Heritage Railways and Tramways (Voluntary Work) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:10 pm on 15 July 2022.

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Photo of The Earl of Shrewsbury The Earl of Shrewsbury Conservative 1:10, 15 July 2022

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, on securing his Second Reading debate today, and for giving me the opportunity to put on a tie for the first time in six weeks, with my arm in a sling—quite a difficult one.

I support the noble Lord’s Bill, and I shall be very brief in doing so. I am a Staffordshire man born and bred, and I declare an interest as a deputy lieutenant of that county. That is why I am speaking: close to where I live on the edge of the Staffordshire Moorlands, we have a fine example of a heritage railway. The Churnet Valley Railway is a preserved standard gauge heritage railway, originally opened in 1849, which runs from Leekbrook to Froghall in north Staffordshire. A further branch line runs to Cauldon Lowe, where it used to service my former quarries at Cauldon. I believe that that line is one of the earliest light freight lines still in existence in the UK.

The Churnet Valley Railway is a vibrant and popular tourist attraction; I have taken my grandchildren on it many times. It is a truly magical attraction running through a beautiful hidden valley. Originally, it went to my former old family home, Alton Towers, in what is known as the Rhineland of England. But this excellent and spectacular railway, preserving a sizeable chunk of north Staffordshire’s rich history, would not exist if it were not for the volunteers who run it and make it happen. They are all great enthusiasts, and I congratulate them. However, such ventures must be able to attract the younger generation, both boys and girls, as enthusiastic volunteers to be trained up in a wide variety of skills if the railway is to have a vibrant future.

Finally, I make a small plea to my noble friend on the Front Bench. These railways rely on a supply of coal to drive their steam engines. Would she please try to ensure that coal will still be able to be sourced from the South Wales Coalfield for this purpose?

Therefore, I am delighted strongly to support the noble Lord’s Bill, and I wish him a fair head of steam in his endeavours to steer it through the parliamentary process.