Steam locomotives at risk? NYMR Manager joins fight to stop coal ban

926 Repton
Credit: RailAdvent

North Yorkshire Moors Railway has announced that their General Manager, Chris Price, has joined the Heritage Railway Association’s (HRA) Board.

He will be working alongside board members and Stephen Oates, HRA CEO, to protect the future of heritage railways, coal and the future of steam in the UK.

The restrictions on domestic coal burning, proposed in the Government’s consultation on Clean Air Strategy published in January 2019, pose a significant threat to the future of heritage railways.

Steam locomotives are a vital part of the heritage offer, they are also the main attraction for 13 million visitors a year.

Direct earnings are £130 million annually and the railways generate some £400 million for the national economy.

There are a total of 158 operational heritage railways in the UK, which in total run over 562 miles. That is roughly the equivalent of the distance from London Euston to Mallaig Scotland on the national network.

Heritage railways operate 460 stations across the UK, the same number as Northern Rail.

Burning coal in the heritage railway sector produces a carbon output similar to approximately 300 single flights across the Atlantic and there are over 84,000 such flights across the Atlantic every year!

What did the officials say?

Chris Price, NYMR General Manager and HRA Director, said:

 “The UK still burns eight million tonnes of coal a year, but this is mainly in pulverised form for the power, steel and concrete industry. Sized and lumped coal is a tiny part of coal used in the UK. If, as they propose, DERA remove the need to produce coal for the domestic market, this will mean the heritage movement will be the only major user of lumped coal which could be too small a quantity to justify UK producers to maintain supply.”

“Our concern is that only two million tonnes of the eight million used in the UK is mined in this country and planning permissions are not being granted to either increase the size of these sites or open new ones.  UK coal will therefore die out and will be totally reliant on overseas markets which will increase our carbon output.

“We will be forced to buy coal abroad, predominately from Russia increasing our carbon output significantly as a result of the extra distance to transport the more expensive import.

“We would not choose to import coal from unknown international sources having worked closely with our domestic partners to ensure quality control in order to minimise carbon emissions.  Where possible NYMR use the best quality coal which ensures the coal is burnt as efficiently as possible therefore keeping emissions to the minimum

“Our HRA partners are committed to a variety of measures to improve steam locomotive efficiency and offset carbon emissions. Pre-heating of locomotive boilers with a ‘warming fire’ lit the day before use is widely used by many railways and this both reduces emissions from trying to raise steam too quickly and protects boilers from damage from rapid heating and expansion.”

In the House of Lords debate on heritage railways, Minister Lord Ashton said:

“We are working carefully to consider how we might achieve a successful balance between enhancing environmental and public health protection and ensuring that the UK’s heritage vehicle industry and indeed heritage houses that burn coal grates continue to thrive.”

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  • This whole clean air thing concerning Steam Locomotives is stupid. It’s the sheer amount of cars that are the main cause.

  • They can convert their engines to burn heavy oil, like what Union Pacific does, and many museum type short line operators do. (Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge, Southern Pacific, ect)

  • I have a friend with 6 yr old twins who are absolutely crazy about trains esp steam locomotives. We’re in the US unfortunately and can’t ride your wonderful heritage trains. But now that I’ve found your site I’ll make sure the boys can follow your news and enjoy the pictures. Thank you so much for keeping historic trains alive!!!

    • Thank you Lee for your feedback it is much appreciated.

      We will be adding more pictures of our travels on the heritage railways later this year, so keep an eye out for them in addition to our usual pictures.

      Regards,

      Michael