Bogiazides, Nick Kotsiou, Eftychia Vougioukas, Manos
Year of Publication:
45th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Land Use and Water Management in a Sustainable Network Society", 23-27 August 2005, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Dotted across Europe can be found a large number of heritage railways and museums, the remnants of former elaborate railway networks bypassed by industrial and economic change. In the past, upon such railways depended industrial development and the economy's secondary sector. Today, having lost their primary transportation function, they represent for many a remote area a key tourist attraction, the mainstay of the local tertiary sector. Most lie in regions that have undergone significant change in their productive profile, with wide de-industrialisation and its concomitant population loss explaining the original network's demise. As they are visited by a total of around 20 million people a year, almost twice the annual visitor intake of Disneyland Paris, they merit some attention in terms of their impact on regional development.This paper attempts to present a methodology for assessing the quantifiable impacts of heritage railways and museums on local economies and the findings of a research project in which it has been applied and tested. Issues, such as investment on the railway and in allied sectors, income and employment generation, the dissemination and (often) re-appropriation by local communities of traditional skills, the social function of heritage railways as providers of state-assisted youth training scheme job opportunities, etc., are examined in the light of their repercussions on regional development. It also endeavours to gauge the significance of non-quantifiable elements, such as the sense of pride accruing to a local community in touch with the relics of its industrial and transport past, the advantageous 'local distinctiveness' characterising localities possessing a heritage railway, and perhaps, for some, the mystique of old trains, the symbolic power of steam, still mesmerising 'The Railway Children'. The paper shows that heritage railways can perform most potently in their role as tourist attraction if their offer to visitors is combined with that of other local tourist assets, such as industrial archaeology sites, natural beauty spots, etc., in the provision of an integrated visitor package. Their immersion in communities, both as local heritage and present-day specialist, traditional skills, employer, further ensures the sustainable character of their contribution to regional development.