Steam Trains Could Die Out Because of Government Crackdown on Coal, Heritage Railway Operators Warn
By Helena Horton
August 8, 2019 - The comforting chug of a steam train may be left in the past under government plans to crack down on coal, heritage railway operators have warned.
As the country moves towards a carbon-neutral future, officials plan to shut down every coal plant in the UK by 2025.
Members of the £400m steam train industry have said they face an "uncertain future" and have asked for government help, as they fear the coal price rises that will be caused by the plant shutdown will put them out of business.
Conservative councillor Thomas Smith, who drives a steam train in Norfolk said: "Every railway enthusiast needs to write to their MP, and create a big stink.
"Britain is burning so little coal now it's almost all gone from electric generation, time to tackle coal abroad and oil fuels at home..."
Graeme Bunker, who works on a steam train, added: "It’s the cost of fuel not the legislation. It also includes a lot of virtue signalling when their are much bigger issues to manage than folks with open fires in the shires. In cities I see the point, but in the country it won’t be popular."
Industry groups have said a drop in demand for coal could see supply drop in the same way, which has sparked fears that prices will rise.
Ian Crowder, from Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, told the BBC: "It's all very well the government gives us reassurances but those reassurances needs to be in legislation."
He said heritage railways were "an important tourism attraction for the UK" that bring in millions of visitors.
The steam train worker added that the amount of coal used by steam trains is negligible in terms of the UK's carbon footprint.
He said: "It’s the law of unintended consequences: no-one including government wants railways to be affected but if other coal use disappears that would be the effect. UK currently uses 12m tonnes coal pa - railways use just 26,000 tonnes pa".
A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: "Our policy of phasing out coal in our power system by 2025 will not restrict its use for heritage railways.
"They will be able to continue to source coal either through domestic suppliers or imports."