MEMBERS of heritage railways are due to meet with Senedd Members to discuss the threat to their future from moves to end coal mining. 

The railways operate steam trains that are dependent on coal to power the engines while they have also been hit by rising disel prices.

However both the UK and Welsh governments are committed to no longer extracting coal from the ground and the last Welsh supplier, the Ffos-y-Fran opencast site in Merthyr Tydfil, is due to close this year. 

It has been supplying bituminous coal to Welsh Heritage Railways, which among others includ Railway, Welsh Highland Railway and Bala Lake Light Railway and attracts over 1.2 million visitors each year. 

The war in Ukraine has also placed further pressures on the sector with Russia having been a significant supplier of coal.

In March the Llangollen Railway said it would stop buying Russian coal to power its steam engines and would have to revise its spring timetables due to supply issues.

Tuesday’s meeting at the Senedd has been organised by Dwyfor Meirionnydd MS, Mabon ap Gwynfor, and is described as a chance for representatives of Heritage Railways across Wales to explain to members the difficulties they are facing. 

The Plaid Cymru member said: “All of us, including this sector, wish to see more done to tackle the climate emergency and burn less fossil fuels. However steam engines run on steam coal. 

“If we wish to see this sector continue in the future, and we wish to celebrate our great Welsh heritage, we must make suitable low-emissions bituminous lump coal available to Heritage Railways. 

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“Every other sector and mode of transport has a transitional period in order for society to transition from fossil fuel to a more renewable source of fuel. But this isn’t the case with the Heritage Rail sector.  

“They’ve not had an opportunity to properly develop an alternative source of fuel suitable for their steam engines, and things have been made more difficult due to Russia’s war against Ukraine.” 

In March first minister Mark Drakeford told the House of Commons Welsh Affairs commitee he was aware of issues around coal supply for heritage railways and said he wanted to "find a solution" that doesn't "undermine" the policy presumption against continued coal mining in Wales.

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