Model trains threatened by EU red tape
Thousands of model railway fans are facing a threat to their innocent hobby – from Brussels bureaucrats. EU rules will come into force at the end of this month aimed at improving the safety of industrial boilers. Each boiler will have to go through a rigorous inspection which will put up costs by 30 percent. The European Pressure Equipment Regulations, which are backed by Whitehall, will hit the handful of manufacturers who make the copper boilers for model steam engines and larger ride-on engines at theme parks. The makers claim the extra red tape will cost them thousands of pounds and will put them out of business. Without the precision-built boilers, the enthusiasts who assemble the rest of the model locos will have to hang up their soldering irons.
(The Mail on Sunday, 19 May 2002, page 42)
Just plain loco … now the Eurocrats are threatening to drive little trains like this into the red
Generations of fun enjoyed by miniature railway fans is set to run out of steam. European Union rules come into effect at the end of this month aimed at improving the safety of industrial boilers.
(Western Daily Press, 20 May 2002, page 15)
Accusing the EU of harassing a supposedly helpless, unsuspecting section of society via its ‘red tape’ is a standard europhobe tactic which rarely stands up to scrutiny. Here, the put-upon faction is miniature train enthusiasts and the allegations are as off the rails as ever.
The Pressure Equipment Directive (PED) improves the system of safety checks on a range of items such as fire extinguishers and diving bottles, not just on boilers in steam trains. It also applies to power plants, air conditioning and refrigeration systems and oil refineries to name but a few examples.
As for red tape, the directive cuts it. The PED will ensure a high level of protection by establishing essential safety requirements, but products will need to be inspected by only one national body.
Contrast this with the previous regime, where pressure equipment was covered by several national regulations requiring individual certification for each product sold in almost every Member State. This meant that boilers used in steam trains, for example, often needed some 10 to 12 certificates issued by technical bodies of the national authorities. The new system, however, reflects the fact that such products are sold in more than one EU country. National inspection bodies may have less work to do, but that’s the price of increased effectiveness and competitiveness. It simply isn’t productive to perform the same (or very similar) inspections over and over again, as happened previously.
These articles blatantly fail to realise the overwhelming case for the stringent verification provided for by the PED. After all, faulty pressure equipment can kill. Take the following examples:
Last year a steam tractor at a fair ground in Ohio exploded. Five people died and a further 48 were injured. Quite clearly the risk from steam generators is sometimes significantly underestimated. Then there was the Flixborough disaster in the UK that occurred 25 years ago when 28 people died after an oxidation plant exploded due to failure of pressure equipment. More recently several people were killed and many severely injured when a chemical plant exploded in Toulouse last year. The blast measured 3.2 on the Richter scale and the cause was traced to a leak in the industrial piping – a fault the PED also addresses.
So the PED is more than necessary and benefits all parties: miniature railway fans are safeguarded via boiler checks, factory workers are better protected and manufacturers now have genuine access to the market, properly regulated to ensure safety.