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, December 23, 2012

climate change proofing

I doubt there's a person left on the planet who doesn't now accept that climate change is not only happening but that it is far worse than even the biggest pessimists forecast.

As well as railways I've a keen interest in the weather so not totally without knowledge, and it's pretty clear to me that this year's extreme rainfall events are very abnormal, not so much in their intensity but in their frequency. Here in Bristol in 2012 we've had FIVE 'month's worth of a rain in a day' events with rainfall well over 50mm, one of which (yesterday) was over 60mm and another over 70mm. In the UK as a whole we've had about twelve of these events. We'd normally expect one or two a year.

There is now a whole new groundswell that Peak Oil won't save us from Climate Change, that it's simply too late. I'm beginning to agree with that, which is a HUGE turnround for me! We can't stop Climate Change but we can adapt to it.

This week's events have caused massive problems for the Network, especially around Exeter. The section where the Barnstaple (and future Ilfracombe, Bude, Torrington, North Cornwall and Plymouth) services leave the GWR main line has been particularly badly hit, yet this happens regularly. Some commentators have suggested that the lines may not reopen for THREE WEEKS! Unfortunately the alternative route (that Beeching would have loved to have closed!) via Salisbury has also suffered from flooding, though not as severe. In effect the whole of Devon and Cornwall are cut off.

Yet surely the solution, at least at Exeter, is simple? Why not just rebuild the routes around the junction on a low viaduct, so that the water just flows under them and also safely off the track, which could be mounted onto steel girders? Even a modern diesel train can run through a few feet of water, if the driver can be sure there's no washed out ballast etc.

My point is that we are going to rely 100% on our railways to get around and move freight in the future. Flood spots are well known, as are those sections prone to blizzards, drifting and high winds. We'll also need to allow for greater expansion as heatwaves become more common.

As for the S&D we have two major problem sections - the climb over the Mendips (Shepton has always been notorious for snow!) and the Burnham branch, which lies on the Somerset Levels. In both cases these routes will need to be totally weatherproofed so the line can stay open no matter what the weather.

The same policy needs to be adopted by the entire Network. Where the S&D leads the rest should follow ...

1 comment:

Neil said...

A very Merry Christmas to all members in the S and D and beyond.

A very good post. I'm told the North of Bristol is a complete mess at present but still they continue to build houses with no proper infrastructure nor consideration of populations levels which impact directly on flood planes, congestion etc.

It really isn't difficult to understand but I would draw the line at allowing for greater expansion of lines: Linear expansion of metals and their coefficients are not something the gutter press and media would understand. Therein lies our problem, pushing our message to an ever more gullible public.

The powers that be have a warning, to stop the politics and to tell the truth. If not, there may come a day when the Somerset Levels flood, leaving part of that county, Cornwall and Devon as a seasonal island. It makes sense. All the flood planes are interconnected throughout the region.