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!

Friday, March 30, 2012

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!


James said...

One thing to bear in mind is that the rail network was a real mess, geographically and financially when Beeching came in - something had to be done.

Whether this was the right action or not something which will be debated for years to come, but in many ways Beeching was the railway's saviour.

His ideas about MGR workings, Freightliner and the InterCity concept are always overlooked.

Sunshiner said...

We do have the huge benefit of hindsight but I think in almost every respect, from our perspective, Beeching was very wrong.

He wasn't a railwayman and had little love or understanding of the industry. His financial approach was extremely limited and childlike - it would be laughed at today. It didn't consider any financial consequences of closure ie road congestion, pollution etc.

There was far too much steam on the network in 1963, electric and diesel replacement had only really started so the income consequences of the upgrade of routes (including the S&D) weren't considered.

Figures were often gathered on 'unusual' days - bank holidays, weekends etc and didn't reflect the actual reality of lines.

If a ticket was booked from a branch station to anywhere other than another station on the branch or the junction receipts were allocated to the main line, not the branch, thus making many branches seem unrenumerative when they weren't.

Intercity routes should have included Carlisle-Edinburgh, Bournemouth-Bath and Exeter-Okehampton-Plymouth for example!

All lines should have been mothballed in view of the fact that even in 1963 people must have been aware that oil was a finite resource and the railways would be needed again.

There are many other points that I'm sure will be looked at in the future, these are just a few.

At the heart of this is that many towns and villages (and a few small cities!) will now have to struggle for years to get their trains back, rather than just develop the lines they have.

How exactly are people living in the railless places expected to get around and to move goods in and out in the future? This is the question that we've still had not a single answer to!

WestfieldWanderer said...

Very good point regarding income from branches.

For example, I read somewhere that the majority of ticket sales to stations on the Isle of Wight were sold at Waterloo, thus did not count towards the Island lines' revenue, thus making them appear unremunerative.

Basically, we safely assume that the entire Beeching thing was a pre-planned stitch up spearheaded by a Minister of Transport who owned a civil engineering and construction company.

Corruption among politicians is nothing new. After all, they're only in politics for three things.

Power, Prestige, Personal Gain.

And nothing else.

Sunshiner said...

I do hope that some of the scumbags that were responsible for the ridiculous destruction of our essential rail network live long enough to explain why they did this, but I doubt they will.

It does really boil down to the fact that the Minister of Transport at the time owned a ROAD building company and was rubbing his hands whilst the Beeching Report was implemented.

So any speculation that there was a good side to anything Beeching came up with is just that - speculation. More like pure luck!

Sorry if I'm a bit harsh but I really don't rate the old school tie way that stuff was done in the 60s - a similar project today would be completely different and have a spectacularly different outcome.

And it's important because we're the people that have to put this right!

Rob said...

The Ashford-Hastings line is a case in point - listed for closure by Beeching, reprieved but singled in 1979 - there is now a lack of capacity and trains are often overcrowded!

Keith Browning said...

But the government still doesn't understand what is still there and could be utilised and relatively cheaply.If I was to build a fast route north I would use the route of the old Great Central. It is there already, with only a few obstructions.

Then there is the Redhill line that cuts across the middle of Surrey and Kent and is an obvious southern route to the Channel Tunnel for those in the South and West. Both have been proposed but actively ignored.

Instead HS2 is going to blast through totally new land - crazy.

One quick story about the affect of closing a major railway.

I used to live 50 yards from the deserted Dunton Bassett station in Leicestershire, on the Great Central Railway. The village was small with about 500 inhabitants. Several of my neighbours were well into their 70s and used to reminise in the local pub. One hadn't been outside the village for 10 years and most only made the odd trip to Leicester. However, in their working days they used to do a weekly commute to London. They were a gang of builders who frequently travelled down early Monday and back Friday. Their work was mainly in towns on the GCR. Their wives did shopping trip to Nottingham and generally the railways played a big part in their lives.

The railway closed and so did everything else. They became imprisoned in their home village for the rest of their time.

Sunshiner said...

I missed that one though spotted it afterwards! I also missed the lines north of Inverness, including the Kyle of Lochalsh line - what were they thinking??

Many of the lines that did close would also be very busy now had they not - because the towns along the route would have been more developed. No serious business would ever move to a town without a railway station. Result - less jobs, less wealth in the community.

Just think how busy and buzzing towns along the S&D would be now had the line not closed! This is something we will push as the line develops.

Sunshiner said...

Also spotted were at least three lines that were to be kept - but closed anyway. Okehampton, Swanage and Kingswear - all of course now heritage or private lines!

Rob said...

Other lines that Beeching presumably thought had a future, but the BRB closed, were Bedford - Cambridge and the Woodhead Line!

Knoxy said...

it doesn't take much thought to make use of the former lines again, especially the great central, instead of new HS2. the problem lies in the fact people will wonder why the politicians ever bothered closing them in the first place and then they would look stupid and silly...

it still needs to happen and it won't go away.

Sunshiner said...

Two cases where Beeching was right! One line is actively being restored, the other has a group fighting to reopen it!

Sunshiner said...

Mick - right as always. But why should today's politicians think they'll be blamed for what politicians did 50 years ago.

It needs a sea-change in thinking because most politicians, like most people, haven't quite got that the days of growth on the back of cheap energy are OVER.

Future projects won't be high cost, high energy, high profile things like HS2, but smaller community projects that recycle, use what's already there, takes the easy route, uses far less energy, costs far less and will last into the distant future. Slow, steady and sustainable, with real value to the community and the country at the same time.

If they don't 'get' what's happening they need to step aside and let real people get stuff going.

Chris Warren said...


Don't forget the massive lobbying from the US Govt that took place to encourage the UK Govt to embrace the Car Culture. The Yanks had lots to gain from car sales and oil in the UK. We also owed millions in War debt, so they probably had us over a barrel too. The whole episode absolutely stinks. Worst public policy decision apart from Iraq war. Makes me so angry.

Sunshiner said...

Back when the USA still had surplus oil - timing is perfect. It is a shame that all the people who foisted this third-rate transport method on us won't be alive to face the music! Idiots - and Beeching was one of the worst.