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POTENTIAL DISBANDMENT OF COMMITTEE?

Posted on 02.11.2010

Speaking after the Government’s announcement about the reform of public bodies on the 14th October, the acting Chairman of the Railway Heritage Committee, Peter Ovenstone said:

“The Government has announced the abolition of the Railway Heritage Committee which has served the rail industry for the last 14 years, continuing the work of identifying railway records and artefacts for preservation, started by British Railways over 60 years ago.

“The Committee has met and confirmed its willingness to work proactively with Government, the rail industry, and the heritage and archiving sectors, during the winding down process, to see how the heritage of the modern rail industry can best be protected for the future.

“The strong support given to RHC by the rail industry – both pre- and post- privatisation – has emphasised the continued awareness of and pride within the industry of the value of its heritage.”

Notes to Editors:

1. The Railway Heritage Committee was established by the Railway Heritage Act, 1996, and took over from the British Railways Board the role of designating historic railway artefacts and records. When no longer wanted by rail companies, the Committee can direct their disposal for safe keeping, including to the National Railway Museum, heritage railways and to local museums and archives.

2. The RHC is a Non Departmental Public Body with 14 members drawn from the rail industry, heritage railways, the National Museum of Science and Industry, the National Archives of Scotland and includes other members with expertise in conservation and archiving. The Chairman and members of the Committee and its specialist sub-committees are all unpaid and the Committee has for many years operated with a paid staff of one, the Secretary.

3. During its life, it has designated over 1,000 artefacts and many thousands of important historical records - including the Brunel drawings of the Great Western Railway, some still in use as working documents today; the collection of British Transport Films; paintings by Terence Cuneo; coaches from the Royal Train; a travelling post office sorting van; and the GNER archive. Since 2006 the railways owned by the Ministry of Defence have also been within the Committee’s scope and a number of important artefacts have been designated as a result, including a coach used as a mobile hospital during World War One.

4. The National Archive at Kew contains the records of BR, but does not accept the records of private companies for safe keeping, and the challenge will be to safeguard the key archives and records of the railway industry which will be invaluable to future historians.

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