Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by lynbarn, May 18, 2016.
Leamside is a protected route, and is recognised as one to reinstate in due course
I suspect the fact that despite years of effort, "Brighton Mainline 2" (via Uckfield and Lewes, in the commuter-centric South East) hasn't yet convinced the powers that be of sufficient return on investment, despite the overcrowding on the main BML, rather puts into perspective the chances of a cross-country secondary route supported by an annual music festival and non-existent dairy traffic...
Totally agreed, however, the S&D does seem to have some chance of being rebuilt, but only as a short heritage line to jog the memories of those who knew it and for people like me who have an interest in its history, particularly the photos and film taken by Ivo Peters and others.
Perhaps the "last best hope" for recreating the S&D in any originality is at Midsomer Norton. (Other projects are available!) I have just received the latest S&DHRT news magazine and good progress is being made. As heritage projects go, it's quite restricted of course but it is about to embark on a further extension and, to achieve this, £30,000 is needed. That is small fry when one compares this with the Broadway extension (the comparison is not really that good but it's a comparison) and the appeal states that if all the S&DHRT members donated £10 then £25000 could be achieved. Needless to say I've sent them a tenner. Now, if several Nat Pres people also did that then maybe "Wouldn't it be nice" for Midsomer Norton? Several heritage railways have S&D themed events; at Midsomer the real thing awaits!
I understand, and I have great respect for the MSN Team - I am a S&DRHT member, that Midsomer Norton, like Topsy 'just growed' and that if you were to attempt to recreate the longest possible bit of the S&D there may well be better places to start. Like a lot of things however it probably would not work as well at (insert other location) than it does at MSN.
There is one person who does have enormous faith in the team at Midsomer Norton - the owner of the next property after Masbury station who went into meltdown at the thought of the railway being reinstated and ran about in a panic waving pictures of 15 coach double headed trains which she thought would be passing the bottom of her garden in a few weeks
My comment wasn't aimed at anyone in particular but yes I did see the long rambling and possibly sincere discussion earlier in the thread. You're about as likely to reopen the S&D based on banana traffic and occasional circus elephants.
The Lemside line is still classed as an operational railway in legal terms. The fact that it has no track due to metal theaves and NR recovering what remained makes no difference to that status - in short NR (who still own the entire trackbeds) could theoretically simply relay the track and reopen with no need to go through the full process of public enquirers, authorisation from the SOS etc.
Firstly references to Hawick are totally irrelevant - the Borders railway decided very early on in the scoping process to terminate at Tweedbank - partly to keep the costs of reopening to acceptable levels. Further reopening to Hawick is still only a asparation by supporters of the borders railway - definitely not the official policy of the Scotish Government, who have restricted themselves to saying they will not rule it out in coming decades.
Secondly the moving of the A7 was necessary because after closure the A7 road had been realigned onto a much smoother alignment obliterating the railway alignment over a signifficant distance to avoid a sharp bend (and either a bridge or a level crossing over said railway). Reinstating the railway thus forced the diversion of the road and was one of the principle contributors to the high costs of the scheme - which meant it only just scraped through the BCR analysis.
Thirdly there was no question of "squeezing in the railway" next to the ASDA store because the store only got planning permission on condition that it made provision for a single track railway alongside the store. However people should make note that this was a good decade or more before the current railway proposal arrived on the scene. In fact at the time the ASDA was built the reopening was still very much off the official agenda as far as the Politicans were concerned - so full credit for those who managed to persuade the planning authorities to ensure the corridor remained unobstructed. Had this action not been the extra costs of rebuilding the store would have made a big difference to the BCR and the viability of the scheme.
Fourthly with regard to Tavistock, perhaps you need to consider the situation heading south before making sweeping assumptions that it's just the case of demolishing an office building (and at least a couple of houses to access the viaduct) - for example every single engineer that has looked at it has come to the conclusion that Meldon Viaduct would require replacing with a new structure - which is not cheep.
The reopening southward is being done on a minimal cost basis. Hence it will not be returning across the viaduct to the former station and will instead be terminating on the edge of the current town (though close to a large new housing development which the main reason the BCR is good enough for it to happen). It's also why the absolute minimum of changes will be made at Bere Alston (which will end up like the current Bourne End setup - a reinstated platform face for a shuttle to Gunslake with the current platform being used by the Tavistock - Plymouth service) as ANY alteration to the current way the branch is signalled massively affects the BCR and sinks the scheme completely.
So while rebuilding the S&DJR in some form may be a 'nice' thing to do - The economics of rebuilding a railway (as part of the national network) are such that it would never pass the necessary BCR tests - and it's about time enthusiasts recognised that fact rather than deluding themselves that festivals or milk traffic can somehow change that.
Ah, a poor choice of words on my part: I meant "main line" merely to mean "part of the national network; not a heritage line".
As a route from Glastonbury - which is the largest town on that route - and despite the relatively slow road links between there and Bristol, I suspect the route would be too circuitous to be used as a direct route between Glastonbury and Bristol or Bath. A quick check of current train timings from Highbridge and Bruton shows that the railway would probably turn out to be slower.
I have to say, one of the clearest signs to me that your idea is the child of romantic enthusiasm rather than being a serious suggestion is your statement that the loops should be in all the original locations. How do you know that a modern service pattern would need them, or wouldn't need more?
Agree with all your points but am I misreading; Meldon Viaduct is North of Tavistock.
The more I read the S&D Telegraph & other works about the line, the stronger the suggestion that the S&D was always a moneypit becomes
BBC 1 West tonight @ 7.30pm Michael Portillo has a look at the S&D in 1966. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07dnzxs
Regions vary with different programmes on "Living in 1966".
It is amazing the amount of grim determination against something that isn't going to happen anyway. If that is the extent of the negativity for something that, I repeat, isn't happening, you must be in despair about schemes that are under serious consideration. Will you man the barricades to physically prevent the construction teams at , Hawick, Portishead, Bere Alston or the Bedford to Cambridge section of the Oxford to Cambridge re-opening, another pie in the sky scheme? How else will you stop these mad ideas from happening?
Such a typical British can't do, won't work attitude. Such a waste of negative energy on what is a non existent project anyway.
On a few other non points. The amount of loops needed on the Highbridge section would be determined by a study, not me or you. I'm aware of the south of Tavistock viaduct station but, if the full line re-opens, they will have to deal with the houses on the line problem at Tavistock North.
Anyway, when future re-openings occur, wherever they may be, I will be applauding. The doom merchants can sit at home, arms folded, with a little black cloud of rain over their head, muttering about how it will never work. That's what made Britain great.
I have to agree with you Steve, what ever happen to the can do attitude we as a county used to have? If we as a nation had a problem we would all get behind the leaders and get it sorted. As an example and I am not a footie fan, but why is it that when either the Euro or World Cup come around the county goes completely mad and everything has to stop for a couple of hours to watch 22 men kicking a piece of plastic around a football pitch? Yet the feeling of just how great we are always appears from no where when we win. But it is all doom and gloom if we lose and its always the PM's fault for sending out a useless team? The fact of the matter is we have the most expensive football league in the world and it pays top dollar to all the worlds greatest football stars? so it is no wonder we don't have a world beating team as our own players don't get the same change to play at the very top of there sport.
The same thinking happens but with much more darker tendency, which always grabs the headlines over migrants, you know the sort of stuff which the press would love to print such as we don't want them hear etc. What always gets me is that the same people don't want migrants in the UK but will support a football team with say two Spanish , two Italians, a french guy in charge and also Brazilian in the team and it is their local London team, yet they may live in Manchester?
Any how there is nowt as queer as folk.
The S&DJR in the present day has been championed by dreamers who seem to come up with ridiculous scenarios to justify their obsession with what was always a lame duck, at least the likes of the Waverley line, Robin Hood line etc were rooted in a degree of economic sense.
HUGE amount of rose-tinted notions of a golden past going on here, I think!
I've had a keen interest in history since childhood and used to believe all the wartime stuff about 'Britain Can Take It' and people in bombed out houses coming back to find nobody had touched a thing of what was left. The reality was that street crime rocketed in the blackout, that looting of bombed buildings was commonplace, the black market was rife and there were many criminals who did quite well out of the whole thing. And what reward did Churchill get from the public immediately after the war? He was unceremoniously booted out in a general election.
And what happened to your idea that 'we would all get behind our leaders' during the three day week and the miner's strike? I didn't see much evidence of it then...
But, as a species, we are very good at blanking out unsavoury things from our pasts. We only prefer to remember the good things, a habit which tends to mask reality with an unrealistic dose of gold-rimmed nostalgia.
In the real world railways are, and always have been, a purely commercial enterprise. It's only the railway enthusiast and nostalgist that sees them differently. It's a simple truth that unprofitable lines had been closing since the 1920s and earlier.
I am all for reopening lines where there is a sound public need or realistic commercial reason for doing so and I doff my cap to those who are so determined to reopen a stretch of heritage railway that they achieve their aim. But in many cases - especially in rural areas - the cold, hard reality is that it's not a case of 'that railway shouldn't have closed', but more 'what on earth made the people who built it ever believe that it would genuinely turn a profit?'
The halcyon age of branch lines to (almost) everywhere was brief and glorious, overtaken by the age of the motor car... in exactly the same way as the eras of everybody using video recorders and people driving Ford Escorts, Cortinas and Capris were brief and glorious, only to be usurped by more modern, better, easier, more convenient technology.
Ultimately there is no way that a fully reopened S&D or many of the myriad other rural branch lines in the UK would ever fulfil a realistic public need or be able to turn a profit. The plain fact - unpalatable as it is to many enthusiasts, including me - is that their time has been and gone.
Having lived in Somerset/Dorset for the last 34 years and used public transport, I can safely say that there is no point in even trying get the S&D rebuilt, at least not as a proper full time rail route.
Firstly about 3/4 of the local population are children, OAPs or disabled (ie they have free bus passes, and the councils cannot afford to pay the bus companies a decent amount for the free passengers). As their passes would not be valid on trains, they would still use buses because they are free to use.
A large number of the full fare paying adults have cars, and their jobs require them to have them (and a large number of the adults who could use public transport, won't due to sheer arrogance). Yes there are some adults who would use trains, but those people are mostly London commuters who already have good rail links.
Although the population in the Norton Radstock area has grown, there are regular buses (practically empty off peak) to Bath. The Street, Glastonbury and Wells area has the 376 bus service to Bristol (and that only gets riders because it goes the same way to Bristol that people would drive).
Somerset is too rural to even sustain a decent bus network never mind more railways (and I really would love more bus services and rail routes (as I would gain a lot from them), but, that is not going to happen).
A good example of how sustainable public transport is in most of Somerset, is Yeovil. While a big town, it has very few good public transport links. There is no demand for many bus services. Too few big enough towns nearby and most people coming into Yeovil for work have cars (either because they need a car for their job, there is no hope of a sustainable bus route to their home village or town, or they are too arrogant to use public transport no matter how good it is). In terms of rail use, pretty much everyone who uses trains are going to either Exeter, London or Salisbury (I should know this, because my family run the cafe at Yeovil Junction, and their takings come almost purely from London commuters first thing in the morning).
No I won't man the barricades to stop something being rebuilt. But that won't stop me pouring scorn on projects (fantasies might be a better word) that start based on "wouldn't it be nice" and then ignore the underlying commercial, financial and political realities that condition what might be viable.
The brutal, cold, reality is that preserved railways have topped out at about 20 miles, with a sweet spot at about 5-10. None have made inroads on commuter traffic despite one or two (KWVR, ELR) offering apparent potential.
Meanwhile, as a "mainline" railway, the S&D never washed it's face, and doesn't serve large populations well. The route is poorly laid out for modern freight - even if there were good reason to transfer it. I read recently that the Pines Express ran faster when it was rerouted via Reading. Why would (say) Freightliner go via the S&D from Southampton when the route via the Thames Valley is better? If there were a case for reopening something to serve N Somerset, the GWR branches link up better.
Finally, you make the comparison with the Waverley Route. The campaigners gained credibility because they focused on an achievable target, and identified a real need. They didn't get all they'd have liked, but nor did they try for the romantic stretch from Newcastleton to Hawick, nor the branches. You bring in the Highbridge branch, possibly also Bridgwater (closed 1951...), then highlight a couple of possible sources of traffic of a type that would be occasional, high cost, and out of line with the rest of the industry.
Pointing those out isn't a matter of negativity but of drawing attention to the difference between potentially viable and fantastical.
There is now a good amount of agreement at the type of traffic that railways are good at - travel into city centres and trainload freight. Using Yeovil as an example, and noting that the town has two stations, I wonder whether Bristol and Bath have much trade? I would surmise that they probably do, but the somewhat inconvenient nature of the route will not help. The S&D would only have merit if it could meet that trade. Is there any demand for Bournemouth to Bath/Bristol? Well maybe, but probably not enough to justify a complete rebuild, and the intermediate traffic to both ends would be minimal. Freight traffic would be non-existent.
I have just started reading this thread and I'm afraid some people are in need of a reality check. The S&D was an expensive to work holiday route from the Midlands to the South Coast resorts, this traffic has gone, people now go by car or fly off to warmer climes. Local traffic in a relatively sparsely populated area, again non existent. The reopened Waverley route is no comparison, the section reopened is in the Edinburgh commuter catchment area with enormous traffic potential.
To talk of milk traffic is laughable and I even saw a reference to milk churns! They went out decades ago. Milk is collected from farms by bulk tanker and taken to the processing plant, if it's destined for the London market it stays in the tanker and heads up the A303 where the silver milk tankers are a familiar sight. This is the cheapest and most efficient form of transport and it won't go back on rail.
The S&D was a wonderful railway but it's gone RIP and we should just be thankful that Ivo Peters made such an exhaustive photographic and film record of it in action.
A quick reality check: all the railway rebuilding schemes which are happening or being considered seriously are those which parallel (closely or broadly) busy A roads which snarl up regularly in the rush hour. I.e. there is a reasonable population along the route and an incentive to switch to rail (car journey is slow and frustrating).
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