Rail museum faces £200,000 bill after blow over ticket sales

The Flying Scotsman was partly overhauled at the National Railway Museum in York
The Flying Scotsman was partly overhauled at the National Railway Museum in York
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ONE of Yorkshire’s most famous museums is facing a £200,000 deficit after its flagship summer event failed to live up to expectations.

The National Railway Museum’s Railfest saw 64,000 visitors come through the doors, but just 27,000 of those paid full price.

The total cost of the nine-day event was around £700,000 but the museum said it had made only £500,000 from tickets and income from other sales, including souvenirs and food and drink.

The NRM argues, however, that its role is not purely to make profit, but to provide a service to the public.

A spokesman said: “Our aim as a National Museum is to engage the public with our collection, the largest collection of railway artefacts in the world.

“Railfest fitted our core mission – to spread the story of how the railways emerged and then evolved into a vital form of transport with a vigorous future.

“Any financial outlay is viewed as an investment in an event that has reinforced our relationship with the modern railway industry.”

Although the museum was only just short of its target of 65,000 visitors, less than half of those paid the full £15 entry fee.

More than 33,000 people had tickets for the event, but some people, including sponsors, were entitled to free or reduced entry.

Railfest, which was praised by Welcome to Yorkshire, was advertised as a gathering of more than 30 record-breaking locomotives including Mallard, Tornado and Mardy Monster, the most powerful industrial steam locomotive built for use in Britain.

It also featured a flypast of Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster planes, as an East Coast locomotive was officially named the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight by television presenter Carol Vorderman.

But one locomotive that did not feature in the line-up as planned was Flying Scotsman, whose restoration has hit significant delays as costs have escalated from a predicted £750,000 to £2.67m.

The museum’s spokesman said the completion date for the famed engine was still not known, but a schedule of works currently being drawn up would give a better idea of the likely timescale.

The extra money for the additional work will be provided by the museum’s parent organisation, the Science Museum Group, but it is facing pressures on its budget in the tough economic climate.

For the financial year up to April 2012, the group received £38.3m of grant in aid from the Government, compared with the £38.3m received the previous year.

The spokesman said: “In response, we had to use resources as efficiently as possible with the result that income from other areas increased slightly.”

Trading income climbed from £13.6m to £14m while, income from legacies, donations and other grants rose by £300,000 to £7.3m.

“Income from donations increased significantly as, although we are committed to free entry, we focused on encouraging those who support our work and enjoy visiting the museums to make a donation,” the NRM spokesman added.

“Despite the challenging economic conditions, June’s visitor numbers at the National Railway Museum were up 80 per cent on the previous year and our year to date figures show a 17.49 per cent increase overall.”