Railways originated in Britain and have a long and honourable tradition of service to this country and throughout the world, where lines were engineered or supplied by British industry. They helped to shape Britain today and are set to form the basis of the sustainable transport system the country will need tomorrow.

The rich railway heritage of Britain is hugely important and has rightly been protected by Government for over 60 years.

Inexplicably, this is being swept aside in the Public Bodies Bill, now going through the House of Lords, which lists the Railway Heritage Committee for abolition.

I am a member of this Committee, and like my colleagues, am happy to serve on a voluntary basis. None of us are paid, so costs are very low, and the mix of skills is impressive - members are drawn from the rail industry, the National Railway Museum, expert archivists and heritage railways.

Our role is to designate items of historical significance which help to tell the continuing story of Britain’s railway, and then find good homes for these items when they are no longer required by the companies that own them. When Sea Containers collapsed and the GNER franchise ended, the committee was instrumental in saving their records from the skip when the headquarters offices were cleared on the orders of the receiver.

The papers included their struggle to win the franchise twice, as well as their battle with competitor Grand Central. When the original (1842) mileposts on the Edinburgh-Glasgow line were being vandalised, the committee’s designation helped to protect the remaining posts, one of which is now on display at Queen Street.

Designated items include the Brunel drawings, the royal train, hospital coaches from the first world war (owned by the Army) and most recently, the Falsgrave signal gantry at Scarborough, which will be used at Grosmont on the North York Moors Railway.

So why is RHC on the list? The Secretary of State, Philip Hammond says he is not persuaded there is a need for statutory protection for the heritage of the railway when it does not exist for other modes of transport. What is your view?

The Bill goes to the House of Commons for consideration early in the New Year, so now is the time to write to your MP if you do not agree.

Chris Austin is the former ATOC Director of Public Policy. Prior to joining ATOC in August 2005, he was Executive Director, Community Rail Development at the Strategic Rail Authority.

He has worked in the railway industry for over 40 years, in local management, in project planning and for ten years at the British Railways Board as Parliamentary Affairs Manager. After privatisation, he set up and ran a political consultancy for rail industry clients.

He is a graduate from Cambridge University and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics. He is also Chairman of the West Somerset Railway, Britain’s longest heritage railway. He was awarded the OBE in 2006 and in 2007 was appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport as a member of the Railway Heritage Committee.