Minor and heritage railways

Minor railways and heritage railways are 'lines of local interest', museum railways or tourist railways that have retained or assumed the character and appearance and operating practices of railways of former times.

Several lines that operate in isolation provide genuine transport facilities, providing community links. Most lines constitute tourist or educational attractions in their own right.

The Heritage Railway Association represents the majority of minor railways.

Much of the rolling stock and other equipment used on these systems is original and is of historic value in its own right. Many systems aim to replicate both the look and operating practices of historic former railways companies.

How do we regulate minor or heritage railways?

We provide guidance to minor rail operators pdf icon PDF, 749 Kb with advice and assistance on safety requirements. We also impose certain constraints on minor railways in reaction to speed and weight limits. Minor railways are not normally permitted to operate above a speed limit of 25mph. We have developed guidelines for best practice in steam locomotive boiler construction, operation and maintenance pdf icon PDF, 2,321 Kb.

We will be working with the industry to review the regulatory regime for minor and heritage railways ensuring that it continues to be proportionate to the potential risks on those systems.

Key issues

The following are key areas of interest to minor and heritage rail:

  • We concentrate efforts in high risk areas. We normally only inspect minor railways in response to incidents, serious complaints or if there is a statutory requirement.
  • Areas considered to be at a higher risk are level crossings and steam locomotive maintenance. Our inspectors are working with the industry in these areas to improve existing standards.