Fears mount over NRM future

Published in In depth

YORK’S National Railway Museum or one of its two sister museums may be forced to shut as a result of the Governments squeeze on budgets, its director has said.

As well as big cuts to the Science Museum in London, the Science Museum Group’s director Ian Blatchford said one of its attractions in Manchester, York or Bradford could close its doors.

Mr Blatchford said the prospect of a further ten per cent extra cut in funding meant almost certainly that one of the museums would have to go.

His comments follow speculation at the weekend that the NRM may close or have to reintroduce admission charges.

The group runs the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, the National Railway Museum in York and Bradfords National Media Museum.

Mr Blatchford told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “There are two problems. The first is we are already in quite a weak position because in the existing spending round we ended up with 25 per cent real terms cuts.”

There is a risk that the cuts could mean the £2 million deficit rising to about £6 million a year.

Asked if that would mean the closure of a museum, he said: “I have to say, with a very heavy heart, it really does. We have done lots of boring and sensible things, awful things like cutting staff, procurement, raising more money.

“But cuts of that level bite really deep into our flesh so it means not only big cuts in the Science Museum in London but one of our three great northern museums almost certainly would also have to close.”

National museums do not charge for admission, but Mr Blatchford said he was in talks with the Government about the possibility of reinstating entry fees.

“Even though it might be an option, its certainly not an option on the table at the moment, I just dont have the power to do it,” he said.

“Its part of the conversation we are having with them because, clearly, we appreciate times are tough and they also do appreciate that if the cuts are significant there will be some pain.”

Asked which museum was most likely to shut, he said: “It is a very difficult question to answer because we are having that discussion at the moment.

"You are comparing three great cities, York, Bradford and Manchester, very different cities with different economies and different universities. We just havent decided yet.”

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome of the Spending Review.

“This is an operational matter for the Science Museum Group who has to address a large projected operating deficit from 2014 onwards and is assessing a range of options to address this situation.”

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