Buoyant Branch Lines
Railway branch lines in the South West of England are booming. Some of the reasons for the growth in passenger numbers are attributed to the cost of petrol or perhaps the “staycation” phenomena where people are having a holiday in the UK rather than abroad. There are also growth in local people using the services to travel around their local areas. An example of the popularity surge is the branch line from Truro to Falmouth where passenger numbers have increased by 60% since the introduction of a passing loop on the single track line. The service frequency has doubled to a half hourly schedule and this has encouraged more users to the line. Another line that has experienced passenger numbers rise steeply is the urban line to Severn Beach from Bristol. This has seen numbers increase bt 80% over the last three years. Developments like this should ensure that the network gets investment that it needs and infrastructure is put back to help provide a useful and reliable local alternative to the car and its fossil fuel usage. The passenger number over the last year has been 22% for Truro to Falmouth and 19% for the Severn Beach line according to Association of Train Operators (ATOC). This growth is typical of the other branch lines in the South West: St Ives has proved itself as an imporant park and ride service in the summer, the Newquay line has an increased service to allow travellers to the North Cornwall resort whilst Barnstaple and Exmouth are going from strength to strength with the Exmouth line having more than 1 million passenger journeys in a year. The future looks much brighter for the local railway services and a re-opening of a line to Portishead near Bristol has been announced for 2017. See £43 million link proposal.
Community Wind Power
Goran Wind Power starts to take shape. A community funded wind turbine in Cornwall is being built this week. Two community financed turbines are being erected by “Transition Gorran” backed by the local community. So many times are wind turbines rejected by local people for on-shore schemes it is refreshing to see a community getting behind the scheme to benefit from the profits when it comes on stream. Community Power Cornwall is helping in the finance of the scheme. Their website is here Community Power Cornwall, and they show a co-operative approach to their scheme as a Industrial and Provident Society. This is one of the many schemes where the community is determining their future by putting local resilience to the fore by generating their own sustainable and renewable energy.
Putting the Rails Back
The community is also intending to re-build a railway. The New Somerset & Dorset Railway is making gradual progress on putting some of a line back that used to link Bath with Bournemouth in the UK. They have a web site and intend to link up the two centres of population again one day. They are working on clearing some stations for future use. On this route there is also the fantastic preservation scheme at Midsomer Norton Station, in Somerset, (see here) and Shillingstone Station in Dorset (see Shillingstone Station). Both of the schemes are a small step to a much bigger and much needed sustainable future transport system.