World-class railway museum proposed for Leicester
PROPOSALS for a world-class heritage railway museum in Leicester have been announced by the Great Central Railway (GCR).
Working in partnership with Leicester City Council and the National Railway Museum in York, the organisation hopes to create a brand new attraction close to the GCR’s Leicester North station that would tell the story of how the railways helped Leicester become a thriving industrial city.
The new museum – housing locomotives, carriages and other railway artefacts from the national collection – would attract tens of thousands of people every year.
A series of exhibition halls and galleries would have direct access to the GCR’s track, allowing engines and rolling stock to move in and out of the museum – and allowing visitors to get close to the exhibits and experience the day-to-day workings of a heritage railway.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to create a heritage railway centre of national standing in Leicester.
“The museum would house items which are of both national importance and local interest, complementing the nearby National Space Centre and Abbey Pumping Station and helping to enhance the city’s reputation as an important visitor destination.
“It would also create hundreds of new jobs, both during construction and on opening, while providing training opportunities in the rail industry for dozens of young people.
“We welcome this proposal and look forward to working with the Great Central Railway to help them deliver this ambitious project.”
A full business plan is now being developed, but it is expected that work on the £10 million project could begin within two years, with the centre opening to the public in 2017.
Managing Director of the Great Central Railway Bill Ford said: “We are delighted to announce our plans for a new museum in Leicester.
“After working closely with our partners to develop the concept, we will now be working up the details in a full business plan and identifying potential sources of funding.
“The railways played a huge role in establishing Leicester as a major industrial force, opening up vast export markets for goods made in the city.
“This attraction will bring together priceless locomotives and historical artefacts to tell that story in a way that will appeal to both railway enthusiasts and to anyone with an interest in the city and its heritage.”
Many of the items for the museum would come from the National Railway Museum, which holds one of the largest collections of its type in the world.
Its main base in York is already supplemented by a second collection at Shildon in County Durham.
“The prime objective of the National Railway Museum is to ensure that the national collection is properly cared for and is accessible to the public,” said Paul Kirkman, Acting Director of the National Railway Museum.
“However, much of our collection is in store, out of sight of the public, or dispersed across various sites due to a lack of space.
“This new centre in Leicester, ideally situated in the heart of the country, would make it possible for us to share more of our historic artefacts with a much wider audience.”
The project’s joint working party is now preparing detailed proposals ahead of its applications for funding and planning permission.
It is estimated that the project would create around 100 new jobs in construction, with around 50 full-time posts required to run the new attraction.
The Great Central Railway attracts 120,000 visitors each year. Running for eight miles through Leicestershire, its southern terminus at Leicester North is a strategically important tourist gateway to the city.
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