Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Heritage Railway Association


  The Heritage Railway Association (HRA) is the co-ordinating body for heritage railways and tramways, railway museums and steam centres in the United Kingdom and Eire and has 245 member organisations. In 2004, our members in the UK attracted almost six million visitors who spent around £50 million. Heritage railways have over 400 miles of track with 302 stations and operated around 4.2 million passenger train miles. HRA members directly employed 1,330 staff and engaged the efforts of over 13,550 volunteers.

  HRA actively encourages the attainment of high standards across the sector through the publication of "Standards and Guidance Notes", the holding of seminars and the organisation of competitions and award schemes to promote excellence in all areas of the sector. HRA is a founder member of Fedecrail (The European Federation of Museum and Tourist Railways) which has members in 25 countries in Europe. Fedecrail, at its 2005 conference at Lyon, France, in May adopted the Riga Charter (copy attached as an Appendix to this submission) which seeks to encourage high standards of preservation, conservation and operation of Heritage Railways. HRA encourages its members to sign up to the Riga Charter and incorporate its standards into their operations.

  HRA is a Company Limited by Guarantee and is staffed entirely by volunteers. This response has been prepared by HRA Heritage Committee.

1.  What the Department for Culture, Media and Sport should identify as priorities in the forthcoming Heritage White Paper

  The fundamental needs are:

  1.1  Better and more widespread recognition across government of the value of heritage.

  1.2  Better recognition of the voluntary sector's contribution.

  1.3  Proper funding of English Heritage and local authorities to allow the successful delivery of their new responsibilities.

  1.4  Effective financial support for and liaison with Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) especially in enhancing the effectiveness of MLA's Renaissance in the Regions initiative.

  1.5  To be alert to unexpected consequences in the Heritage sector arising from legislation targeted elsewhere.

2.  The remit and effectiveness of DCMS, English Heritage and other relevant organisations in representing heritage interests inside and outside Government

  2.1  DCMS effectiveness: DCMS should raise the profile of heritage and its contribution to national life across Government. It should also ensure that the heritage policy and policies which affect the heritage are co-ordinated across Government departments. (See paragraph 1.5 above)

  2.2  Role of English Heritage: Several HRA member railways are responsible for Listed structures and welcome the continuing support of EH Field Officers to ensure that such structures are properly maintained and, where work is necessary, can be grant-aided by EH.

3.  The balance between heritage and development needs in planning policy

  3.1  "Heritage proofing" is needed in policy development and decisions over land use planning, new development, regeneration, and transport infrastructure. Ministers in each Department should report regularly, and at least annually, on progress.

4.  Access to heritage and the position of heritage as a cultural asset in the community

  4.1  Continue to emphasise the economic, social, educative, community and regenerative impacts which heritage projects can deliver.

  4.2  Facilitate the recruitment and engagement of volunteers in the sector. HRA members make extensive use of volunteers, from a wide range of social groupings, to operate their Railways, to welcome and care for visitors, and to engage with the communities in which the Railways are located. Heritage Railways are text book examples of voluntary community activity, providing learning and development opportunities which increase quality of life for the volunteers themselves and the public who enjoy the heritage opportunities they create and operate. Cost analysis, using for instance the HLF formula for calculating the value of volunteer input as partnership funding, shows that volunteers contribute many £ thousands to the local economy within which a Heritage Railway operates.

  4.3  Emphasise the importance of local significance. Items may have a particular local significance or prominence that should allow them to "punch above their weight" when being assessed.

5.  Funding, with particular reference to the adequacy of the budget for English Heritage and for museums and galleries, the impact of the London 2012 Olympics on Lottery funding for heritage projects, and forthcoming decisions on the sharing of funds from Lottery sources between good causes

  5.1  It has become blatantly obvious that English Heritage is grossly under funded, particularly in the light of its recently increased responsibilities and nil budget increase.

  5.2  The restriction on available funding for heritage because of money being transferred to Olympics 2012 is also alarming particularly since the Government's statement on the "important place of culture in the whole Olympic 2012 project" was made at a meeting at which heritage representation was notable by its absence. Not for the first time DCMS and the government seem to have interpreted Culture to virtually exclude heritage. It seems to be accepted that the Heritage of Great Britain and Ireland is one of the main attractions for inbound tourism and it is likely that this will apply even more so to visitors around 2012, yet the Government reduces support for heritage whilst at the same time increasing massively its support for Sport.

  5.3  The role of HLF is now fundamental, particularly to the Industrial & Transport Heritage sector. The National Lottery Consultation and the HLF consultation on the 3rd Strategic Plan are therefore critical.

  5.4  It appears that the principle of additionality is compromised by HLF augmenting funds which should properly resourced by central Government.

  5.5  VAT on repair and restoration as against new build distorts choice and increases the threats to heritage.

  5.6  The funding of Government-managed National Museums is directly from DCMS. It is over-stretched and should be strengthened to help those museums and, particularly, to encourage the National Museums to support museums, galleries and heritage suppliers in the Regions more effectively than their present funding allows.

  5.7  Accredited National Museums which are independent of Government funding (such as National Tramway Museum, National Motor Museum) and all other recognised heritage providers can be supported from DCMS via MLA and the Regional MLAs through Renaissance in the Regions. DCMS should ensure that this initiative spreads resources beyond the Hub museums to really benefit non-Hub museums, including the large numbers of Accredited independent museums/galleries and heritage providers like HRA members.

  5.8  MLA Partnership is a forum bringing together all the Regional MLACs—including SMC, CyMal and Northern Ireland—and this forum and the MLA—funded Special Subject Networks must support the independent, charitable and volunteer run heritage providers like HRA Members to ensure equitable funding, a coherent vision and consistency.

6.  What the roles and responsibilities should be for English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, local authorities, museums and galleries, charitable and other non-Governmental organisations in maintaining the nation's heritage

  6.1  The main role of government, in all its forms, should be to support the efforts of its citizens to improve their heritage. This means removing unnecessary restrictions, paperwork and "red tape" as well as providing support and funds for heritage projects that enhance the overall public heritage.

  6.2  Many heritage projects involve the use of "vintage" machinery and otherwise outdated skills. Encouragement to train in such skills and for the few existing practitioners to pass on their knowledge should be encouraged. Whilst regulatory powers need to be controlled and related to the risks peculiar to an individual heritage sector it is suggested that there needs to be more recognition and acceptance of the fact that old does not automatically mean unsafe and that use of heritage skills and equipment is not automatically dangerous to both practitioner and the public at large. A good example of such an acceptance of the use of old machinery and equipment is contained within Section H of the Railway Safety Principles and Guidance series which deals with heritage railways.

  6.3  Like all worthwhile interests, preserving and restoring heritage involves a certain amount of risk. An assessment of such risks is plain common sense but official guidance on making risk assessments should, when they are considered necessary, be prepared by persons who have a good knowledge of the heritage sector involved and who are prepared to seek advice where necessary. Procedures should be in place to ensure that those responsible for policing a particular heritage sector are trained to have a good understanding of what is involved.

7.  Whether there is an adequate supply of professionals with conservation skills; the priority placed by planning authorities on conservation; and means of making conservation expertise more accessible to planning officers, councilors and the general public

  7.1  The general level of skills in conservation and heritage in planning departments. and local councillors appears to be low. Expertise within the general public is more widely spread but is often concentrated in the older sectors. There is still a greater need for training and skills development. Most heritage railways have training programmes although these are often informal and driven by the needs of the particular railway. Several railways have taken on apprentices in an effort to pass on special skills to a younger generation however there is still a danger that specific skills may be lost—eg boiler work. HRA is working towards more consistent training standards but there is still a considerable way to go and problems to be solved, particularly where railways are operated either entirely or mainly by volunteers.

12 January 2006

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