Institute of Railway Studies could hit buffers

Simon Stephens, 16.01.2014
National Railway Museum consultation includes proposal to end funding of institute's professor
The future of the Institute of Railway Studies and Transport History is under threat as part of a consultation into a new structure at the National Railway Museum (NRM) in York.

The NRM contributes to the institute, a joint venture between the museum and the University of York, by funding the post of professor of railway studies, a position held by Colin Divall.

The NRM is part of the Science Museum Group, which is having to find £3.7m savings by the end of 2015-16 following budget cuts in last summer's spending review. Last year's autumn statement saw the government make additional cuts that means the group needs to find a further £787,000 in savings over the next two years.

“If we do decide to remove the professor of railway studies post, then this will mean reviewing the Institute of Railway Studies with the University of York,” said an NRM spokeswoman. “No final decisions have been made and we may amend current proposals as a result of staff feedback.”

The Institute of Railway Studies and Transport History was founded in 1995 as a centre for the study of transport and mobility.

The NRM consultation was launched late last year as part of a plan to increase income and reduce costs.

"As we continue to invest in our content and visitor services and absorb reductions in government funding we need to reduce our running costs to enable us to operate sustainably,” said NRM director Paul Kirkman, who joined the museum as acting director in 2012 from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport following the departure of Steve Davies.

“The result is that we are facing difficult decisions across the Science Museum Group, and the new structure at the National Railway Museum will see an overall reduction in staff numbers.”

Dival, the head of the institute, chaired the Riverside Museum Academic Panel, which provided advice that helped shape the £74m redevelopment of the museum in Glasgow, which opened in 2011.

The University of York declined to comment further on the NRM consultation.