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, June 14, 2012

New S&D chairman's report

This will be appearing in the New S&D's magazine, 'RIGHT LINES', in a few weeks' time. Hopefully it boils down the last six months activity and I haven't missed anything!

Chairman's Report

June 2012

It's fantastic that Philip Marsh and Grant Henderson have formed an editorial team to produce a magazine twice a year. I was well aware that members living a distance from the line were not really getting value for money for their membership fee, but until people stepped forward we were rather stuck! Can I ask all of you to try to provide articles and letters, and send in photos for the next edition.

Another relatively new member, Dean Cockwell, has worked wonders down at Spetisbury, negotiating with Dorset County Council and getting a team together to restore the station.

Up at Midford Tom and Stuart Seale have done sterling work rescuing this most iconic station from the undergrowth - work on rebuilding the station is now not too far away. Other members (even myself!) have helped as well, but 95% of the work has been done by the Seales.

Both Spetisbury and Midford will be rebuilt to serve as information offices for the whole line and will also have shops to make each site self-financing.

We have also approached Network Rail Property to see if Templecombe box will become available for lease at some time in the future. Whilst the site is currently still within NR's Operational area, it may well switch to Commercial at some time in the future, at which point we could negotiate to take on this site with a similar role to that of Spetisbury and Midford but with the added attraction of a Network line running past the front door.

The branches meanwhile are still in deep sleep, despite the potential of Wells, Glastonbury, Burnham and the Glastonbury Festival sites all being on route. If any of you would like to get something started on the branches please let us know! We are here to help local initiatives get started.

We've had an influx of new officers join the committee, some with fixed roles and others as general members. Thank you all for agreeing to get involved at this level!

Elsewhere on the S&D all three established sites - Midsomer Norton, Shillingstone and Gartell - have recently laid extra track, and now Midsomer Norton has joined Gartell in running regular passenger trains. Midsomer Norton is an absolute gem and a credit to all of those who have helped make this happen.

On the Sunday before the Jubilee holiday, ALL five S&D sites had work being done on them, running trains, rebuilding etc. What a turn around from the dark 80s and 90s when hardly anything was happening! The S&D was a line destined to live forever, or as close as possible, and the closure was stupid. But back in the 60s people had other priorities and a very different view of the future, expecting to be getting around in flying cars or jet packs, eating space paste from tubes!

The last five to ten years have seen some amazing developments in the railway field, from huge passenger loadings on the Network, through the building of Tornado, the rebuilding of the Welsh Highland Railway and the incredible sight (in Porthmadog) of regular steam passenger trains running through the streets.

Many lines that missed the first and second waves of preservation now have groups determined to rebuild them. The Glyn Valley Tramway in Wales for example, the Helston branch and the missing link between Bodiam and Robertsbridge - did even the most optimistic of us really think these things would happen? And in 2014 a good proportion of the Waverley line will be reopened, a reinstatement that required the demolition of many homes built on the trackbed since closure.

This is the background in which we need to set the S&D revival. The world is changing, the oil is running out and we've all seen the effects of climate change over the past few years. Meanwhile the roads continue to deteriorate and many people are giving up their cars. And this is before the cost of fuel even begins to really impact on most of us.

In 20 years the railway map of Britain will be much expanded, the S&D will be well on the road to complete reopening, there will be new build routes opening up as well as many of the Beeching cuts reversed. We do blend heritage and 'real' running, but all lines will eventually if they are to survive. It won't be easy by any means, and there will be upsets and hold ups on the way, but remember that it will get easier as each day passes!

Steve Sainsbury MA


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