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, May 25, 2012

the future v the past

Of all the rail closures in the UK, after the S&D, the Lewes-Uckfield was possibly the most insane. The line was a superb alternative for London-Brighton trains and should have been massively developed for this reason alone. It also serves a number of commuter towns.

This short stretch was closed in 1969 against huge opposition. It turned a through route into a branch line and I don't think it's stretching a point too much to state that the plan was to close the whole route, bit by bit.
With Peak Oil now upon us this line needs to be reopened NOW. The people of East Sussex have NEVER accepted this moronic closure, and never will, and since the day the line closed there have been calls for its reopening. The need now is greater than ever.
So get it open, double it throughout and electrify it, and start running some through trains from Brighton to London, and prepare for a freight boom.
And as for a road blocking a route 'forever' - forget it! This road will be empty within 20 years so the line can just be built across it. No one will care.

Labour Lords condemn rail-wrecking road by ‘greenest Government ever’

“The DfT must overrule this further attempt to block forever the extension of the line to Lewes” – Lord Berkeley

Following the Labour Lords’ Chief Whip’s denunciation of East Sussex County Council’s damaging road proposal at Uckfield, Lord Berkeley has roundly criticized David Cameron’s Government for not only its support for the Tory-led county council’s intended gyratory scheme, but also its disinterest in reopening the railway south of Uckfield.

Labour Peer, Lord Berkeley, CEng; MICE; FRSA; FCIT; Hon.FIMechE; Hon DSc(Btn); OBE;  has had a distinguished career in civil engineering with firms such as Wimpey and culminating in ten years with Eurotunnel – undoubtedly the greatest UK transport project of the twentieth century. As he remarked to us: “I am a civil engineer who has built the odd road and railway!”

Writing in the latest (June) issue of The Railway Magazine, he draws attention to the Government’s encouragement to Network Rail to increase capacity by reopening lines where strategically important and asks – “So why is the Government apparently hell-bent on resisting calls to reopen the Lewes–Uckfield line?”

Lord Berkeley told the Wealden Line Campaign this week: “I have always suspected the business case for the reopening” and, like many of us, understands how it was gradually narrowed-down until it focused primarily upon usage between Lewes and Uckfield, thereby obviating its obvious regional function.

He added: “This completely fails to take into account not only the growth in demand from this part of Sussex to London, but also the fact that even now the existing line is operating at capacity. How otherwise will the network cope with the expected 20% increase in passenger traffic over ten years?”

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers, who is noticeably coming in for increasing criticism, admitted only recently that the Government has no long-term solution for the overloaded Brighton Line. Other than introducing a swingeing congestion charge for peak-hour travel, it has no idea how to expand capacity on busy routes from the south into London. This is an extremely important issue because rail projects take several years to complete and require leadership and strategic planning.

Turning to ESCC’s destructive road scheme, Lord Berkeley said in the Railway Magazine: “It appears that East Sussex County Council only believes in roads (the more the better) and its preferred option of cutting off forever any chance of reopening this line is by driving a new road at formation level through the middle of Uckfield, a plan that appears to be supported by the Tory-led Government, presumably on the basis that myopic localism by its car-loving residents takes precedence over the greener travel ambitions of the rest of the country and beyond.”

Two years ago David Cameron claimed he wanted the new coalition administration to be: “the greenest government ever” – but here we have transport policies belonging to the Beeching era and the car-crazy 1960s.

Lord Berkeley advised: “In any design of a new road across the rail formation at Uckfield, it is essential that space is left for a two-track railway and 12-car station, and that the road must bridge the route of the line so that, if and when the line is reinstated, no changes to the road will be necessary.”

Uckfield New Station

As depicted here, Network Rail’s Engineering Study of 2008 shows how critical the station site remains to reopening the line to the Sussex Coast, not least because the present cramped, single-line terminus platform straddles the former Down Main Line.

Citing the Rail Minister’s backing for the road across Network Rail’s new station site and the trackbed, Lord Berkeley told us: “I cannot understand how Theresa Villiers can make these statements when it is clear that the line cannot be reopened with a decent station unless the County Council changes its ideas.”

Labour’s Chief Whip, Lord Bassam of Brighton, who has been similarly critical about ESCC, has said this week: “I believe Network Rail should be carrying out an urgent, detailed and independent assessment of BML2 – free from the influence of East Sussex County Council.”

ESCC Uckfield Road Scheme


Neil said...

Another example of unjoined up thinking: I am at a loss of how the Dept of Transport functions from day to day. Roads, roads and more roads. It's time for reprogramming the thought processes in Government nationally and locally. At a guess, the Wey and Arun-well on the way to restoration- and disused lines run by or or convenient to the London to Brighton line. Integrate them. Watch the employment rates rise in light of Peak Oil.

Officialdom prepares us for disaster and chaos, nothing else, and then has the audacity to tax us to the hilt. I expect balance,leadership and wise guidance for my money: it isn't happening.

It simply cannot continue.

Neil said...

Here is a link for the Wealden Line:

I note there was a vigorous campaign to reopen the Line from 1986 but was turned down in 2008. In view of recent developments globally, 2008 is a very long time ago. There should be an independent assessment of viability.

We all should be singing off the same hymn sheet and sharing expertise across the country. There are five stages to acceptance: we are at stage two/three.