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, April 12, 2012

in a nutshell

Wow - I couldn't have put this better myself. This is an excellent primer as to why the pressure's building for the S&D to return sooner rather than later! Courtesy of Simon Ellison.

I note, with some disquiet, the rather 'negative' comments which seem to blight all aspects of railway restoration, in whatever form that takes.
Thing is: There are ALWAYS dissenters and ne'er do well's who delight in the negativity of their own lives, and like to project on to others their attitude.
If you do not believe in something with passion, then it's best not be get involved at all - applies to life generally, not just railways.
The obstacles to reinstating a continuous rail route from Bath/Bristol through to Poole/Bournemouth are huge, but not insurmountable. Of course there will have to be deviation from the original route at various locations, but, essentially, the route in it's entirety should be, and MUST be reinstated, because rail will be the only sure way of transporting heavy freight and passengers in a viable way to smaller towns and villages in the future of road degradation and spiralling fuel costs.
Councils are being squeezed like sponges for funding which will not be forthcoming for essential road repair - Here, where I live, roads are like rutted farm tracks, damage to wheels, tyres and steering geometry is becoming horrendous as well as unsafe.
Roads like minor 'B' and unclassified ones are left to their own devices due to lack of funding for repairs - that situation is fuelled by inclement weather which rapidly adds to the [rapid] destruction of surface 'black top'
How will we move anywhere in relative safety without wrecking our spines and our vehicle's suspension ? Are we to remain isolated in villages which have roads not fit for purpose?
At least a rail link would mean no more road wrecking heavy trucks - all commerce conducted by small trucks/vans from RAIL depot to destination - probably by electric engined vehicles.
But, before we all fall into the trap of 'electric' propelled vehicles [of ANY sort], just remember this: Electricity has to be generated - which still means oil/coal/nuclear powered generating plants - so at whatever point, there will always be some form of 'unfriendly' fuel being used to provide all this 'clean' electricity. Im sorry, but these pathetic wind farms will just NOT fit the bill for reliable and continous power supply, besides which, they are a blot on the landscape as well being a major threat to wild life, which also has the right to exist.
Remember this: Rail over road transport has much in it's favour:
A. It is fairly unobtrusive to the environment - noise is a minor consideration..once a train has passed the sound of it's passage fades back into natural surrounding sound level, unlike the continuous drone of road transport.
B. The physical space needed to run trains is much less than an A class road !
C. Many more people die on the roads than on railways.
D. The cost of fuel is slashed as ton for ton, railway transport is far more efficient [much less frictional resistance on steel rail]
E. More economical - a typical train load is equivalent to many 44 ton trucks but in ONE movement and with ONE loco.
F. Faster - over distance, rail is MUCH quicker than road.

There are many other considerations which I have not entered here, but Iam preaching to the converted ! It's the general public and local government who need to be 'educated'
The monopoly of road transport is over - it's time to bring back OUR trains for the betterment of OUR lives, our childrens and their childrens lives.
Short term-ism has been this countries failing - is the reason for blinded politicians wrecking a once comprehensive railway infrastructure, and HERE lies our problem. It's so much easier to destroy than construct - all for short term profit/gains which gain NOTHING in the 'long run'
We should DEMAND government aid in repairing the damage THEY were responsible for in the first place !


Trevor said...

Well written, Simon.
It makes a refreshing change to read a well balanced article, free of personal insults.


yamfaz said...

I agree with most of what is said here, except the bit about getting Government to pay out for rebuilding what a Government a long time ago allowed to be destroyed.

The problem is that Government doesn't have any money and basically any money it does have comes out of our taxes. What would be better if Government makes it attractive for companies and individuals to invest in Rail schemes through tax breaks, etc.. Therefore the cost to the poor average tax payer would less.

We as a railway also need to build a business case with 'Real World' examples of how a company can benefit by investing large amounts money into a project that might not see any benefits (not profit) for a good number of years. Remember the Rail Mania of the 19th century. The benefits will rarely be financial.

It's an exciting future!

Sunshiner said...

I feel that government should mmake it easy for new build railways to get planning permissions etc, but that's about as far as it goes. Government can never provide anything as well as the market can, and the New S&D is nothing if not a reaction to market forces!

And Trevor - excellent point. Many blogs allow this personal mud slinging because they believe it brings more visits. Whilst it may in the short term in the long term it turns people off. That's why this blog has always had a strict policy against this sort of thing. Comments are now totally moderated (a new innovation by Blogger) which makes it much easier to spot this sort of thing.

Even a really well-argued comment that resorts at just ONE point to either specific or general insults will NOT be allowed, no matter how erudite and interesting it is.

Sunshiner said...

Unfortunately Blogger doesn't allow you to contact the poster, which would be good as a degree of agreed editing could then be undertaken to allow well written and relevant material to be published, minus the insults!

Neil S. said...

Congratulations on an excellent article. Argument of the efficiency of railway transport will need to be aired before local authorities in the S and D catchment area as well as other railways in an informed and professional manner for inclusion on local plans etc.

Firm facts and figures need formulation to substantiate the claims. Empirically, I have travelled the whole of the M4 and M5 since the early 80s. The junction of these two motorways is more and more congested. Many heavy lorries are to be found. These have entered the M4(or M5)for ease of driving and for the fact that travelling across the West Country in an HGV on an "A" road is not a pleasant experience. The Beeching Report foresaw the primacy of road transport but not the situation now extant which has developed from inept politicians, who only care about pure policies and not their practical effects, and vested interests which the Parliamentary system permits.

The Government via the Civil Service and vested interests talk about "sustainability" but its definition in truth and in practice differ significantly from mine and fellow members in the main. There is a huge case for reinstatement of railways with the variables often discussed whether mathematically, evidentially or otherwise. Freight usage as enivironmentally friendly and as a source of revenue now requires urgent consideration. Granted, many of the old goods sheds have gone but they can be rebuilt for modern purposes: we will need to look at the use of the 30 ton vans or similar and multimodal transport: e.g.: is it possible to transfer a container from a canal to a railway, onwards to a ship and vice versa or any suitable permuation?

Transport of perishable and/or valuable goods needs no introduction and is a seperate chapter.

Work must begin NOW. As a Nation, we are a phlegmatic bunch but we should have learned from two World Wars that disaster may very well result without good and proper planning when the writing is on the wall.

Anonymous said...

Well written Simon, spot on,and again most refreshing in these challenging times, my late father who was a professional railwayman was commenting on this subject back in the 70s. I can remember that oil was supposed to be run out back by the 80,s. As Sir John Betjeman said in his 1963 film,forget roads and their anxiety travel again that most delightful route the S& D.(The video film is most enjoyable,please view this if you have not done so) You will enjoy this.Just a note to sunshiner, I have enjoyed many days out by rail over the years and enjoy sitting in a preserved BR MK1 underway on a heritage line. Bring it on. The S& D WILL RETURN!

Mark said...

A couple of weeks ago I had a longish conversation with an acquaintance who is employed by the Local Government Association in London, and in regular contact with Central Government. He has two briefs, one of which is transport, and there hung much of our chat.

What I understood is that there is a hunger (even though almost certainly not universal) for constructive expert outside inputs into local public governing bodies regarding all key areas such as transport. This is an ever evolving project within local governments and the LGA. A point may be that the New S&D 'could' consult the LGA? And, from there to maybe find ways to improve the negotiation strategies within all interest areas of BAINS, etc., not limited to planning and transport, but including finance, etc.

From my experience in the political and business areas of life, a positive, patient, focussed and open attitude to these contacts bears the greatest fruit. I understand, and fervently hope, that some very productive contacts have already been made?