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!

Monday, March 19, 2012

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."


sebastian said...

The Privatisation Of The Roads

This will go well in getting more passengers on the rail and bus routes, the only caution. I can see is if the private company's are to build new roads, then there may be a conflict of interest as they attempt to keep construction costs down by using dismantled railway routes. which with the new planning law that is due out later this year, which make it easy to build and harder to complain.

But that aside then it is good news, Maybe the old
Its Quicker By Train campaign of the 1950s was right.

Sunshiner said...

It's been quicker by rail for a long time - with many trains now running at between 100 and 150mph they absolutely wipe the floor alongside congested 70mph limited motorways - and as for suburban and rural traffic the cars don't have a chance!

I think the days of utilising 'former' rail routes for roads are long gone. I don't think anyone seriously thinks NEW roads will be built, but that existing roads will gradually be handed over to private outfits charging for their use. New road building is totally dead in this country, I doubt we'll ever see a new road (apart from the odd much-delayed bypass) in this country again.

It won't be long before roads are being converted into railways. I don't know why the government doesn't just promote this approach now!

Neil S. said...

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.

sebastian said...

out of interest is the photo of the Templecombe S.R. Salisbury Exeter line. A very dramatic shot.

Sunshiner said...

No, it's somewhere on the LMR (Midlands somewhere) in 1960.

sebastian said...

Thank you

It is a great shot