Museum director’s warning over £4m shortfall

THE new director of the National Railway Museum in York has admitted he faces major challenges to balance budgets amid a multi-million pound financial blackhole while attempting to breath new life into the famous venue.

Paul Kirkman spoke publicly for the first time to the media yesterday after it was confirmed at the end of last month that he had taken on the role during one of the NRM’s most turbulent periods in its history.

He admitted he will have to cut costs which could see job losses as the venue’s parent organisation, the Science Museum Group, which also runs the National Media Museum in Bradford, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and the Science Museum in London, is facing a £4m shortfall in 2015.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Despite the financial pressures, Mr Kirkman also revealed he is drawing up a masterplan to increase visitor numbers and open the NRM up to a wider audience. He confirmed more paid-for attractions could be introduced and the Great Hall given a major facelift with some of the trains on display making way for interactive exhibits.

Mr Kirkman said: “We want to continue the success of the museum, but we are having to do this with less resources. We have to carry on developing the museum’s identity by proving its relevance and growing visitor numbers.”

Mr Kirkman has assumed the role in the wake of swingeing criticism of the hugely costly and much-delayed restoration of Britain’s most iconic steam locomotive, Flying Scotsman.

He admitted future restoration projects would need to be considered carefully amid financial constraints and the problems encountered with the Flying Scotsman programme, which has cost £2.9m and is now out to tender for an outside firm to take on the troubled scheme.

The York venue was faced with a fresh crisis in June when it emerged the Government’s funding cuts could have led to the closure of one of either the NRM, the National Media Museum in Bradford or the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

But a reprieve was granted after it was announced the funding was to be cut by only half the amount feared. However, the five per cent reduction in funding will still leave a £4m shortfall in 2015 for the Science Museum Group.

Mr Kirkman’s predecessor, Steve Davies, announced in September last year that he would be leaving to take up a post as a leisure and tourism company’s managing director.