Seeing the light

LEICESTERSHIRE County Council’s magnificent and visionary gesture of buying a million shares in the Great Central Railway is not just an endorsement of the success of Britain’s only double-track heritage trunk railway, but of the entire movement.

This magazine has said for many years that the GCR’s position in central England makes it a perfect choice to become akin to an operating arm of the National Railway Museum, Loughborough’s excellent road and rail connections placing it within fairly easy reach of a huge slice of the population.

Two other local authorities have been supporting the GCR for many years, and the county council coming on board with a magnanimous gesture like this makes for a dream team to help ensure that not only the Loughborough gap is finally bridged, but also the planned museum at Leicester North is a resounding success.

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Elsewhere this month, several other decisions have shown that the cautious or in some cases downright negative NIMBY attitude of the powers that be towards heritage railways now appears to be consigned to history.

The Colne Valley Railway, which not so long ago was facing extinction, has just been given full planning permission to redevelop its site and expand towards the east. Now the only hurdle that remains is the outcome of a Lottery bid.

The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway has been given the green light to rebuild more of the original line.

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The L&B is the giant in waiting as far as West Country tourist attractions are concerned: last year it carried 48,000 passengers over just a mile of track. Averaging mile for mile, does that place it at the top of the heritage railway league table, I wonder?

Once a sizeable length is completed, the revived L&B will do for Devon what the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways have done for Snowdonia.

I recall that in our very first issue, we reported the far-sighted decision of the then transport secretary, John Prescott, to overrule the findings of a planning inspector to give the reinstatement of the Welsh Highland the all clear. Locals had whinged about the prospect for years – now they never look back.

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Furthermore, even the Southwold Railway revivalists, whose commendable schemes at Wenhaston station have been refused permission, were at last given the go-ahead to develop a base in the resort from which the legendary 3ft gauge line takes its name. About time too.

Local authorities now see the multiple benefits that heritage railways bring, at no cost to the taxpayer.

Tourism apart, they provide a unique and priceless educational resource, along with revenue from all sorts of community events.

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I look forward to the day when Flying Scotsman runs regular main line charters into Ruddington station and Leicester North, even if the GCR is not planning a landing place for the helicopter that has been engaged to take pictures of lineside trespassers from the air.

In this year of the 140th anniversary of his birth, what would Sir Nigel Gresley have made of his most famous locomotive having to be followed from the air?

It is being said that the vast majority of trespassers are not regular enthusiasts, but members of the public who assume that because of the engine’s celebrity status, it is okay to ignore fences and safety barriers to gawp as it passes.

We support any initiative by British Transport Police to bring trespassers to court, if only to set an example to others. The law that applies to enthusiasts must be equally applied across the board, for lives are at stake here.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it, and there is no need to trespass.

Whenever I have ventured out to photograph Flying Scotsman or any other locomotive, I have always managed to find a legal vantage point regardless of crowds.

Robin Jones, Editor

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