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!

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)!


Anonymous said...

Why aren't we campaigning for a 'decent' operator to get the Great Western Rail Franchise?

Sunshiner said...

Because it's outside our remit. We don't even have a full time lobbyist for our own railway! (Volunteer/s welcome!!)

Anonymous said...

We have plenty of coal, so could generate lots of electricity tomorrow if we wanted to. There is also significant spare generating capacity at night to be utilised if required (ie charging cars).

We can forget windmills, unless tied with hydro schemes which can store the energy. However, the greenies will rule this out, at least in the medium term.

A couple of firms have dropped out of the nuclear programme, but others are still there and we certainly need a massive increase in capacity if the new electric railways are to be viable.

Electricity is the future. Let's get on with it!

Knoxy said...

a franchise ain't worth it, too much outside control...

Sunshiner said...

Coal's okay up to a point but don't forget it is the dirtiest of all fuels and they will have to adopt (expensive) carbon capturing for it to be accepted - and even then although it's British coal wealthier countries may well offer us a price we can't refuse, so we may not get to use it anyway! And Peak Coal may be 200 years away, but only if we burn at current rates, and China and the USA are already planning to burn much, much more, which smacks of extreme desperation, something we shouldn't be seeing from major economies. These increases in use may push the peak down to just a decade or so, so the problem is merely delayed, not fixed.

None of this solves the energy crunch, it may merely ease it a little.

The problem with nuclear is that it is extremely expensive to build but cheap to run - whilst uranium is still available. This will be factored into companies' analysis of economic risk when considering funding nuclear development, and the expensive start up costs may mean they never get to the point of producing anything.

We can forget about 'greenies', the energy crunch is far too tight to allow that sort of indulgence! That middle-class hand-wringing moral stance belonged in a rich world where constant growth was assumed!

I still don't think a lot of people 'get' how difficult it's going to be. Offering coal as a solution -even short term - ignores the realities.

Perhaps Anna-Jayne will have more to say on this as she is our resident energy expert. My knowledge is more from an economic perspective principally concerning oil and markets.

The other aspect of course is that rail is far more energy efficient so will get priority over the energy that is available. I haven't seen a sincere analysis that sees any great role for private road transport in the future, even less so for air which can not utilise alternatives to hydrocarbon derived liquid fuel.

It's a case of timing plus public perception, offset by the terminal short-sightedness of career politicians.

Anonymous said...

If something goes wrong with nuclear power it is absolutely devastating. Look at what has happened at Fukashima. No one will be able to go back there (safely) for many many centuries or even thousands of years.There is always the chance of something going horribly wrong with nuclear power, and I don't even want to think about the possibility of a nuclear disaster happening close to home, or anywhere else on this planet. Electricity will play a huge role in our future, but if we are to even have a future we shouldn't be building any more nuclear power stations. There are many other ways to generate electricity in a much less dangerous way.

Sunshiner said...

There may well be other ways to generate electricity but can they anywhere near provide the electricity we will need in the future?

I think that just about everyone who has given serious thought to future energy demands understands that nuclear is an absolutely essential element in the energy mix, and have rejected the precautionary principle in this case. I think that underlines just how serious the energy crunch will be because once oil, coal and gas (and eventually uranium) have gone, and we're talking a few decades, what options - that are scalable and sustainable - have we got?

Keith Browning said...

Late night newspaper review on Sky News last night.

'As oil starts to run out, aren't these queues at the petrol pumps going to be the norm?'

Road and fuel chaos in just two days caused by the Tory party trying to cover up their corrupt practices in 'cash for access' and get a little more tax in before the end of the financial year.

It does show the tight rope that we are walking with our energy supplies.

Sunshiner said...

Sky News is simplifying. Of course once cheap oil starts to run out, all other things being equal, this would be what we'd see, but we have 5 to 10 years to gradually switch from oil dependency. That should lead to a decrease in vehicles on the roads (mainly due to the price mechanism and decline in maintenance) and much more use of pubic transport, working from home, cycling etc. I think by the time oil does finally vanish hardly anyone will notice because they'd have made the adjustments in their lives individually to survive the end of oil.

That is, of course, if government starts acting now (hopefully this will be a wake up call) to ease the transition away from oil. That means opening up just about all the railways closed by Beeching, building wholly new 1ines to towns and villages that missed out on rail last time, a huge tramway construction effort (including interurban routes), building proper cycleways along abandoned roads and making it easy for people to work from home running their own businesses.