North Yorkshire Moors (NYMR) General Manager, Chris Price, has joined the Heritage Railway Association’s (HRA) Board. He is driven to work alongside his fellow board members and Stephen Oates, the HRA CEO, to protect heritage railways, coal and the future of steam in the United Kingdom.  

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

Steam trains are an essential part of the heritage offer and are the principal attraction for 13 million visitors a year. Direct earnings are £130 million annually and the railways generate some £400 million for the national economy. 

An important source of employment and skills training, particularly in rural areas, 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.

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.”

Evidence from HRA and the Heritage Fuels Alliance indicated that a total of around 35,000 tonnes of coal is used annually by heritage railways , and other coal fired applications, including steam boats, traction and pumping engines, steam lorries, cars and model locomotives, as well as static applications such as blacksmiths’ forges and the grates of stately homes and museums.

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!

90% of coal for British heritage railways currently comes from four British opencast sites, which represents less than .5% of all the coal burnt in the UK. The total lumped coal requirement across the country represents less than 2% of the UK’s annual requirement.

Chris continues: “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.”

The NYMR is also actively pursuing options that meaningfully offset our carbon use.

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.”

In his new role as HRA Director, Chris is focused on supporting the organisation in leading open discussions with the heritage sector, suppliers, DEFRA, Ministers and Digital, Culture, Media & Sport MP the Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP. In order to identify a long-term sustainable approach to heritage coal supply, with a domestic first policy.

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For further information please contact Gough Bailey Wright on 01527 579 555

Louise Iles – PR Account Director: [email protected]

Paige Wright – PR Account Executive: [email protected]

Notes for editors

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is an award-winning charitable trust that carries 300,000 unique passengers every year. It is Britain’s most popular heritage railway and is one of the best visitor attractions in the North East.

The NYMR trust relies heavily on donations and the work of its many volunteers. The 180-year old railway needs to raise £1million by 2022 so its railway bridges and its 50-100-year-old vehicles can remain viable.

  • The NYMR cares for operating and developing the railway it owns from Pickering to Grosmont.
  • The heritage railway operates over Network Rail from Grosmont to Whitby.
  • The charity provides a high quality, safe and authentic evocation of the steam age for the public.
  • The NYMR is an Educational Charitable Trust. Providing education for all ages.
  • The railway is a fully accredited museum.