Theresa Villiers MP, the minister of state for railways, was generous in her praise for the work of the railway heritage industry at a packed reception sponsored by the HRA in the House of Commons on Tuesday 21 June, at which she was guest of honour.
In her speech Ms Villiers highlighted the excellent work of heritage railways, saying that not only do they support their local communities financially, they are also superb tourist attractions in their own right.
She had special praise for the role of the volunteers who play such a crucial part in running them – an excellent example of the ‘Big Society’ in action.
Ms Villiers confirmed that following representations from Lord Faulkner of Worcester, President of the HRA, the Government had agreed that the statutory designation powers of the Railway Heritage Committee would be retained following the RHC’s abolition, and transferred to the National Museum for Science and Industry.
The event was hosted by Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough, home of the Great Central Railway.
She commended the work of the GCR, and its contribution to the regional economy:
“I have seen how the railway has brought benefits to my constituency at so many levels, and I can also see that my railway is part of a wider network under the umbrella of the Heritage Railway Association, which brings benefits to communities throughout the United Kingdom, way beyond those you might expect from a local business.”
Over 30 parliamentarians and representatives of more than 100 heritage railways from all over Great Britain attended.
In his speech, HRA President Lord Faulkner said that this was the first occasion that HRA members had been given the opportunity to meet their local MPs at an event in Parliament;
“A showcase for an industry which employs 2,000 people directly, engages a further 18,000 volunteers, carries 6.8 million passengers on 15 million passenger journeys, has a turnover of £84 million and contributes a staggering £579 million to the national and regional economy.”
He drew attention to the importance for heritage railways of the ministers’ decision to retain the RHC’s statutory powers;
“By agreeing to the new arrangements, they are helping to ensure that important items no longer needed on the national railway find new and appreciative homes in the heritage sector,” Lord Faulkner said.
In addition to thanking Theresa Villiers, he expressed his gratitude to the two ministers in the House of Lords who were present – Lord Taylor of Holbeach and Earl Attlee.
HRA Chairman, David Morgan, said:
“We are very grateful to Nicky and her colleagues for putting on this reception and giving our member railways the chance to meet their MPs in such splendid surroundings.
“We hope that the many members of both Houses who attended found the event useful in showing just how much the heritage railway movement is contributing to the British economy and society in general.”