SOMERSET County Council has been asked to support a possible Taunton–Minehead community rail service to offset the environmental damage caused by steam trains and which might otherwise lead to the closure of the West Somerset Railway.
Cllr Benet Allen, deputy leader of Somerset West and Taunton Council and secretary of Minehead Rail Link Group, is seeking a meeting with Cllr John Woodman, the county council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, to explore ways of making the controversial rail-link plans a reality.
In a letter to Cllr Woodman, Cllr Allen said he believed a regular commuter service would not only revive the West Somerset economy and benefit residents, but dramatically increase the heritage railway’s chances of survival.
In the letter, which has also been sent to local MPs and Transport Secretary Grant Shaps, Cllr Allen said: “People, including government, are scrutinising our carbon footprint and, with the WSR’s steam trains arguably being the largest carbon contributor of any organisation in West Somerset, we need to act quickly.”
Cllr Allen added that there had already been suggestions that heritage railways should reduce or abandon the use of steam engines, shunting them into scrapyards or museums with occasional use on special occasions.
“The important point here is that a community rail service could offset the environmental damage of the WSR steam trains by getting cars off the roads.
“In consequence, steam trains would be viewed in a more favourable light, and thus dramatically increase the railway’s chance of survival in increasingly carbon-conscious world.”
He told Cllr Woodman: “We are convinced that what we propose will not only invigorate West Somerset but could also guarantee the West Somerset Railway’s very existence.”
For the full report, buy tomorrow’s Free Press.