Historic Locomotive Faces Potential Ban as Rail Watchdog Pushes for Central Locking, Sparking Controversy.
The iconic Flying Scotsman is facing the possibility of being banned from mainstream rail lines due to demands for the update of its carriage door locks.
According to reports, new regulations imposed by the rail watchdog require historic locomotives, including the 100-year-old Flying Scotsman, to have central locking for improved safety. Currently, the doors of the Flying Scotsman are locked and unlocked using traditional bolts.
Train authorities are resisting pressure from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to modernize the carriage doors with a central locking system. The ORR argues that centrally-controlled locking systems prevent passengers from opening doors when the platform is too short, as reported by The Daily Telegraph. The upgrade is estimated to cost over £1 million. West Coast Railways, considering the presence of stewards manning the doors on its charter trains at all times, views the modernization as unnecessary. With an exemption from regulations expiring soon, West Coast Railways is seeking a judicial review, as stated in a report on the newspaper's website.
The Flying Scotsman, owned by the National Railway Museum in York, recently celebrated the centenary of its first journey on February 24 this year. It is scheduled to travel throughout the country for events in the upcoming months, allowing people the opportunity to witness this famous engine and participate in its anniversary.
Railway enthusiasts expressed surprise and bewilderment on Twitter regarding the demand for central locking. Some questioned whether a locomotive of such great historical value could be treated as a protected structure, exempt from alteration. Others remarked that the Flying Scotsman had endured for so long without these locks, dismissing the need for them.
The Flying Scotsman gained fame by setting records, including hauling the first non-stop London to Edinburgh service in 1928 and becoming the UK's first locomotive to officially reach a speed of 100mph six years later. After covering over two million miles, the 70ft locomotive retired from regular service in 1963. It changed ownership among steam preservation enthusiasts before becoming a working exhibit at the National Railway Museum in 2004. Despite its initial construction cost of just £7,944 in 1923, significant investments have been made to preserve the Flying Scotsman.
An ORR spokesperson stated that a regulation prohibiting organizations from operating rolling stock with hinged doors for fare-paying passengers without centrally locking them in a closed position was implemented on January 1, 2005. Exemptions from this regulation have been granted on a case-by-case basis. However, ORR has recently decided not to grant West Coast Railway Company Limited (WCRC) an exemption, leading WCRC to challenge this decision through legal means. ORR intends to defend against this claim.
Lord Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail and chair of the National Railway Museum Advisory Board, emphasized that the Flying Scotsman is a cherished part of the national collection and clarified that the challenge presented by West Coast Railways regarding door safety for older carriages will not prevent the Flying Scotsman from operating on the mainline during its centenary year. The locomotive will use other compliant coaches equipped to prevent passengers from falling off trains. Hendy reassured the public that the future of the Flying Scotsman on the railways is secure, as it remains an enduring symbol of British engineering.