Environmental Bill Debate- Heritage Fuels Appeal

On Monday 7th June the House of Lords debated the Environment Bill. The Hansard report details this here.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester stated:

“I am happy to support what the Government are doing in this Bill, and I do not dissent at all from their wish to improve the natural environment and air and water quality. It is entirely appropriate that there should be legislation to bring about the necessary changes…However, such a policy brings with it a danger of unintended consequences. Had a ban on coal burning extended beyond domestic consumption, it would have wiped out almost overnight the entire heritage steam sector: coal-burning railway locomotives on conserved lines and main lines, traction engines, steamrollers, industrial museums, steamboats, pumping stations and traditional fires in historic houses.

Two years ago, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heritage Rail—I declare an interest as one of its vice-chairs and also as president of the Heritage Railway Association—was sufficiently alarmed to conduct an inquiry into the requirement of heritage railways for coal and the future of steam locomotives in the United Kingdom. The group’s report concluded that steam trains are an essential part of the railway heritage offer and are the principal attraction for visitors. There is no practical alternative to the use of coal for steam locomotives on Britain’s heritage railways. The economics of heritage railways are fragile, and they would lose most of their unique appeal if they were unable to run steam trains. Such a loss would result in redundancy among paid staff, a restriction in operations, and a smaller sector.

It is worth recalling that, in normal times, these railways attract 13 million visitors, provide 4,000 jobs, with 22,000 active volunteers, and have a £400 million positive impact on the national economy. The impact on local tourism economies where heritage railways are located, particularly in rural areas, is immense. They also provide training and apprenticeships in a wide range of skills and disciplines. In remote areas, such as north Wales, they are already contributing to the levelling-up agenda. The value of the wider sector, which embraces steam road vehicles, ships and boats, is also considerable. It, too, contributes to local economies and offers training, education and apprenticeships. The same goes for engineering museums and historic houses.

I understand why the Government are ending coal-fired power generation by 2025, and I support the restrictions on domestic coal burning proposed in the Government’s consultation on the clean air strategy. I also welcome Ministers’ repeated assertions that the heritage sector is excluded from the proposals in the Bill. They are right to do so, bearing in mind that the quantity of coal used by the entire sector is no more than about 35,000 tonnes a year—the amount burned each day by the Drax power station before it was converted to biomass. Clearly the risk to public health is tiny.”

Lord Faulkner of Worcester’s full speech can be found here.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park stated:

“The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, mentioned heritage rail. I enjoyed a passionate conversation with him recently, and he really made the case for the exemption. The Government are very confident, as am I, that heritage railways will continue to operate, because although our electricity systems will no longer rely on coal, it can still be used by a range of industries that need it. The decision on where to source coal is, obviously, a matter not for the Government but for the companies involved.”

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