which, until 1969, ran directly into Brighton and into Tunbridge Wells. It is no coincidence that the BML and TML are now in serious trouble. The absurdly under-used Uckfield line is perfectly capable of being a main line once again and relieving both its neighbouring overloaded lines. It is a classic example of all that is wrong with short-term transport policy in England.

The blame rests squarely with Government intransigence. The Uckfield line is restrained by single-line sections due to ‘rationalisation’ in 1989 – approved by Mrs. Thatcher’s Transport Minister, Michael Portillo. This misguided attempt to avoid a growing backlog of track maintenance costs restricts the route to providing just a half-hourly service. Similarly, the stubborn refusal to electrify the 25 miles south of Oxted to Uckfield, let alone reinstate the seven miles to the coastal network, is another example of the Government seriously failing the south.

The Government is perfectly aware of how embarrassingly successful rail schemes have proved. Both Scotland and Wales have benefited enormously in the past decade. Every reopening and upgrade has far-exceeded the pessimistic passenger demand assessments.

Even the limited peak hour services running on the Uckfield line are now busier than they’ve ever been. Commuters have to increasingly stand in aisles, perch in luggage compartments, or drive elsewhere, but it’s pretty much the same everywhere. Some commuters head to Haywards Heath and other BML stations where they can park and have more frequent services. But railheading concentrates overloading and the BML can’t support any more trains – it’s a full-up railway.

Everyone seems to agree, train operators included, that more trains need to run between the Sussex Coast and London, as well as Tunbridge Wells and London to relieve the equally congested TML. Because the Government, the Department for Transport and Network Rail between them will not promote expansion of the south’s rail network, things can only get far worse as we head for stagnation.

The Government will not order any more new diesel trains to ease the crush. It won’t electrify, nor will it redouble the Uckfield line, even though it’s a trifling sum in transport budgets. It’s an unworthy don’t care attitude and a do-nothing transport policy. No vision, no ideas, no plan, no growth – and no hope.

Station parking at Uckfield hardly exists (approx 13 spaces) so commuters drive to the next station, Buxted, where they overspill into village streets and lanes. It is the same story at Eridge where most of the 220-plus cars park at crazy angles along the verges. At Uckfield, adjacent residential roads are clogged up. Nearby, the extensive goods yard and former station site has lain derelict for 20 years. This belonged to BR’s Property Board, now a ‘wholly-owned subsidiary of the Department for Transport’ – i.e. the Government. It has a price tag of between £3m - £4m but the Government says it wants the money from selling it to a developer – for housing.

Attempts to use the land for commuter parking have been consistently frustrated, not least by East Sussex County Council which will publicise plans in mid-March for a new road built across the trackbed as part of this development. A sop to commuters is the promise of a few public parking spaces (Network Rail discovered it was 38). This is for a town of 13,000 people. The site should be imaginatively developed for a proper double-track/two-platform station with multi-storey parking, an integrated transport hub with, most certainly, a new road, but one which includes a bridge over the railway. But this requires vision, good planning and consideration for the future.

This week it was announced that another 1,000 new houses will be built in Uckfield....

Network Rail told Tunbridge Wells Borough Council “Unfortunately High Speed One doesn’t put any more track into Tunbridge Wells.” It certainly doesn’t, but BML2 does. BML2 means reopening the Uckfield main lines into Tunbridge Wells and to Lewes, plus a new direct connection into Brighton and Falmer – the only way of relieving the Brighton Line. It is not just a reasonable and realistically affordable scheme, but one which supplies all the capacity the south needs. It also has practical solutions for opening new routes into London, new cross-connections and unlocking massive and exciting opportunities for future growth right across the south east as part of further Thameslink expansion.

But it seems the Government isn’t interested and won’t even listen to the case for BML2.

Instead, its preferred option is to attempt stifling demand by imposing punitive fares for travelling in the high peak hour. It’s an attitude which smacks of they’re only commuters after all and can’t do anything else but cough-up if they want to get into work.

Railways play a tremendously important role in the South East – outside as well as inside Greater London. Stifling growth and selling-off valuable assets for a mere pittance is not a transport policy.

It is no way to run a railway, let alone a country.

S&D telegraph no 39

Midsomer Norton's excellent Telegraph (no 39) has just arrived. It's to the usual very high standard and shows their new DMU on the cover. This is always an excellent read and doesn't have pages of adverts to reduce the content!

Sad news is that Julian Jefferson is stepping down as editor. It's Julian's design skills that have really given the Telegraph its classy image, as well as his excellent photos. Hopefully he'll still be submitting! I first met Julian on a sponsored S&D walk many years ago starting at Combe Down and ending at Midford, before walking back to the start point. He's always been very hands on (working with the Sunday gang for example) as well as creative.

There is of course still a vacancy at the New S&D for a magazine editor! We need somenoe who can bring a 24 page magazine together twice a year, mainly so that distant members (and we do have members all over the world) get something for their membership fee. You'll  have a real opportunity to influence the look and feel of the New S&D. You'll get loads of support from the existing management team, as well as plenty of copy from me!

If you are interested (and this does include you Julian!) please email leysiner@aol.com

Friday, March 23, 2012

letter to government

Committee member and Wessex Links Ltd director has just fired off this excellent letter to Justine Greening, Minister of Transport. Perhaps all of us that are desperate for the S&D to return should follow his example?

Rt Hon. Justine Greening MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
SW1P 4DR                                                                                         22 March 2012

Last week I had to make a round business trip to Bath from my home near Bournemouth. I was horrified to find that there was no satisfactory way of making this journey by train so I had to drive. The round trip took me five hours at an average speed of 31 mph. This slow progress was not just due to traffic density but mainly the fact that there is no decent road link along this common route. Apart form a few mainly single carriageway bypasses, the roads have not really changed since the Second World War. So I had to struggle over this increasingly third world road network filling the air with my expensive exhaust fumes; and yet one relatively simple solution sits there, apparently ignored.

Until the mid 1960’s there was an excellent rail service between Bournemouth and Bath/Bristol, the Somerset and Dorset Railway. This was one of the many lines closed by the now infamous Beeching cuts, despite the fact that it was a socially important and profitable main line.

Remarkably and fortunately, 95% of the old track bed still exists. Of course some of the bridges have been removed and small parts of the track bed have been built over but most of the civil engineering infrastructure is there and could easily be reused. Compared to grandiose controversial schemes like HS2 and motorway construction, the reinstatement of this railway would be relatively simple and cheap with enormous transport benefits. With the economic Armageddon of “peak oil” staring us in the face it is well established that the most energy efficient way of transporting goods and people is by electrically powered metal wheels on metal rails. Yet we grind on with our love affair of road transport whilst simultaneously penalising people for doing so via the tax system; and this is supposed to be a transport policy?

Incredibly, there is an organisation dedicated to the reinstatement of this valuable rail link, The New Somerset and Dorset Railway, and a holding company, Wessex Link Ltd, set up to administer this railway if it can be revived. Yet this is a tiny organisation with very small resources that would probably take decades to achieve its stated ends. We in this country do not have decades! The Prime Minister has already made it clear that he does not think our transport system is fit for the purposes of a 21st century competitive western economy and your colleague Norman Baker MP has publically stated that it is a well-established Liberal Democrat policy to reopen many old railway lines. Our inadequate transport system is starting to seriously hold us back economically just at the time when out economy needs all the help it can get.

Of course, not all the pre Beeching cuts lines needed to have been kept open, but many should have been and now desperately need to be reopened, including the Somerset and Dorset line. The project would obviously first require an engineering and business feasibility study, but whilst this is totally beyond the means of the embryonic New Somerset and Dorset Railway, this would be relatively small beer to the Department for Transport as well as falling under the remit of what the Department should be addressing.

I have seen you interviewed on television a few times in recent months and you have made some sensible, non-partisan decisions. Consequently I would urge you Minister, in contrast to the usual partisan slogans we have endured from previous governments, to initiate something that will make an impact and a huge practical difference to the lives and businesses of the people in Dorset, Somerset and Avon; look at reopening the Somerset and Dorset Railway, preferably in a time frame measurable in months rather than decades. We need it and, if we are to compete in the modern world, time is short.

fantastic opportunity!

This is the approximate view from the garden overlooking the garden.

This from Nick Howes.

The station masters house behind Midsomer Norton stables is up for sale for £279,000 as he is moving to Cornwall.
This is a once in a generation opportunity for an enthusiast or board member to acquire an extra piece of land to help towards potentially safeguarding MSN. Please pass this email on to anyone you know who may have the capital for such an outlay.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

spetisbury - preparing for take off!

Dean Cockwell, Spetisbury Project Manager, has posted the following to the Spetisbury Facebook Group.

[It will] not be very long until we are given access to the Spetisbury Station site to return the platforms to their former glory. For this, we need volunteers to help clear the weeds and rubbish that has grown up on the platforms. I already have about 10 names, who I will be contacting by e-mail, just in case they have not read this post. As I get more news, I will pass it on, and I am hoping that things will start moving faster than they have to date.

To contact Dean please email deancockwell@ntlworld.com

Monday, March 19, 2012

more roads ...

Excellent comment from Neil S that deserves to be more visible than tucked in the comments section!

As usual the comments here are beyond the normal range of conversation in the media.

The Government can see a major crisis on the way. Oil prices will cause many to give up driving. Tax take will therefore plummet. Not dissimilar in ways to the indecent haste to close down the railways in the 50s/60.

I am of the view we must prepare quickly for the approaching crisis. A restored S and D between, say, Midford and Midsomer Norton, with passenger and moreover goods facilities should soon pay its way. Liaison with other restoration projects for railways and canals will assist and leave out the road lobby in the main who have systematically brought Britain to the verge of gridlock with its corruption, greed and lack of foresight.

No new major roads means there will be a good demand in areas where railways were once seen. Southern Somerset is a prime example.

more on the end of roads ...

More on the news that the government plans to privatize the road network. This clear move to switch responsibility for the ultimate wasting asset in the Post-Oil era has already got the dinosaurs' hackles up. I wasn't expecting this quite so soon but the message is clear - the government no longer wants the responsibility and cost of maintaining an 'asset' that will become increasingly irrelevant as oil prices begin to rise. But of course they will still  be able to tax motorists and have the added bonus of taxing the tolls the private companies collect!

Road use is already falling sharply (well before oil prices take off) and fewer and fewer people are taking up driving. Whole swathes of our population already live without cars; walking, cycling and using public transport.

From now on roads will begin to fall apart, less use will lead to less tax revenue or higher taxes to compensate. They will be maintained less and less and it will set up a virtuous circle where fewer people use roads because of the cost and condition. More freight will switch to rail and many more people will begin to use the railways to get to work, to shop etc. All of this is already happening but this is only the start.

Responsibility for running motorways and main roads will be handed to private companies under plans to be announced today by David Cameron.

The aim is to increase the money available for the country's busiest routes and tackle congestion by putting the private sector in charge of repairing worn-out surfaces and crumbling bridges. But the AA condemned the move as a step towards privatisation and raised fears that it would lead to road tolls.

The plans emerged ahead of Wednesday's Budget, which is expected to give fresh impetus to improvements to the national infrastructure. The Coalition envisages investors bidding for lengthy leases to run motorways and major trunk roads. Although the routes represent only 3 per cent of the national network, they carry a high proportion of the nation's road traffic, including nearly all the freight.

Successful bidders would pay upfront for the lucrative leases and be guaranteed a yearly payment from the Government for maintaining the roads. In return, they would have to demonstrate to an independent regulator that they are maintaining high standards and reducing jams.

They would not be allowed to levy tolls on existing roads, but could charge them on new routes. It was not clear last night whether tolls would be permitted on roads that are substantially improved or widened. The Highways Agency, which is currently in charge of major roads, has an annual budget of £3bn – about half of what the Treasury earns from road tax.

The Government refuses to describe the proposals as a privatisation, arguing that the roads will ultimately remain in state control. The sell-off plans are modelled on the privatisation of water in 1989, which Downing Street said last night was essential for repairing the country's 19th-century sewerage system.

In a speech today, Mr Cameron will warn of an "urgent need to repair the decades-long degradation of our national infrastructure". He will argue that the country needs to "build for the future with as much confidence and ambition as the Victorians once did". He will say that the parts of the road system cannot cope with traffic levels, warning: "Gridlock holds the economy back."

The Prime Minister will argue that the Government is looking at innovative ways of funding improvements to roads. But he will add: "We now need to be more ambitious. Why is it that other infrastructure – for example water – is funded by private-sector capital through privately-owned, independently-regulated utilities ... but roads in Britain call on the public finances for funding?

"We need to look urgently at the options for getting large-scale private investment into the national roads network – from sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and other investors."

Edmund King, the president of the AA , said he favoured some reform of the Highways Agency but added: "It is a big leap from reform of the Highways Agency to new ownership and financing models for roads. The Government has indicated that tolling may only apply to new capacity, but this could be the thin end of the wedge, leading to full privatisation and road pricing. The road network is crucial to the UK. Drivers have paid for the road network many times over and continue to do so to the tune of £46bn every year."

The Treasury and the Department for Transport will carry out a feasibility study with a view to reporting back to Mr Cameron in the autumn.

A head traffic engineer at a major private transport contractor told The Independent: "The issue is whether the Government is proposing to use the investment to provide new roads as private alternatives, where people pay for the advantage of using less congested routes, such as on the M6 toll road – or forcing people to pay for roads where they have no other viable choices available, which would be massively controversial."


Don't forget the New S&D Facebook group which often has items and information well before they appear on the blog!

getting the point

It's amazing how many people - even railway enthusiasts - reckon we needn't worry about Peak Oil as the alternatives will be easy to find and cheap to produce.

People like things to be simple. Kids aren't taught economics at school and most adults don't have a clue what economics is! This wasn't a problem in the easy times, but it will be in the future, because everything may depend on it.

People in all seriousness believe that the future is electric cars (despite electricity generation set to FALL!), biofuels (now totally discredited - it is not scalable, destroys the fertlility of soil and, even at 5% of requirements will push food prices up by huge amounts), or even hydrogen (hydrogen is an energy CARRIER, not a form of energy).

But I reckon the following few paragraphs put it far more succinctly than I ever will -

Much is made of the development of the hydrogen-fuelled vehicle, but the only sustainable method of hydrogen generation is by electrolysis using electricity from wind or marine current power. However, there will be great competition for this and it would be more efficient to use renewably generated electricity directly for trains or trams or for battery vehicles. To have supplied the 2006 level of road vehicle movements with hydrogen would require round three times the energy generated that year by coal, gas and nuclear power combined, viz., 1100 TWh compared with 400 TWh actually generated. This will restrict the use of the hydrogen car to a favoured minority. Transport fuels in 2006 amounted to 53.5 million tonnes.
Bio-diesel is already being supplied in limited quantities, mainly as a blend with normal diesel. Currently in the UK, biodiesel is manufactured from waste cooking oil and imported palm oil. The likely amount of waste vegetable oil from the food industry totals only 75,000 tonnes/annum, which with bio-ethanol or methanol would make around 100,000 tonnes of motor fuel. However, in 2005 a plant was commissioned in Newarthill, near Motherwell, Scotland which augments waste cooking oil with tallow to produce 50 million litres (57,000 tonnes) of biodiesel per annum. But the final amount is restricted by the amount of land able to be devoted to rape cultivation, all the biodiesel from which will be needed for agriculture. It might be possible to import rape seed (or rape oil from it) grown on land currently used for tobacco. Other vegetable oils can be employed and there are controversial imports of palm oil.
Bio-diesel is currently made using methanol (to produce FAME) from the petrochemical industry, so to be sustainable it should be made using bioethanol (to produce FAEE). British Sugar manufactures bioethanol from sugar or wheat in Norfolk, but because of more favourable tax rebates in Poland has also located an initial venture there. Bioethanol is blended with petrol in any proportion up to 15%.
In 2006 the use of oil-based liquid fuels for road transport amounted to 53.5 million tonnes per annum, up from 49.5 million tonnes in 2000, a rise of 8% in spite of increases in fuel efficiency. There no possibility of replacing this with alternative fuels.

Source is the Busby Report, a little dated now but very prescient!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

midford tomorrow

Tom and Stuart Seale will be up at Midford tomorrow (18.3.2012) for a burning session. 10am to dusk. ALL members are welcome to assist!

ten billion more for railways?

Thanks  to Anna-Jayne Metcalfe for this. It underlines both the hidden costs of motoring and the fact that there's another ten billion quid out there for transport - in other words RAILWAYS! There's no point wasting this on trying to keep the road network going - it's dying and we should just let it die ... ten billion would open about 500 miles of new railways, that can last into the distant future. 


Report claims 11-year pothole backlog

England is facing an 11-year backlog of potholes which will cost £10billion to repair following funding cuts, a survey has found.

England is facing an 11-year backlog of potholes, a report claims
England is facing an 11-year backlog of potholes, a report claims Photo: ALAMY
Two thirds of local authorities said they were are unable to carry out necessary repairs to bring roads back to the condition they were in at the start of last winter.
This has left a fifth per cent of the country’s roads in need or urgent repair within the next five years, which will cost an estimated £10 billion.
The repairs have been hampered by cuts to local authority budgets which have left councils in England and Wales with an £800million funding gap.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance, which conducted the survey, said the additional Government funding of £200 million to help councils, although welcome, "has proven woefully inadequate".
Earlier this week all-party Public Accounts Committee warned that cuts to the highway maintenance budget could end up costing the taxpayer more as roads deteriorate.
It estimated that the Highways Agency alone, which is responsible for only 10 per cent of the roads network, had to pay £2.5 million compensation in a year for vehicle damage and personal injuries.
According to the Alliance, which represents companies who repair and resurface roads, said councils filled in 1.7million potholes last year.
The alliance estimated that the cold winter of 2010-11 caused £600 million damage to the country’s roads.
Edmund King, the President of the AA, said: "Our members are very concerned at this pothole plague. This deterioration [is happening] is despite councils working hard to keep pace to reduce the backlog using the extra cash allocated by the Department for Transport.
“The survey once again shows that potholes blight our roads and are as much about lack of investment in proper road repairs as they are about bad winters and heavy traffic.
“We need a new approach to stop this vicious circle of decline which causes danger to all road users, particularly those on two wheels, and expensive damage to vehicles.”
Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Economy ad Transport Board, accused the Coalition of failing to provide enough money to tackle the problem.
“Councils are currently stuck in the position of chasing their tails, repeatedly patching up a deteriorating network rather then fixing it properly,” he said.
“What is needed from central government is a serious commitment to funding an upgrade of the entire road network. This will save billions of pounds in the long term and make roads safer for motorists.”
Norman Baker, the local transport minister, defended the Government’s record.
“I recognise there is an ongoing need for highways maintenance that can’t be fixed overnight,,” he said.
“However we are providing £3 billion to councils for road maintenance between 2011 and 2015 which is more in cash terms than the previous 4 years - as well as investing £6m for longer term strategies. We also gave them generous windfall handouts last year following the severe winter which caused major problems.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

another new line to appear!

My old mate Chris Donald of Viz comic fame was one of the people who started this way back in the late 80s! It's been a long time coming, especially for such a no-brainer, but it looks like things are about to happen at last!

Aln Valley Railway

In February, a major milestone in the revitalisation of the Aln Valley Railway between Alnmouth and Alnwick took place at Alnwick Castle, with the signing of the Lease between the Aln Valley Railway Trust and the Duke of Northumberland. The lease will allow the first construction elements of the railway to begin with a view to having some limited running of short trains by the end of summer this year. Hopefully visitors will be able to visit the site to see the construction progress.

In a press release, AVR Trust Chairman Martin Robinson said: "We are absolutely delighted to have reached this important milestone in the restoration of the railway. Everybody involved has worked tremendously hard to achieve this, but there is still a huge amount of work still to done, especially if we are to hit our target dates. Our first works contract has already been let to a local Alnwick firm. However, we need more volunteers for everything! All offers of help will be very welcome."