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!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

how to make passengers feel at home!

(Above Bedminster 1.6.2014 copyright Steve Sainsbury)

In a rather desperate attempt to reduce costs in the 60s and 70s many stations were stripped of their buildings and lumbered with 'bus shelter' type replacements. Whilst this did indeed cut costs it also went some way to making the whole experience of rail travel diminished. Whilst the average punter perhaps didn't have an intimate knowledge of rail history and didn't really feel any great attachment to buildings per se, the loss of facilities and, possibly to a greater extent, railway employees on a station led to a sense that rail travel was in decline and also was less safe than the alternatives. To some extent this was true.

This was eventually acknowledged and the new wave of stations (Mouslecoombe, Templecombe for example) were given neat and functional buildings. But to those stations that were victims of 60s cuts, they still struggle on today with the utilitarian and soulless stations we see at Bedminster above.

Go back to the pre-Beeching era and Bedminster had a lovely, human scale set of buildings, connected by a neat footbridge. The above picture is displayed on the wall at Bedminster and shows the station in its prime. Except of course the railways are busier than they've been for nearly 80 years, and Bedminster's prime is now, not then. The station is well used, but surely would be even better used if there was a member of staff on site, and neat buildings that give both shelter and a sense that you're travelling on something with a future, rather than through some faded glory which the facts don't support.

And what has this got to do with the S&D? Well the S&D was 'lucky' in a way (though this also helped kill the line!) that it wasn't rationalised. It kept its human scale, staffed stations to the end. And the New S&D will carry on this tradition. Because where economics are concerned its not all about the cost side of the equation, but the income side too. I firmly believe that staffed, neat stations will generate more income than bleak, lifeless ones. And that that income can not only cover the extra costs of staff and building maintenance, but can exceed the savings made by rationalising everything.

Stations on the New S&D won't be bleak and unwelcoming, but the complete opposite. And the line will earn even more money, when takings are offset against costs, than it would if the Bedminster bus shelters 'welcomed' travellers at Midford, Wincanton, Blandford, Glastonbury and all the rest!

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