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, May 31, 2012

velvet divorce

The S&D is now developing so quickly that I feel this blog should from now on ONLY report on the S&D, and perhaps on wider issues that affect the line directly.

Accordingly I'll be setting up a new blog within days concentrating on rail developments other than on the S&D, particularly line reopenings and plans for new lines in the UK. I would welcome contributors to this new blog who are actively involved in some of these projects - please email me on leysiner@aol.com so I can add you to the contributors' list. Obviously I'll welcome any news, links, pictures etc on rail developments outside the S&D, please use the same email. If you want to promote a new line group don't hesitate to contact me!

It's clear that we need a massive programme of line reopenings and completely new lines to survive the huge upheavals ahead of us. Hopefully the new blog will play a small part in helping this to happen!

super sunday!

This Sunday will see action at all FIVE S&D sites - Midford and Spetisbury both have work parties (see sidebar for contacts), Midsomer Norton and Gartell will be running trains and Shillingstone will be doing their thing.

This is the first time this has happened since closure and such a hive of activity is a credit to all of you who have supported the S&D since the misguided attempt to close the line back in 1966. Did anyone seriously think the S&D wouldn't be back? It's taken a while, and we've all had to cross that belief barrier, but no one would now deny that the S&D is returning, yard by yard, station by station, and one day we'll be able to travel from Bath to Bournemouth again by train.

I'm even planning to get up to Midford myself this Sunday - which will be a real treat!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

gartell this weekend

Well yes... yes - it is that time again

This Sunday 3rd June we are running the Gartell Light Railway with the NEW LINE WELL AND TRULY OPEN!!

We are even running a 'more interesting' timetable which should allow trains to cross at the flyover, something we believe is unique on the Steam Scene in this country.

So bring along your friends and relatives and have a pleasant and relaxing day out with us.

REMEMBER! If you come by bicycle, Adults and Seniors are just £5!!

Please pass this message on to everyone in your address book that lives within 50 miles of Templecombe - and ask them to do the same.

Oh and if you have SatNav, our postcode is BA8 0NB

See you there!

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

Sunday, May 20, 2012

the old order ...

Watchdog 'worry' on council-run rail lines

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Saturday, May 05, 2012
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A passenger campaign group has said it is "very worried" about proposals which could see more control over railways passed down to local authorities.
Devon County Council's cabinet will next week examine its preferred options on a Government consultation of devolution of the train network. But Chris Irwin, chairman of passenger group Travelwatch South West, said he had grave concerns over several aspects of the proposal.
He said: "In principle it's a great idea, but in practice I'm very worried about it."
Cornwall Council has already indicated it is broadly interested in the ability to control certain aspects of the train network system, which could include timetabling, setting fares, deciding where investment should be made and, potentially, deciding to reopen stations that are currently closed. The consultation is part of a wider overhaul planned for the country's rail network, after fares were found to be 30 per cent too high compared to elsewhere in Europe. It is hoped decentralisation would help improve value for money.
But Mr Irwin questioned whether funding would still be available to renew equipment and infrastructure, and said: "In this climate of frozen council tax and so on, the answer to that is probably 'no'."
He also raised concerns over what would happen when a passenger crossed local authority boundaries, if it was also passing from one operator to another. And he said: "Local authorities have been slimmed down over the past few years. Have they still got the competence within them to manage these services?"
He said Devon and Cornwall were possible exceptions that could have the expertise, but said: "Somerset County Council is one example where transport expertise has been denuded."
In Devon, the council has previously voiced hopes that devolution could provide an opportunity to progress its vision of a Devon metro transport system which would involve bringing all rail services in the county together under a single brand. It would involve a new service from Okehampton to Exeter and the reopening of the line from Plymouth and Bere Alston to Tavistock.
On Wednesday, the cabinet will consider a range of options, which include local authorities being able to take control of specific areas under a single franchise awarded to one operator. It would allow the council to invest its own money to supplement improvements to certain aspects of the service.
Council officers have said the idea is "workable", but warned that it would rely on a good budget settlement from Government, and that future growth of the network should not sap council coffers.
Another "workable" option is that "micro-franchises" could be tendered for particular areas within the main franchise. But officers have warned that interlinking lines benefit passengers, and so the option was unlikely to improve the situation in Devon.
The Government consultation is part of a far-reaching overhaul of the service, designed to make efficiency savings across the network.

To my mind all these attempts to bring a degree of government (in the broad sense of the word) control of railways is just more interference and meddling by people who simply don't have a clue what they are doing.
Free railway companies from the controls that are currently on them (franchising, leasing arrangements, government decreed fares etc) and they will soon fill the need locally. Businesses like to expand, in the current and permanent no-growth state we find ourselves in railways will be one of the few businesses that WILL be able to expand, along with organic farming, crafts, timber and railway/tramway equipment construction. The market needs to be allowed to operate. The New S&D, forward-looking as always, wants to be the prime example of this new type of business - sustainable, community owned and operated, innovative and inspirational.
Too many people still think its the 1980s, and it's time to put to one side tiny schemes to reopen stations or upgrade routes - nothing less than a wholesale construction of thousands of miles of new railways and tramways will enable us to switch from the Oil Age to the Post Oil Age without huge upheavals.
The most important part of the above article is the (rather obvious!) need to reinstate the Okehampton-Tavistock-Bere Alston line, the biggest no-brainer of all!

s & d lives

David Milton and Paul Fry: Loss Of Two Somerset and Dorset Railway Greats

The deaths of two of Somerset and Dorset Railways greatest champions were announced with great sadness recently; to lose any one person who supported the cause and stuck with it from the beginning is always incredibly sad, but to lose two within a few weeks of each other is devastating. Here we recall the lives and work of David Milton and Paul Fry.

David Milton

David Milton was well known to rail enthusiasts in the South West as the “Voice Of Dorset” and lent his voice to commentating on rallies within the county, most famously at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, which is one of many such events held throughout the southern half of the country.

Perhaps his most noted achievement was the salvage and upkeep of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway 2-8-0 Locomotive Number 88 which was rescued at a cost of £2,500 from Barry Scrap yard, and originally used as a haulage train for coal and heavy goods and to collect parcels and deliver them to their rightful destinations. The train was finally released in July 1970.

David also held the distinction of being one of the only remaining members of the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust (when it was originally names the Somerset and Dorset Railway Circle) who had been there since it’s incarnation in 1966. He at one time held the three positions of Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer. A well respected author of some note, he wrote many articles for the Trust’s Bulletin. He also produced a book entitled “A History of the Somerset and Dorset 7F 2-8-0s”. In the mid 1970s, David also worked with Donald Bradley on a publication entitled “Somerset and Dorset Locomotive History” and in 1975 a collaboration with RS McNaught brought forth the book “The Golden Age of Steam Locomotives of The Great Western and Somerset and Dorset Joint Railways”, which is still available for purchase from Amazon, link here.

It was during the 1980s at the time when the Great Dorset Steam Fair was held at Stourpaine Bushes that David was asked if he would consider commentating on the event, organisers were thrilled when he agreed and the tradition carried on along with colleagues Malcolm Fleet and the late Gerry Burr.

That David should have had an interest in the railways was of little surprise to anyone. His father was FW Milton who had himself spent his entire working life on the Somerset and Dorset Railways working most assiduously on the line between Evercreech Junction to Burnham-on-Sea, eventually becoming the Supervising Goods Foreman in Glastonbury.

David chose a career in Engineering and at one time owned his own steam locomotive engine. He was a popular and well respected member of the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust and will be missed by all his friends and colleagues there.

He died at the age of seventy eight in Yeovil Hospital and leaves behind his wife, Barbara and daughter Jenni. His funeral was held in Yeovil on 4th April 2012 at St Leonard’s Church, Butleigh, near Glastonbury.

Paul Fry

It is also with sadness we report the death of Paul Fry, who also passed away at the age of seventy eight this year. Also a notable author on railways and locomotives in Somerset, he wrote a book called “Railways Into Wells”, again which is still available for purchase from Amazon here, and is dedicated to the memory of his late father GWC Fry (known as Bob) who worked as a Guard on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. He also, like David contributed many articles to the Bulletin journal and was a very well respected member of the Wells Railway Fraternity. He was also a trained member of the St John’s Ambulance and noted for his first aid skills.

Paul’s father “Bob” held the distinction (along with David Milton) of being one of the passengers on the last train from Glastonbury to Wells, the journey of which took place in 1951.

Just as with David, Paul’s contribution to the upkeep, promotion and support of The Somerset and Dorset Joint District Railway should not be underestimated. Both these characters will be very sadly missed and our thoughts and best wishes are with their families and friends at this sad time.

Article kindly supplied by Anna Redding.

time to end trackbed trespass

Housing plan on old railway land is turned down over lane safety worries

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Thursday, May 17, 2012
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A controversial scheme to build 10 homes on former railway land at the end of Shepton Mallet’s narrow Hitchen Lane has been thrown out by Mendip’s Planning Board after fierce objections from the town council and residents.
Now a call has been made for a proper development brief to be drawn up for the whole area stretching between the Townsend Retail Park and the Ridgeway Estate along what was the former Wells to Shepton railway track.
More than 50 people packed into the meeting last week to hear the outcome of the scheme put forward by Mr G Taylor and Ms T Follett which attracted 43 letters of objections and a petition signed by 134 people.
Shepton Mallet Town Council had recommended refusal on the grounds of highway safety, inadequate sewerage arrangements and the possible obstruction to the Strawberry Line East Project – the proposed multi user path along the disused railway line running through the site.
Other concerns voiced at the meeting ranged from the area being a breeding ground for protected slowworms to flooding fears, loss of trees, loss of play space and allegations of contaminated land.
But the biggest concerns voiced were about the safety to pedestrians and queries about how the narrow Hitchen Lane, which has no pavement, could possibly cope with any increased two way traffic.
The resident’s arguments about the plans for five pairs of semi-detached houses were aired forcibly by their spokesman Graham Brown. Mr Brown lives in the narrow Hitchen Lane which leads to the site – and is also Shepton Town Council’s clerk as well as the town’s fire chief.
To huge applause from residents he urged the planning board to refuse the application on highways safety grounds and on the grounds that the scheme was unacceptable piecemeal development.
But despite the huge concerns about highway safety planning officer Laura McKay said that Somerset County Council highway’s department had raised no objections to the scheme at all.
And applicant Paul Kenny said passing places for vehicles would be created at strategic points along the lane.
Shepton’s town, district and county councillor John Parham said there was a desperate need for more housing in Shepton Mallet. But he said that whole area needed to be looked at as a whole not just one small part and a different access via Station Road would be far more sensible and safe.
Having the narrow carriageway of Hitchen Lane being shared by pedestrians and traffic was he warned: “An accident waiting to happen.”
He said: “Hitchen Lane is barely acceptable now for its users.”
And Councillor Nigel Taylor said they did not want to be part of any decision that “could result in a child’s death.”
Councillor Peter Bradshaw said when he walked up the lane he had to jump into the hedge to avoid a passing vehicle.
The plans were refused unanimously by the planning board on safety grounds because of the highway dangers. And councillors agreed that it was time that a proper planning brief should be drawn up for the preferred development they would like to see for that whole area rather than one small part of it.

It does seem amazing that in 2012 there are STILL some idiots out there who seriously propose new trackbed trespasses that can only end in tears when the Cheddar Valley line is inevitably put back in.
It really does make you wonder if they are just stupid or simply too cut off from reality to realise what they are doing. In this case safety issues were brought into play, but surely it's now time for the government to boldly and simply state - as they have for the S&D - NO more trackbed trespass.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

midford last sunday

Looking as good as new - amazing to think that a couple of years ago this was totally overgrown!

(All pics copyright Tom Seale)

Latest report from Tom Seale - I'm hoping to get along myself on the next work party day. It's amazing how much the site has changed over the last couple of years!

Myself and Dad were down at Midford again yesterday doing a bit of routine maintenance activities.

Dad brought his strimmer down and cut the growth either side of the cycleway and on the bank above the station.

It's nice to see increasing wild flower growth on the cleared areas, chief among them were some bluebells growing on the bank.

Whilst dad was avoiding cutting down bluebells I cleared the gutter on the northen end of the platform, it's nice to see this area now looking properly tidy.

 We also re-cleared the base of the oil store, it was a cracking day weather wise, I even managed a sun burn.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

station, not railway, but otherwise great!!

Pembrokeshire railway reopens after 48 years

Fishguard Goodwick Station
Fishguard Goodwick Station in the 1950s
The last train arriving for passengers at Fishguard and Goodwick station’s platform was more than 48 years ago.
However, commuters wanting to travel from the North Pembrokeshire railway station won’t face such lengthy delays after the facility was reopened today for the first time since 1964.
Once a bustling hub for both traders and passengers - the station became a victim of the Beeching cuts and was closed by British Railways, when services were withdrawn.
Its revival follows a long campaign by a passenger group which says the existing Fishguard station at the ferry terminal was too far outside the town.
It comes after a £1.4m -a-year rail service to Fishguard was launched last September in a move aimed at boosting the area’s tourism and economy.
The five extra daily services between Fishguard and Carmarthen were in addition to the two services connecting with the ferries to Ireland.
The latest project has seen around £325,000 spent on rebuilding and updating the old station, which will now benefit from the extra trains, running Monday to Saturday.
The North Pembrokeshire Transport Forum (NPTF), which campaigned for a better station and improved services, said parking at the old station was also too expensive.
Secretary Hatti Woakes said the reopening was great news for the area.
“This is such wonderful news for the people of Pembrokeshire, it is something we have worked so hard for since the forum began.
“Goodwick has the potential to be a hub for so many things but the only thing missing was a decent train service.”
She said the forum was involved in the preparation of the new timetables.
“We tried to organise them so that people can travel when they want to.
“We’re now getting people commuting to Carmarthen, which we have never had before. These train services were really the missing link for Pembrokeshire.”
Tourism and business leaders have welcomed the service and facility, which they say is a major development in public service improvement for North Pembrokeshire.
Councillor Jamie Adams, who is also a member of SWWITCH (the South West Wales Integrated Transport Consortium), said improvements to rail services west of Swansea were not only a priority for Pembrokeshire but for the South West region as a whole.
“The re-opening of the station is a positive step for the communities of Fishguard and Goodwick and will help attract passengers to the new enhanced rail services,” he said.
Jeremy Martineau of Fishguard and Goodwick Chamber of Trade and Tourism said businesses were bound to benefit from the redevelopment.
“There is no doubt the people of Goodwick, and more widely across West Wales, will benefit from this, not only for their personal transport connections but in terms of attracting tourists.
“This reconnects us to tourists in an even more visible and more environmentally responsible way. It is tempting for people from abroad and across the boarder to see us as very remote but this is an important signal that says ‘we are here, we are accessible, it is a wonderful area , so come and visit.’”
Local photographer and historian Johnny Morris said the station, once a thriving hub of trade, deserved a revival.
“The station was once a busy hub of activity with trucks of coal heading out from there with at least three merchants operating.
“There was also, more surprisingly, a great deal of rabbit being traded via the station. During the Second World War, there were three agents who were sending hampers of about 40 rabbits each every day to places like Coventry, London Birmingham . The rabbits of West Wales kept the people of the English cities fed with quality protein during the war years. My grandfather was being paid 15 shillings a week from catching rabbits and that was a profitable sideline for many people. This really was a thriving and busy station and at one point carried around 200 people working at the Royal Navy Armaments Depot at nearby Trecwn.
“To see the station reopen is incredibly important for the area.”
Ben Davies, Stakeholder Liaison Manager for Arriva Trains Wales said:
“This area will see a real benefit from the additional service this will allow us to provide, which will no doubt have a positive impact on the local economy."

Read More http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2012/05/14/91466-30966854/#ixzz1uyeaO11o