The Bodmin and Wenford Railway has been forced to import coal from Central Asia because Welsh coal has been deemed not eco-friendly enough.
Since the Miners’ Strike in 1984 and the rundown of the coal industry in this country, Bodmin and Wenford Railway, like all heritage steam railways in the UK, has had to shop around for coal to feed into its locomotives.
Until eight years ago the Cornish railway has used Polish and Russian coal. Then, it secured a contract with Ffos-y-Fran opencast coal mine in South Wales which has remained its regular supplier ever since.
The Welsh mine is now the last source of British mined coal that is due to close within the next few months since coal has officially been banned by the British government and the EU, as not being eco-friendly.
Bodmin and Wenford Railway has now been forced to import poorer quality coal from Kazakhstan - some 3,100 miles away from Cornwall.
Jimmy James, a spokesman for the heritage railway which uses two metric tons of coal a day when fully operational, said the Heritage Railway Association has recently secured dispensation from the British government for heritage railways to continue to use imported coal to stay in business, even though plenty of British coal remains in the ground.
“At Bodmin, we have just switched to coal from Kazakhstan, which is imported through the port of Immingham after a couple of thousand miles of travel across Europe. It then reaches Bodmin by road, through yet more eco-unfriendly travel, and vastly increasing the cost. The B&WR was once part of the Great Western Railway, which used high quality Welsh steam coal to power its fleet of steam locos. At Bodmin, the majority of our locos are ex GWR, thus purpose-built for the traditional Welsh variety."
He added that Ffos-y-Fran was primarily there to supply the steelworks at Port Talbot and Aberthaw power station, and supplies to steam railways were just a small part of their business. The logic of the steel industry having to import huge supplies of coal from around the world, and not using home resources, appears to be lost on the green lobby.
"We do not know how reliable the Kazakh source may prove to be, nor as yet how much we will be forced to raise our prices. These are very testing times for our industry, and we have to roll with the punches."