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!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

yes minister!


An historic document, the first contact from the Ministry of Transport to the New S&D. The Ministry, and Minister are now aware of our plans!

It's a bit of a curate's egg, but there are some very useful and important statements in there. I'm not surprised that the Minister was not already aware of us as we've adopted a very low key approach whilst we were building membership. Not any more!

Best statements are -

'We are aware of the history of the Somerset and Dorset Railway and like many lines closed in the [c]ountry as a result of the Beeching Report, a different decision may have been arrived at with the benefit of hindsight'.

'[I]n the light of the recently published National Planning Policy Guidance we would be keen to ensure that there is no further loss of the trackbed to development which would preclude the use of this route as a railway line in the future'.

We can make a great use of both of these - basically an admission that the Beeching Report is NOT set in stone, but can now be adapted - and secondly that any future attempt to build on the trackbed will be frowned at by the Ministry of Transport. They'd also make excellent banner statements on tee shirts and posters!

The Ministry has also given advice on our next steps including contacting the Local Enterprise Partnership(s) and also to analyse the demand for travel along the corridor.

The workload is building at about the same rate as the membership!

22 comments:

Bunny said...

Happy days - a very useful letter indeed. Lets not forget about the opportunities for modal shift - eg freight off the roads and onto a new S&D, and indeed the opportunity offered by not having to dual parts of the various North/South A Roads, but instead giving people a choice of travelling by car, or in the new S&D by train for those sorts of journeys.

sebastian said...

Excellent news, once the Ministry of Transport, start stating things like that, it will confirm to the wider public, that rail reopening is main stream, not just a niche pursuit of enthusiasts. This in turn will act to recruit more to our cause on the New S&D.

The T-shirt slogan idea is a good one, and something relatively cheap to produce. and sell in the new sites that are springing up along the line.

Neil S. said...

Excellent news. The admission about Beeching is a major shift.It seems that the Civil Service is putting its head into gear.

Protection of the line in the local or structural plans of each local authority where the S and D ran is now a priority. Thus, the local authority is the first port of call. Spade work and lobbying with MPs and local politicians will be needed to strengthen the inclusion of line in the above Plans. Let's do what developers have done for years.

Developers and greed have had the rule of the roost for far too long: a fast buck with no intrastructure is evident in every County. Expect dirty tricks and out and out balderdash.

Administratively, the Minister cannot fetter his discretion in making a decision, i.e.: he cannot hold himself to one particular position. Matters only end up with the Minister after inquiries on appeal. Judicial Review territory thereafter. Expensive. A proper, logical strategy can do much to avoid this last result: good research and properly presented evidence for restoration will pay time and again.

Neil S. said...

Excellent news. The admission about Beeching is a major shift.It seems that the Civil Service is putting its head into gear.

Protection of the line in the local or structural plans of each local authority where the S and D ran is now a priority. Thus, the local authority is the first port of call. Spade work and lobbying with MPs and local politicians will be needed to strengthen the inclusion of line in the above Plans. Let's do what developers have done for years.

Developers and greed have had the rule of the roost for far too long: a fast buck with no intrastructure is evident in every County. Expect dirty tricks and out and out balderdash.

Administratively, the Minister cannot fetter his discretion in making a decision, i.e.: he cannot hold himself to one particular position. Matters only end up with the Minister after inquiries on appeal. Judicial Review territory thereafter. Expensive. A proper, logical strategy can do much to avoid this last result: good research and properly presented evidence for restoration will pay time and again.

Keith Browning said...

Great news and another step on the journey.

Governments tend to help people that already help themselves. Matched grants are far more common than wholesale wads of cash dumped on the doorstep.

So, speaking from a distance there are a couple of things that strike me as important for the near future.

A priority must be to join up to places - any two places to show that this is a transport system and not a series of museum exhibits.

The other is to get a serious involvement in one of the bigger towns, where the number of people affected by an improved transport system would be significant.

That is still the major shortcoming of most restored lines - they move people from a village in the middle of no-where to another village in the middle of no-where. You need a car to get there in the first place, which defeats the object.

Which section is the easiest to complete, where there are no obstructions or missing viaducts etc?

I also see that the ambition is to return to the splendour of 1950s Britain. My memories are of smokey fires and bedrooms that were so cold ice froze on the inside of the windows. Toilets were often still outside in many households. Be careful what you wish for..!!

Neil S. said...

Keith makes a very valid point about the involvement of towns in the S and D project: Bath and Blandford at a guess with one or two in the middle?? A grass roots upwards approach brings in everybody-its THEIR railway and not some non-descript company. The S and D also will have the luxury of owning the track and rolling stock, not so with Network Rail. The involvement of larger organisations will probably try and change that position: to be watched hawk-like.

Sunshiner mentioned the Transition Movement as set up by Rob Hopkins: a very good idea. Totnes in Devon is showing the way: integrated, low energy transport and production which is local.

There must be such individuals in Somerset and Dorset. Talk to them. Find out their position.

Sunshiner said...

Bath, Bristol, Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Shepton Mallet, Wincanton, Templecombe, Glastonbury, Wells, Sturminster Newton, Blandford, Poole, Ringwood, Wimborne, Bournemouth - all towns and cities on the route.

And don't forget the villages!

It has always been our intention that the inhabitants of all these places will be the driving force behind the New S&D. Setting up may have been enthusiast led, but very soon the focus will be on the people living along the line. We've had huge support from people we've met whilst out surveying, photographing etc - and not a word against. They just want their trains back.

And of course every week more and more people will come on board as they'll see what's happening around them and more and more will have family and friends who have joined up.

Why would anyone want to move out of this lovely area, because that's what they'll eventually have to do without the railway, and if the Network try to barge in will they really open stations at places like Midford, Spetisbury and Shillingstone, or will they go for speed and ignore local needs? Dare the communities risk this?

sebastian said...

Sunshiner makes a good point, in answer to Keith's post, this line runs through some large towns and cities. But also the Industrial estates that seem to have arrived after the closure, usually in the villages. That get mentioned in the blog, usually for the fact they are on the old goods yards. They are so sited that they will want to use the New S&D line when the oil prices become to expensive. One other point is the Glastonbury festival goers will be a good revenue stream once we get there.

Keith also remembers the old houses heated with coal fires and ice on the inside of windows, well my place is fully restored back to 1890s. I do admit that I have modern electrics and computer systems and my service block is ultra modern with hi tech features. But my living quarters are heated with coal fires still has the original windows and no insulation. one other thing that may amuse Keith is that at the turn of our century I was still using my Victorian iron cooking range.

Sunshiner said...

I can beat you there! I did two years in Scotland without electricity! Used the backboiler behind the open fire for hot water, cooked over the fire (even managed a complete Xmas dinner for three!), used candles for light. It was great. I even covered up all the old electrical fittings. And all this at 1400 feet above sea level, so we got real winters!

Unfortunately when my son was born four months prematurely we had to give the experiment up because he came home on oxygen and oxygen cylinders and open fires don't mix!

Now saving up to buy a farm for cash where I'll have all the modern but sustainable features, plus a narrow gauge on site railway!

sebastian said...

Sunshiner, that is pretty cool. forgive the pun, and yes oxygen and open fires don't mix. one thing you could do now for sustainability is led lighting it is less obtrusive and lasts longer with a better light than low energy lights. and they are cheaper to run my entire house including lights in the fridge, microwave and the oven are all led. my next project is to get devise a system that uses a central transformer to power all the lighting circuits, with the intention of eventually running from a roof top solar panel. Good luck with the farm and narrow gauge railway, that sounds great.

Trevor said...

Encouraging words from the Minister, but lets not get carried away - he is a politian, after all, and how many of us believe what THEY say. Remember, Beeching was only doing the politians dirty work, and many lines were closed post Beeching.

Sunshiner said...

Oh, we won't get carried away. No one expects this to be easy, and I don't think this is a direct line from the Minister, but rather a civil servant, and civil servants aren't allowed to be political. I was one for four years and found the restriction very difficult!

But we can use the words, over and over again!

sebastian said...

It still demonstrates a considerable mind shift, I think that even 6 years ago such a statement would not have been made. whilst I agree that the war is not won, it is looking like the opening battle is. The more it is talked about in the wide community the more by as many groups and contexts. The more chances we will have in our mission of getting trains back on the New S&D. The odds have definitely shifted in our favour, It is all very positive. 

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing statement, I've never seen anything in black & white issued by goverment which is in effect an admission to error, well done! Surely this gives everybody interested in rail hope. For years I've heard people snigger at heritage lines, steam and its credability. Pete Waterman called these the business a "licence to print money" Investors in heritage lines today will make a killing in years ahead.

Sunshiner said...

Steam's due a huge revival in the coming decades, using wood as fuel. As long as heritage lines stay ahead of the curve and prepare for this, and ensure they are seen as community railways first and foremost, then they'll continue to rake in plenty of money, as long as they have a network connection of course. If they don't they need to be ringfencing a percentage of their income now to ensure that they make this happen. Pete Waterman's a real businessman and knows what he's talking about.

Railways will be THE big investment opportunity over the coming years, and we'll be awash with money as there's a scramble between investors looking for a safe home for their cash as familiar investments collapse all round them!

With a solid asset base and fixed unit costs falling as ridership and freight rushes to the railways producing floods of cash flow, being a railway professional will be one of the few career paths that will guarantee a really good standard of living in an energy stressed world.

Anonymous said...

Getting Pete Waterman on board, even
An endorsement from him would be great, and give our profile a boost. Go get ''im Steve!

Howard said...

You have been given a golden opportunity to prepare a well-researched strategic case. DfT's Mr Welch is very optimistic if he thinks he can get from the Bristol / Bath area to Bournemouth in a little over two hours without considerable fatigue.

But he has given a clue. You only have to prove that what you hope to resurrect brings the time down to 90 minutes and you will have the start of a case.

I don't see, with respect, what farmhouse heating arrangements have to do with the subject and my plea is that you elevate the proposal to a genuinely strategic one. Some of the comments here, if Mr Welch were to read them, would have him chuckling or tutting, I am afraid.

sebastian said...

That's a good point. Anonymous. He owns an engineering works, that keeps his and other peoples locos, in running condition, I remember a documentary in which he talks about getting the next generation interested in getting involved. I would think He would want to support New S&D's endeavours. Also one other famous rail enthusiast who happens to be involved on a neighboring line is David Sheppard. I think he would be interested. and better still his line is not that far from Radstock.

sebastian said...

Hi Guy's I am now a fully payed up member. for this Excellent endeavour that is the New S&D, I have been reading your blog since the middle of 2010, and have been so impressed with the way things are happening. over the time I read about ministries becoming supportive, Heritage legal types coming on board. and also the quality of the restoration going on at the various stations. so I Have Joined The New S&D. and 100% support the Intelligent way it is being done, by like minded people who like me agree that This Historical Route will return Trains, For The Future generations, to use, I am looking forward to getting my new card.

Sunshiner said...

Howard - very flattered that anyone would think that a high Ministry official would be looking at this blogsite! Remember this is just a private blog with no official status at all - anything official will be done through the committee of the New S&D, the directors of Wessex Links Ltd or via the official New S&D website. This is a blog for the whole S&D plus Washford, written by a member of most of the groups, and has no role in the real world, except to point people in the direction of the various groups.

I am the classic nobody and very happy with that!

Keith Browning said...

Jusy over a year ago a fruit seller lost his barrow and in protest set himself on fire. That began a chain that has changed many things in the world and is still doing so today.

Big things come from small people in small places.

The biggest danger is that once the S&D roller coaster starts moving more quickly it will start to get out of control. Beware a one off investor with clout or money, who wants to take control.

This must be a 'People's Railway' and so never relinquish that power back to the people who made a mess in the first place.

Perhaps we rename it the 'S&D Peoples Railway', in the same way that the working class people of the East End built their 'People's Palace' of Education and Entertainment in the latter part of the 19th century.

Sunshiner said...

Have no fears. There are a lot of very smart people involved with the New S&D and things are structured in such a way that no one person or company could ever run it for profit. Obviously big investors will be encouraged to buy shares etc as Peak Oil progresses, people like Warren Buffet are already big investors in US railways for example - expect many billions in cash to flood into railway schemes in the future. Pension funds and private investors will want to invest in one of the few future businesses that will make decent money.

The real fear of course is that some other - for profit - group starts buying up trackbed on the S&D for future investment purposes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for profits, and expect the New S&D to be very profitable, but the structure of it will ensure that all profits are ploughed back into the railway, after dividends are paid on shares, bearing in mind that the New S&D group will always own a minimum of 51% of the railway shares.