Rail Minister Launches Railway Heritage Consultation Paper

By Caroline Lewis | 03 June 2008
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photo of a period lamp post in front of a freight carriage

The paper seeks to extend the scope of the Railway Heritage Committee in preserving our railway past. Picture shows Monkwearmouth Station. © Tyne and Wear Museums

The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation looking at how best to preserve the story of British railways.

Rail Minister Tom Harris MP has published proposals to ensure historically significant artefacts are better protected by extending the scope of the Railway Heritage Committee (RHC), which works to safeguard Britain's railway heritage.

The minister is now urging those with an interest in rail heritage to give their views on the proposals.

"Last year saw record numbers of journeys on the rail network," said Rail Minister Tom Harris. "We are focussing on how we can meet growing demand in the years to come but it is important that we carry on protecting the past so that future generations can see how far the industry has come."

Photo of a display case with a railway guard's cap in it

Proposals in the consultation paper include appointing an archivist at the RHC. Picture shows archive at the National Railway Museum. © NRM

The role of the RHC, in action since 2005, is to designate records or artefacts relating to railways which are of sufficient interest to warrant preservation.

Some of its actions have included the designation of a memorial plaque to Henry West, who lost his life at Reading Station in 1840, as well as train nameplates to honour the famous engineer IK Brunel and the comedian and travel writer Michael Palin. These are amongst a range artefacts that are now protected by statute, many of which can be seen at the National Railway Museum in York.

The proposals aim to allow the RHC to work with all railway organisations to ensure that more artefacts are secured and protected in this way. They also look at options for the RHC to cover railway related bodies not included in previous legislation, like the British Transport Police, Transport for London and the Rail Safety and Standards Board.

A photo of a steam locomotive

Oliver Cromwell hauled the very last steam-powered train on British Railways, and is now at the National Railway Museum. © NRM

If accepted, the RHC will be able to use its powers to safeguard aspects of the heritage of all of these bodies.

Another proposal is for an archivist to be recruited by the RHC, to help collate and interpret pieces of our railway past.

"I encourage everyone with an interest in rail heritage to respond to the consultation so that we can better secure the artefacts and records of rail history," said Tom Harris.

The consultation paper, 'Updating the scope and membership of the Railway Heritage Committee', was published on June 3 2008. It is available on the DfT website. The consultation runs until September 5 2008.

The RHC is an executive member of Non Departmental Public Body, sponsored by the DfT. It was created in 2005 under the Railway Heritage Act 1996 (as amended). See www.railwayheritage.org.uk for more information about its work.

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