The Future

Is this the future of WSR?

It would be if the Minehead Chamber of Commerce had their way.  Below is reproduced the copy  from the

Railfuture web site.

 

Train operator Great Western, the West Somerset preserved steam railway and local authorities are being urged to work together to find ways to extend some Cardiff-Taunton trains from the national network to Minehead on the preserved line.

For many years, local people have been calling for the reintroduction of train services between Taunton and Minehead. Now the Minehead Chamber of Commerce has responded by forming a pressure group to encourage all parties to get together to reinstate services to Minehead, calling at Bishops Lydeard, Williton, Watchet and Washford.

Called Minehead Rail Link Group and affiliated to Railfuture, the new society has pulled together a formidable group of local people including councillors, business people and local rail supporters who are working together with the aim of seeing their dream of linking Minehead to the outside world, become a reality.

The campaign is being led by Minehead Chamber of Commerce chairman Alex de Mendoza and former Cheshire Railtours proprietor David Latimer.

"Many people do not realise that we have a fully serviceable line between Minehead and Taunton with trackwork, signalling and stations maintained to the same high standards as Network Rail," said Alex de Mendoza.

"It is ridiculous in this age of worsening traffic jams and increasing awareness of green issues that the section of line linking Bishops Lydeard to the main line is used only for special excursion trips and occasional freight traffic."

The group accepts that at present it would be impractical to extend Minehead-Bishops Lydeard steam trains into Taunton, but believe some of the Great Western Railway's hourly Cardiff-Taunton services could be extended on to the preserved line.

 

West Somerset Railway is a unique living steam museum, this proposal would dramatically change the look and feel of the railway.   Eventually the steam aspect of the railway might only be reduced to running at the week-ends.   The WSR Plc have been  in talks with a local MP to bring modern diesel mulitple units,  to Bishops Lydeard and transfer passengers to trains hauled by steam locomotives and onwards to Minehead.  The Railfuture web site clearly states " the new society have pulled together a formidable group of local people including councillors, business people and local rail supporters",   will this group be seeking to aquire the freehold of the line from Somerset County Council.  If so, Councillors could be very sympathetic, to their cause. If this is the case,  it makes the lack of initiative of the Plc chairman Mark Smith and the board in 2010 not to accept the offer of the freehold from the local authority, and further offer a few years later, a very large missed opportunity.  To add more to this situation, when the West Somerset Railway Association tried to purchase the freehold a few years later, the WSR Plc threw a tantrum.   If the Plc had encouraged the WSRA to purchase the freehold, instead of trying to make politcal capital out of the situation, the risk of a third party being involved would have been averted, and would have made the future more secure for the WSR.  The Plc have encouraged groups like the reform group to accuse the WSRA of "losing their way", when you have the WSR Plc turning their back on opportunities like the freehold offer from the local authority, it really does not make any good business sense at all.   it would appear that Mark Smith and the WSR Plc board were loosing their way.

 

What period should you set  a ‘heritage’ railway in?    Obviously it includes the steam locomotives but should it include the preserved diesel locomotives as well.   There are diesel locomotive groups on the railway now, would these groups be more sympathetic in allowing modern diesel traction right to Minehead.   It seems ironic that in 1970 the government gave up the railway but  through the goodwill and hard work of   many dedicated people the line stayed open.   Now it would seem they want it back!   The reason being it’s a cheaper option than upgrading the road from Taunton to Minehead.   There is a possibility that West Somerset Railway is being lined up to be one of the first experiments in using heritage railways across the country to make hybrid transport systems.  There seems to be a proliferation of ex-BR staff within the management structure of the WSR, they may not be averse to combining the modern traction with steam locomotives on the same line.  This puts the living steam railway museum at risk.     People like John Cronin of ORS are well placed to advise on this type of merger, he is already on the West Somerset Railway Partnership Development Group and the Diesel & Electric Preservation Group. There also could be large financial inducements, from private rail operators to come to Minehead with regular diesel services, also central government could become  involved with grants to open up a regular  services.  Is this the motive behind all the problems on the West Somerset Railway?

 

 There are rumours circulating, regarding moving the Minehead Station, to the other side of the level crossing gates. If this was to come to fruition, surely the heritage aspect will be lost. Whether the rumours are true or not remains to be seen.    

 

There will be more on this subject to follow as we are, this watching situation very closely!!!