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Author Topic: Radstock to Frome (and Westbury?) Railway news  (Read 2225 times)
johnneyw
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« on: January 23, 2019, 11:00:12 pm »

Taken from the Midsomer Norton, Radstock & District Journal.

Could Railway plan for Radstock benefit from WECA funding?

www.mnrjournal.co.uk/article.cfm?id=116898&headline=Could%20Railway%20plan%20for%20Radstock%20benefit%20from%20WECA%20funding?&sectionIs=news&searchyear=2019

Suggested links to Westbury could be relevant to Trans Wilts? All rather speculative but thought it was worth posting.

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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2019, 11:51:10 am »

Suggested links to Westbury could be relevant to Trans Wilts? All rather speculative but thought it was worth posting.

Certainly worth posting, and a good chance to document 'passenger trains to Radstock' which (on looking around following your post) seems a bit thin on the Coffee Shop. Following is E&OE from me - please follow up / let me know of any corrections.

Background

Radstock is set in the bottom of a valley, largely continuous now with Welton / Midsomer Norton. Historically, a railway line ran along the valley - the Somerset and Dorset passing through on its way from Bath to Poole and Bournemouth. Another line, built as the Bristol and North Somerset Railway, ran from Bristol via Pensford and Radstock to join the Great Western main line from London to the West Country at Frome.  Radstock lost its passenger services in 1959 (Bristol to Frome) and 1966 (Bath to Bournemouth). Freight persisted until 1973; Radstock was at the heart of the Somerset Coal Field, with coal leaving via the line to Frome from Lower Writhlington, Braysdown and Writhlington collieries, to transport coal to Portishead power station.

Administratively and economically, Radstock is part of BaNES (Bath and North East Somerset) which is a part of WECA (West of England Combined Authority). It is 16 miles from Bristol; 10 miles from  Bath; 8 miles from Frome. Public transport if provided by buses, with the major flow being to Bath. Of the three places I mentioned, the travel flow to Frome is by far the lesser, as it's a much smaller town than Bath or Bristol, and is in Somerset (Mendip) which is not part of WECA.

The railway track from Radstock to Frome remains in situ, but could not just be re-opened overnight. See later. Restoration of the line via Pensford to Bristol would be, I think, impractical as the trackbed has been lost. Restoration to Bath would require Coombe Down and Devonshire tunnels - now re-opened as part of a walking and cycling route - to be re-assigned to rail, and there would be a question as to how Bath would be accessed once the trains descended from Devonshire Tunnel. More heavy engineering such as Tucking Mill viaduct might well need to be strengthened and certainly the recurring maintenance costs of a heavily engineered line would need to be taken into account.

So, it appears to me, the only feasible way of getting a rail service back to Radstock might be the line to Frome, ((see footnote added later)) even though it would take people initially in the opposite direction to the commonest desired destinations, travel to which would be somewhat indirect.  This is not necessarily a show stopper, but needs to be factored in; the commonest journey from Melksham by public transport is also to Bath ... and the train doesn't go in that direction, but never the less passenger numbers have done well.

Logistics - Radstock to Frome

Building works in recent years have cleared and redeveloped the old station site at Radstock, latterly known as Radstock West, but a limited facility could still be provided. But that station would most obviously be positioned at the bottom of a long incline, and still be on a gradient, which would require special measures and / or dispensations to meet modern standards.

I really doubt that the existing track would be serviceable for the first miles and it would need to be relaid; alongside the track is now a public footpath / cycleway and there are a few "pinch points" at which some work might be required to get all modes through. 

Near Mells / Great Elm, the operational freight line from Whatley Quarry joins the line and this has a significant traffic of heavy trains which is likely to persist. Knitting in the operation of the freight and the passenger service would require careful planning, and the presence of the freight would probably preclude some light rail options for the final miles into Frome.

The line passes close to the centre of Frome (right behind the Cheese and Grain community centre) where - from the town's viewpoint, a statin would be utterly logically placed; it then joins the loop off the Great Western / West of England line that services Frome, but in a direction 'away from' the current Frome Station. The first current station at which a passenger train from Radstock could reach without reversal is Westbury. A triangle to take a train direct from Radstock to the current From station could not realistically be restored, as it has been built on recently.

Much has been written about the problem of re-instating level crossings in Radstock ... indeed that would be a problem except that the proposal here is to a terminus some distance short of the crossing

Re-opening projects

Discussions of Steam Railway v heritage (diesel) v standard through running to the National network, or indeed a combination of these have gone on, with all sorts of different pulls.  Far from unique but the question really has been "why do we want a railway in Radstock"? However, I have been impressed by a lot of the work put in - though not following on a day to day basis; best to refer you to https://www.northsomersetrailway.com .

From Radstock, intermediate stations at Kilmersdon (home of Jack and Jill; you can walk up their hill), at Mells Road (passing loop and heritage base?), and at Frome (Cheese and Grain) - potential limit of heritage operation. On to Westbury. Question asked "would the train go beyond Westbury".  Maybe - there's logic in linking it in with MetroWest local train, for example. Question also asked about linking it with TransWilts. I'm inclined to think not; far better for the people from Radstock to be able to reach Bath and Bristol on a direct train, and far better for the people from Swindon and Chippenham to have a service to Salisbury and Southampton than to Radstock.


Edit to Add - Footnote

I have been reminded of another option to get passenger trains from Radstock.  Starting at the old Somerset and Dorset station an taking the trackbed towards Bath.  At Midford, this crosses the former Camerton Branch which could be taken tp Limpley Stoke to join the GWR line from there into Bath.  This also puts the track at Radstock into the valley bottom and allows potential extension, once level crossing and access over the heritage operation, through Midsomer Norton and possibly on as far as Shepton Mallett.

I am adding as an attachment a map to this post showing the layout of all the places and lines - huge thanks to Richard Fairhurst for his permission to use his maps in this wy / for out posts - Richard, your maps paint ten thousand words!
« Last Edit: January 24, 2019, 12:51:45 pm by grahame » Logged

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Lee
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« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2019, 12:21:50 pm »

Restoration to Bath would require Coombe Down and Devonshire tunnels - now re-opened as part of a walking and cycling route - to be re-assigned to rail, and there would be a question as to how Bath would be accessed once the trains descended from Devonshire Tunnel. More heavy engineering such as Tucking Mill viaduct might well need to be strengthened and certainly the recurring maintenance costs of a heavily engineered line would need to be taken into account.

So, it appears to me, the only feasible way of getting a rail service back to Radstock might be the line to Frome, even though it would take people initially in the opposite direction to the commonest desired destinations, travel to which would be somewhat indirect.

Sorry, grahame, but this is an incorrect assumption. An alternative route, deviating after Midford, and running via the old Camerton branch via Monkton Combe to join the Cardiff-Portsmouth route between Bathampton and Limpley Stoke has long been mapped out to enable some form of S&D reopening should it ever become truly feasible.

I have long advocated that a feasibility study should take place into opening at least Bath-Radstock/Midsomer Norton, and ideally through to Shepton Mallet. The development that has taken place over the intervening years along the corridor, along with the prospect of extending public transport back into a area of Somerset that is also growing but has been systematically stripped of public transport provision over the past decade, along with the obvious Parkway potential a station at Shepton would have, genuinely seems to add up to me to a real potential case for "Our Borders Railway".

That's not to say I'm against reopening Radstock-Frome though. However, for me the best bet for that route would be as an add on to the TWCIC-proposed Frome-Westbury-Devizes Parkway-Pewsey-Newbury-London route, thus giving a truly attractive new rail offering for our potential rail passengers that cant be as easily competed against.
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2019, 12:41:56 pm »

Sorry, grahame, but this is an incorrect assumption. An alternative route, deviating after Midford, and running via the old Camerton branch via Monkton Combe to join the Cardiff-Portsmouth route between Bathampton and Limpley Stoke has long been mapped out to enable some form of S&D reopening should it ever become truly feasible.

That makes sense ... in fact to much sense that one asks whey the heavily engineered route through the down was ever built (yeah, I know, competing companies)

Quote
I have long advocated that a feasibility study should take place into opening at least Bath-Radstock/Midsomer Norton, and ideally through to Shepton Mallet. The development that has taken place over the intervening years along the corridor, along with the prospect of extending public transport back into a area of Somerset that is also growing but has been systematically stripped of public transport provision over the past decade, along with the obvious Parkway potential a station at Shepton would have, genuinely seems to add up to me to a real potential case for "Our Borders Railway".

That's not to say I'm against reopening Radstock-Frome though. However, for me the best bet for that route would be as an add on to the TWCIC-proposed Frome-Westbury-Devizes Parkway-Pewsey-Newbury-London route, thus giving a truly attractive new rail offering for our potential rail passengers that cant be as easily competed against.

You bring the level crossing in Radstock back into play too ... but you do offer a potentially better service solution (taking people where they really want to go) at what would I suspect be a much higher initial investment.
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« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2019, 02:05:58 pm »

Whilst I can understand the desire of Radstock residents to have a railway, is it really a practical proposition. There can't be many people wanting to travel from Radstock to Frome. the existing small bus only runs every 2 hours and serves a number of villages on the way.  To Bath the journey time is likely to be around a hour, competing with a bus service offering 4 buses an hour taking 30 minutes.  Journey time to Bristol might just about be competitive with the hourly bus service taking 1 hour 20 minutes but still much slower then driving, even in the peak.
Lee's idea of a reopening and rerouting of the S & D sounds good but would involve a high capital cost with new links at Limpley Stoke and Midford required. The S & D bridge at Midford is still extant but a connection would be easier north of the village which would then require a new bridge.  At Radstock the old station site (Radstock North) and much of the track bed east of it has been redeveloped and it would be difficult to find a route through without extensive demolition.  Heading south there is a need for new bridges over Somervale Road (A362) and Silver Street. Whilst the former would be straightforward with regrading of the old track bed to its original levels, the latter would present more of a challenge as the original bridge had sub-standard headroom.  I have always said that there is an engineering solution to anything but the cost would be huge and would require a political will which currently is very much lacking in this country.  Personally I doubt that there will be passenger trains to Radstock within my lifetime.
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« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2019, 03:49:39 pm »

Putting my hard hat on (in more ways than one)...

I have considered how you get through the centre of Radstock without the need for a level crossing. What I bear in mind is that, at both the Shoscombe end, and at the Midsomer Norton end, the trackbed is elevated, so you would construct an elevated section through the centre of Radstock to link them up, thus avoiding the need for a level crossing. Starting from the Shoscombe end, you would unfortunately need to demolish some properties along the line of route in the Waterloo Road area. Whilst this would be regrettable and undoubtedly controversial, I'm not sure I'd use the term "extensive demolition" - certainly no more so than (say) the demolitions at Galashiels and Gorebridge on the Borders Railway were. Then on the elevated section above the site of the former S&D station you would build a single platform station accessed from the ground by fully-accessible lifts from a reconfigured public square that incorporates the current mining memorial, and would provide access to Radstock town centre, the new developments on the old GWR station site, and the Radstock Museum.

I completely agree with rogerw that there are some bridges, viaducts and other structures right along the route I've identified that will need to either be replaced or strengthened. There are other issues too - For example, I personally don't feel that getting through Wellow on the original alignment is likely to be feasible, so a diversion arcing south round the village is likely to be required, joining up with the old station site (which along with Masbury further on if we go to Shepton would have to be purchased) where I feel a passing loop could be ideally situated, thus allowing justification for reopening Wellow station to serve a local population that has very little in the way of other public transport provision.

Midsomer Norton heritage activities I feel could fit with a reopened S&D, providing and stabling the motive power and rolling stock to run the kind of heritage trains that are part of the overall Borders Railway offer. Let's face it, the one thing you cant say is there wouldn't be a market for it. It would also provide another potential passing loop.

If we go to Shepton, then the cutting at Chilcompton would have to be cleared, and there are obstructions elsewhere here and there, such as the infamous Binegar Bungalow. At Shepton itself, there would clearly need to be intense discussions in terms of where the station would be situated.

However, as rogerw says, there is an engineering solution to anything, and as far as I can see, pretty much all of the issues above can draw on potential solutions deployed by Network Rail when constructing the Borders Railway.

So to summarise, I'd have a line that service-wise would be an extension of MetroWest, which from Bath would call at Bathampton (if built by opening time), Wellow, Radstock, Midsomer Norton and potentially Shepton Mallet. As rogerw suggests, it will require substancial funding, at least as much as the Borders Railway and probably a fair bit more, and would indeed require the same level of political that the Scots somehow found, but has been sadly lacking in this part of the world over the same period.

It doesn't mean its impossible though, and I live in hope.
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rogerw
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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2019, 04:18:51 pm »

But you have longer to live (hopefully) than I have probably
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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2019, 08:10:53 pm »

It's good to see visionary thought ... for without such seed sewn nothing would even grow.  I think my triggering post this morning has sparked a useful review and discussion between us; I'm really not qualified / informed to balance between the options.  I am well enough informed (having seen rogerw last night) to know that there is a darned good prospect for Radstock in his lifetime, even though he rightly acknowledges the snail-like pace of anything rail!
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« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2019, 09:32:16 pm »

It certainly seems like the Radstock Frome Railway intends to start as a stand alone operation, as the opening line on their website cites:
"Our aim is to reintroduce in a safe and professional manner a railway operation between Radstock and Frome, providing the platform for the introduction of a community partnership passenger railway offering journey opportunities to the national passenger network".
It's perhaps symptomatic of the ambitions of the group that they put the link for the Midsomer Norton, Radstock & District Journal article on their Facebook page.

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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2019, 10:54:00 am »

I walked along the adjacent footpath in the Mells Area last summer. I was slightly surprised to note the vast amount of vegetation growth along and within the old trackbed including quite large trees. Perhaps not surprising since it is now about 40 years since the last rail movement. The track still exists in most places but a vast amount of gardening would be required to make the route remotely fit for any re-use.

I have noted elsewhere that Network Rail has allowed SUSTRANS (and/or Frome Missing Links - essentially a cycling group) volunteers to remove the track close to the (former) junction with the Whatley Quarry line. This is supposed to assist in completing the missing link cycle and footpath route into Frome and then beyond!

The Radstock revival scheme has good intentions but is always likely to suffer from the fact that the line does really go in the wrong direction for the major public service flows. In addition, any ambitions for a proper public service will likely be defeated by the challenges faced by every? heritage line over things like staffing, linespeed and regulation etc. etc.
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2019, 09:31:15 pm »

New video (or perhaps just come to my attention) ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zd4jlpcsHrI
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« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2020, 08:42:27 pm »

Facebook news - https://www.facebook.com/groups/599580693419023/permalink/2824555137588223/

6.2.2020
Quote
The Radstock to Frome Railway Trust had its 5th AGM on Saturday the 1st February at The Somer Centre, Midsomer Norton. Thanks to the members that came. There is nothing to report on the progress of the railway only that things seem very slow at the moment. The Trust urgently requires new trustees, Chairman or Chairwoman, secretary and others. If we cannot get more help The Trust may have to consider closing. Letís hope this does not happen and this line can be brought back to life.

That's followed by posts describing how no-one wants the responsibility of being a trustee

And 2 hours ago - https://www.facebook.com/groups/599580693419023/permalink/2867792936597776/

Quote
Dear Supporter,

To quote the late poet laureate Sir John Betjeman: "Railways are not a thing of the past and are bound to be used again".

As a co-founder of this Trust my interest in the Radstock to Frome Project has not diminished but my resolve for this has strengthened. In 21st century Britain the advantages of having a rail connection are clear to see; not only in reducing road congestion and air pollution,; but to something that is precious to us all, our time, the need to restore a secondary transport network and shorten commuter times has never been greater. As with the growth of the internet, the web of railway lines across the country help bring communities together.

We have one last opportunity to save the Radstock to Frome Railway and strongly suggest that we seize it while there still is time. This for me has never been about "playing trains', but to provide a useful transport link for the Norton/ Radstock catchment area. With this in mind; please could I encourage all local supporters of this railway project to get in contact with North East Somerset MP: Jacob Rees-Mogg, by letter, email, or attending one of his surgeries, expressing the advantages this community venture could bring to the area and why you feel it should happen.

If this railway project is lost, it will be lost forever. If the rails are lifted, the hopes of Norton/Radstock ever regaining a rail service in any form will be permanently consigned to history. I would be greatly saddened if the worst case scenario was to happen, and the lasting implications it would hold for the future.

Kind regards,

Terry Harris (co-founder of The Radstock to Frome Railway Trust)
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« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2020, 05:59:01 pm »

From Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/599580693419023/ -
North Somerset Railway & Radstock to Frome Railway Trust group

Quote
There is currently a real opportunity to reopen the railway from Radstock to the mainline at Frome. This means both business and leisure travel would be possible from Radstock and beyond. As part of the current application being put together by the not for profit NSR company. It would be helpful if you are interested in helping to move this project forward that you complete the attached survey

Many thanks

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/8TLVSQ6

I ... took a look at the start of the survey .... first question "would you use if for business", "would you use it for leisure" and I have to admit whilst I support the project, I don't need to go to Radstock very often and my honest answer would be "no" and "no" - just as it would be for so many other potential lines in the UK.   Doesn't make them any worse to support; just worries me that my answers from out of area to the survey would dilute their positives ...
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« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2020, 07:26:31 pm »

The issue in the locality seems to centre, as in so many places, about the choking road congestion that is an increasing blight countrywide. IMO the debate is if a rail link will alter people's work location choices as well as their means of getting there.
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« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2020, 03:55:33 pm »

The idea of Radstock to Frome is certainly interesting, but it does look like big dog leg via Westbury would make a trip to Bath take close to an hour. The current stoppers to Frome are getting on for 45 minutes. That puts Bristol at 70 minutes or more. That isn't competitive with the bus for Bath, at 25 minutes, although the bus to Bristol takes 1 hour 15 minutes according to the timetable, but has the unfortunate disadvantage of having to use roads.

Frome would definitely benefit from a new station by Cheese and Grain, which already has a nice big car park. It wouid only be acceptable, though, if it didn't bring with it  any dubious forms of black magic from the outside world. The chief evil of the age is without a doubt 5G, bringing with it Coronavirus, brain freezes, bad weather and probably locusts, according to the vocal band of leading local tin-foil wearers, PhD's in the subject to a man, woman or other.. A look at the internet shows that they are already reporting symptoms, long before the technology gets anywhere close, and that some are now worrying about their use of the mobile ohone technology they have been using for years. One chap from Bath actually earths himself with copper wire in bed. He doesn't say if he has researched interation with lightning, but we might found out one day.

A reinstatement of the BNS route to Bristol would be a much better idea, and still just about doable. Part of the bit between West Town Lane and Callington Road has been built on, but the wouldn't be a huge problem if there was a will - which sadly, there won't be.
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