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!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

the way ahead

This has just come in from the New S&D's Legal Officer, Neil Smith, which clarifies certain issues re the various rights that railways have over their natural routes. The way I read it is that we need to acquire the freehold for stations (as at Midford) but that generally the route itself merely needs agreement between the railway and the land's owner. As for anything built on the route, bearing in mind that it is still a railway (despite being lifted), a CPO will solve any blockage problems. There are only a few on the S&D in any case.

For information, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 is the main statute in the area and contents the machinery for CPOs.

The S and D is in a good position in that an easement - a right of way - is in the main the only requirement to relay a railway line: the freehold can remain with the owner. Stations and car parks pose a fuller problem: freehold purchase will be necesary. Compensation is based on the price between a willing purchaser and a willing seller.

I am concerned about the wholesale destruction of goods facilties along the S and D since closure in 1966. Quick solutions will be necessary in the face of Peak Oil etc. Oakley's excellent book "Somerset Railway Stations" shows the damage and destruction in the name of progress but also provides thought for rebuilding and relaying.

I'd also urge all interested to learn and become involved in the planning process. Development plans are revised every few years.

Developers have used this avenue with impunity for years in creating an artificial "need" for houses in many cases. Much more genuinely, the Cotswold Canals and Wilts and Berks Canal have used the system to safeguard each Canal's route.

The worthy cause of the S and D should do the same.


Neil S. said...

In the case of a railway easement, reversion of same is usually to the previous owner. It is an interesting area. Any good Land Law book will give a good rundown of the subject. Identification of present owners does not cause a difficulty: most English land is now in the public registered title system-the system is transparent in 95% of cases subject to overriding interests, those that bind but not on the folio.

The S and D will be the owner or lease holder of its land and owner of its tracks, unlike the Network Rail and train companies situation presently in force. A huge advantage requiring proper and efficient use of Company Law to protect from take overs and interference. A long way down the track, yes, but forewarned is forearmed

To the present issue, Beeching made a hash of railway easements in my view unlike the USA and France.

In the UK, the local authority or land owner took over the route. Further, such organisations like Sustrans, the cycling advocates, are also involved in this area: there has been a lot of fighting about the use of the cycle track for the new Portishead line. We would do well to consider same: we are all singing off the same hymn sheet in effect. There will need to be give and take or the courts and Government will step in. They speak for themselves.

There is also the question of Environmental Impact Assessment, necessary for long distance railway lines or at the discretion of the local authority in other railway cases. Railways far outweigh roads here in efficiency and impact: there is an open door here at local authority level if initiative is taken at this end.

However, the road transport mob will do their level best to fudge and delay in the hope of a suitable replacement for oil. It still beggers belief that Minister Marples, with a large road transport interest, was allowed to oversee Beeching.

Sunshiner said...

All power will shift from road to rail over the next 10-15 years but there are dangers in this too. We mustn't make the same mistakes that the dinosaurs did and let hubris poison the public against us. We need to work with the communities we serve, which was never an issue for the dinosaurs. They quite happily drove through the middle of communities, or right around them pulling their facilities from town centres into white elephant industrial and retail parks.

The next few decades are going to be fascinating to experience as we see this shift from the past to the future, from road to rail. Difficult and dangerous times, but not without their compensations!

It's heartening to see so many professionals now helping with the S&D revival!

Bunny said...

Nothing like being a well resourced and informed organisation to promote the benefits of a restored and rejuvenated S&D. The more who join the cause, the better your case for restoration (and hopefully funding) will be.

Eddystone said...

This is great news. Having proper legal resource is a reassuring step forward. Even though it seems inevitable that the resurgence of the railway system(and more especially the S&D) will overcome misguided oil dependency and the obsession with car ownership-wee must be prepaired for legal battles and stand-offs. Negotiating with individuals for the common good requires a tough yet totally fair approach,making the best possible
case for justification of our motives.There is also a probability that they will get together as with CTRL. We could be dealing with
(expensive) public inquires and anti-groups. Even the existing heritage railways(who harbour similar desires to the New S&D deep in their intention banks) fight long and relatively benign battles to re-acquire trackbed. CPO is seen as a last resort- a method of reducing the prospect of making enemies.

Peter said...

Hi all not so much a comment as seeing if I can post