Monthly Archives: March 2015

Institute of Railway Studies seminar 20 May …

The Institute of Railway Studies, a partnership between the National Railway Museum and the University of York, is pleased to announce the re-start of its seminar series.

The first seminar will be held at the National Railway Museum, in the Duchess of Hamilton suite at 2.00-4.00pm on Wednesday 20 May 2015. The event is free, but ticketed. To get your ticket please click here or visit:

Our speakers are three of our current PhD students:

  • Hannah Reeves, “Women and the railway family, 1900 – 1948”
  • Thomas Spain, “’Food Miles’: Food Transport Distribution in Britain, 1920-1975”
  • Alison Rees, “Home on the rails: the Design, Fitting and Decoration of Train Interiors in Britain, c.1920-1955”

There will be opportunity for discussion and questions at the end of each 20 minute paper. Refreshments will be provided.

For more information on the IRS, please visit the website:

For information on how to get to the museum, please click here. Any questions or queries regarding the event, please email:

Kind regards

Karen Baker
Knowledge and Collections


National Railway Museum
Leeman Road
YO26 4XJ

t +44(0)1904 685745
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A member of the Science Museum Group
The Science Museum Group consists of:            

Science Museum, London
Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester
National Railway Museum, York and Shildon
National Media Museum, Bradford

Set Our Cities Free …

The Times leader, 10 February 2015

The political and economic case for devolution of powers is strong

Where Scotland led, Britain’s biggest cities are following. Not to independence, but towards radical devolution that their leaders claim is the key to a sustainable increase in growth. This claim is untested, but worth testing. The political case for devolution to the country’s ten “core cities”, as they call themselves, is even more compelling. The Scottish devolution promised at the time of last year’s referendum demands nothing less.

Britain is the most centralised advanced economy in the world. Central government’s share of total public spending is twice as large as in France and nearly four times that of Germany. Just 3 per cent of taxes are raised locally. In Liverpool, 95 per cent of public money spent is channelled through Whitehall. There, and in every other conurbation, too much tax is wasted.

The central proposition of yesterday’s cities’ summit in Glasgow was to use a deal already struck between Whitehall and Manchester as a model for up to nine more similar deals, from Leeds and Liverpool to Newcastle and Glasgow. Clusters of city councils, headed by elected mayors, would raise and spend more taxes locally. If Danny Alexander has his way, these taxes could include stamp duty, worth up to £7 billion.

This scheme would go beyond the “northern powerhouse” promised by the chancellor and entail a fundamental shift of power away from Westminster. It would improve local accountability. It could boost growth and cut waste. Most importantly, it would help to meet the requirements of fairness after the referendum in Scotland. Devolution there may save the Union but it will create a chronically imbalanced system of government. William Hague’s proposals for an English veto on English-only issues are unlikely to be the last word on the subject. Reviving our great regional cities by easing the dead hand of central government can only help.

The “devo met” scheme floated at the cities’ summit was pitched as a homage to the barons who presented Magna Carta to King John 800 years ago. In reality it is a cautious return to serious reform of regional government after the more recent failure of less serious efforts. In the 1980s, Ken Livingstone and Derek Hatton made city government in Britain a byword for militancy and political corruption. A decade later, new Labour’s misconceived plans for regional assemblies were greeted by voters with indifference.

The Manchester model is more auspicious, for three reasons. It is economics-led, based on the theory that public money is a better stimulus if pooled and spent locally than handed out by central government which usually fails to co-ordinate its efforts. It has had cross-party support from the start, notably from Sir Richard Leese, the Labour council leader, and Greg Clark, the Conservative minister for universities, science and cities. And it is incremental, with money and power ceded by Whitehall gradually and on merit.

The deal agreed last year means a modest extra £1 billion for Manchester to spend on local transport and services by 2017. Similar devolution to all ten of the country’s biggest conurbations would mean the transfer of about £14 billion in the short term but could, they claim, add £222 billion to national GDP by 2030. Such figures may prove fantastical but it is clear that too many British cities are failing to fulfil their potential. It is time for Whitehall to let go.

Cardiff maps out new place in world …

  • The proposed network

A crossrail for Cardiff, the guarantee of sub-90-minute fast trains to London and a roadshow to attract the world’s sovereign wealth funds feature in plans to put the Welsh capital at the heart of one of the pre-eminent regions in the UK.

With Britain’s largest cities fighting for Westminster’s attention and investment and demanding their own revenue-raising powers from corporate and property taxes, business and community leaders in and around the Welsh capital today will unveil their plan to rebrand themselves Cardiff Capital Region.

As with Manchester and the development of the so-called northern powerhouse, transport and travel connections are at the centre of Cardiff’s pitch.

In a plan that it equates with the capability of Crossrail to unlock chunks of the London economy, Cardiff Capital Region envisages a blueprint to interlink the old communities of the Welsh Valleys through the city to the developments of Cardiff Bay.

The plans will build on the £500 million electrification of the Valley Lines railway and push the adoption of a proposed Metro network interconnecting light railway and tram systems within Cardiff and beyond. The idea is that no part of the ten local authorities that will make up Cardiff Capital Region will be more than 40 minutes away from the city centre and all at the touch of an Oyster-style travel smartcard.

Connections out of the region need to be brought into the 21st century, too, says the region’s prospectus Powering the Welsh Economy, which is demanding journey times between the Principality and London be cut from two hours, longer than the journey time in the 1980s, to under 90 minutes, and for direct rail connections into Heathrow.

It also calls for Cardiff to get a proper international air terminal from its existing airport, which can handle the biggest aircraft like the double-decker A380.

Roger Lewis, Cardiff Capital Region’s chairman, believes that such investment will be attractive to the sovereign wealth funds. Qatar investment funds are already behind the development of the huge liquefied natural gas terminal in Milford Haven, west Wales, and the gas pipeline into the UK. It is understood that Mr Lewis and his colleagues have had talks with overseas funds.

The prospectus envisages booting up the south Wales digital economy and investing in 21st-century skills via the region’s three universities. Mr Lewis said: “Transport connectivity is the transformational catalyst for change. It is what will help attract jobs and skills.

“South Wales, with its iron ore and coal, was at the beating heart of the industrial revolution, but we largely missed out on the second industrial revolution [of mass industrialisation and electrification in late Victorian times].

“Now we are experiencing the third industrial revolution and the Cardiff Capital Region intends to be at its heart.”