Government steps in to stop export of 'Flying Scotsman'

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The Independent Online

The Arts minister Estelle Morris will place an export ban on the Flying Scotsman if, as is widely expected, American enthusiasts have tabled the highest offer when bids close this week.

The Arts minister Estelle Morris will place an export ban on the Flying Scotsman if, as is widely expected, American enthusiasts have tabled the highest offer when bids close this week.

With the locomotive's sellers reporting stronger than expected competition ahead of a 4pm deadline on Friday, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has indicated the locomotive has a unique place in the nation's heritage and would comfortably pass the test for an export ban.

It is expected that Ms Morris would support a three-month ban to give British bidders more time to match an American bid. The British bid is being co-ordinated by the National Railway Museum (NRM).

As its name suggests, the body which would examine the export issue - the reviewing committee in the export of works of art - is more accustomed to dealing with pieces like Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks, than locomotives. But in the Flying Scotsman's case, it would be likely to co-opt an expert panellist, possibly from the NRM.

"It is not the same kind of consideration as a painting from Turner or Constable - of which there may be hundreds," said a department spokesman. "The Flying Scotsman has particular historical resonance and place in our heritage."

In the House of Lords last week, the Heritage minister, Andrew Macintosh, in effect confirmed that an export ban would be placed on the former LNER locomotive. The likely price of the 81-year-old locomotive vary from £400,000 to £1.5m and while there has been an enthusiastic response to the NRM campaign, the sum raised so far is £300,000 - including £225,000 from private donations.

American interest in the locomotive was kindled by her highly successful runs on the West Coast in the 1970s.

As revealed by The Independent on Sunday, the current owners of the train, Flying Scotsman plc, claim that delays in building a visitor centre in Edinburgh have prompted the decision to sell. Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, the A3 Pacific was the first locomotive to carry LNER's famous apple green livery and was chosen to represent the latest in steam locomotive design at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924. She was the first locomotive to officially break the 100mph barrier between Leeds and London, in 1934.

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