IT is at this time of year that the New Year's Honours list provides us with the opportunity to shine a spotlight on those who have made a difference to society.

When the names are published after 10.30pm tonight, there will be the usual mixed views about who deserves recognition for what they have done, and who doesn't.

The inspirational story of Tom and Erika Salmon features prominently in tomorrow's edition of The Northern Echo. The couple are not part of any honours list but no one will argue with the tributes being paid to them.

Tom was known as the "father" of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR), the world's most popular steam heritage railway. It was his vision that led to the railway being preserved after the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. He and his wife became lifelong supporters and volunteers as the railway flourished.

Erika died, aged 86, on Christmas Eve. Tom, 87, died on Christmas morning. They had been married for 66 years and it is both sad and fitting that they should die within a day of each other.

We need people like them - people who don't just moan about change but do something positive. Together, they helped create something special, enriching and lasting.

Congratulations are, of course, due to those who are included in the New year's Honours list. There are many deserving names amongst them.

But, with due respect to them all, it is the remarkable story of Tom and Erika Salmon which stands out to me as the most moving example of true community spirit. Rest in peace.