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Minister backs plan to expand ‘tourist jewel’ of railway museum

Arts Minister Michael Ellis with Tim Peake's space capsule on show at the National Railway Museum by the venue's director, Judith McNicol. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Arts Minister Michael Ellis with Tim Peake's space capsule on show at the National Railway Museum by the venue's director, Judith McNicol. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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Britain’s new Arts Minister threw his weight behind the proposed major expansion of the National Railway Museum during a visit to York yesterday.

Referring to the city as an “absolutely integral” part of tourism in the UK, Michael Ellis said he was “very supportive” of the plan to link the museum’s two halves together as part of the vast brownfield development known as York Central.

The Minister, who took office two weeks ago following Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle, called the proposals “absolutely transformative and very very positive”.

The museum, which is also currently home to the spacecraft used by the British astronaut Tim Peake, was one of the stops on a lightning tour of the city arranged for the Minister, who was previously deputy Commons leader. He also went to York Minster to see plans to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War in November.

Yorkshire, which Mr Ellis described as a tourism “jewel in the whole country”, played host to 1.4m overseas visitors in 2016, six per cent more than the previous year, with around 700,000 seeing the Rail Museum alone. It is the most popular museum in the region and the 22nd most visited in the country.

Tourists are estimated to have spent more than £500m on their travels, and the Minister praised the success of such events as the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire.

He said: “I recognize the value of York and Yorkshire to our economy and to our heritage and to our tourism.

“Here you have in one place the most extraordinarily beautiful city that is replete with the most the most stunning heritage and recognizes that further development can only improve its situation, when done as sympathetically as we are now seeing planned.

“It’s all very encouraging and it’s also going to be good for the economy.”

Mr Ellis, whose constituency is in Northampton, began his tenure at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport by rubber-stamping a deal to buy the private sector corporate hospitality business that trades alongside the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

The £11m contract will see the events and catering operation brought under the wing of the Government-sponsored museum, which houses a collection of arms and armour originally stored at the Tower of London.

Mr Ellis called the deal “new chapter” for the Armouries and “a clear statement of the Government’s continued commitment to arts and culture across the North”.