The Railway Heritage Committee has the function of designating records and artefacts (or classes of record and artefact) which are historically significant and should be permanently preserved.
The Committee also has the function of agreeing which institution shall hold those records and artefacts so designated when no longer required by the railway business that owns them and the terms under which they shall be offered to such institution.
The Committee will seek to identify records worthy of designation amongst those held within the railway business.
It will seek to identify artefacts for designation by canvassing museums and other bodies for information on the items on the railway that have a historical significance and by keeping abreast of the developments on the railway.
The Committee has set criteria to judge the historical significance of any item considered for designation. These criteria include:
- The type of record and activity recorded – with an emphasis on recording policymaking and implementation, organisational structure, publicity and operational aspects of the railway.
- The uniqueness of the artefact and its ability to represent and evoke the operation of the railway and its social impact.
In agreeing which institution will hold the record or artefact, the Committee has set for the institutions criteria that aim to ensure the long-term safety of the items and to maintain the integrity (as far as possible) of current collections of railway records and artefacts.
The Committee will be as open as possible in its decisions, using the set criteria as fairly as possible and maintaining records that are accessible to any interested party.
The Committee is helped in its work by three Sub-Committees that consider the case for designation of records in England, Scotland and Wales; artefacts in England and Wales; and (mainly) artefacts in Scotland. All decisions on designation, agreement to proposals to dispose and (where appropriate) direction will be made by the full Committee based on recommendations made by the Sub-Committees.
Committee Status and Remit
The Railway Heritage Committee is established under the terms of The Railway Heritage Scheme Order 2005, authorised by the Railway Heritage Act 1996 (as amended by the Transport Act 2000 and the Railways Act 2005). The Committee’s powers extend to the following organisations:
- The British Railways Board (‘the Board’). [Since deleted]
- Any wholly-owned subsidiary of the Board. [Since deleted]
- Any company which was formerly a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Board.
- Any publicly-owned railway company.
- Any company which was formerly a publicly-owned railway company.
- The Secretary of State.
- Any company which is wholly owned by the Secretary of State.
- Any franchisee, and
- Any franchise operator.
Additionally, following passage of the Railways Act 2005, the Secretary of State now has the power; after consultation and by order made by statutory instrument, to add a body or description of body to the list shown above.
The Railway Heritage Committee’s principal remit is:
- To designate railway records or artefacts or sufficient interest to warrant preservation and to notify the owners accordingly.
- To agree with whom designated records or artefacts should be offered for disposal.
- To agree the terms of disposal.
This arrangement amends that laid down under the Railways Act 1993, Section 125. (This in turn replaced a rather different arrangement established under the Transport Act 1968, Section 144 – which had long since been overtaken by events.) An Advisory Panel on the Disposal of Historical Records met once or twice a year between 1984 and 1994.
The Railway Heritage Committee is established by statute to secure the preservation of evidence which is significant to the railway’s history.
Formally, the committee must meet at least once a year. Normal practice, however, is to meet every three months.
Designations are made by the Committee and may relate to individual items, or to classes of item – eg types of record. It is also permissible to use the latter method to designate, say, a class of locomotives that is still in service – with a view to a good example being earmarked for preservation when it comes to be withdrawn. (To earmark one particular example at too early a stage could lead to problems were it to be involved in an accident, for instance.)
Formal designation is not the only procedure available to the Committee: it can often be more appropriate to enter into an agreement with the body concerned.
Minutes, together with records of designations and directions, are available for public inspection by appointment with the Secretary.