Members of a national grassroots rail movement have continued to strive for communities and work towards a greener transport future, despite the pandemic, are looking forward to playing a key role in recovery.
Community Rail Network has published six regional and national briefings * sponsored by Rail Delivery Group, highlighting how across Britain, community rail has continued to grow and flourish, and adapt to the past year’s challenges. The reports show that altogether, there are now 74 community rail partnerships, 8,500 volunteers, and 1,000 station friends groups, supporting inclusion and wellbeing, sustainable and healthy travel, economic development and tourism.
Spanning all parts of Britain, in varied rural and urban locations, they engage local people with their railways and stations, working with train operators, local authorities, and other partners.
Their activities include: volunteering, community gardening, food growing and biodiversity projects at stations; community arts and heritage projects to help people learn about and take pride in their area; work with rail industry partners towards improvements and integration, such as shelters, signage or pedestrian and cyclist access; and events, workshops and activities to promote sustainable travel, bring people together, and celebrate local communities.
Community rail across Britain is now looking forward to playing a pivotal role in building back better and greener from Covid, helping to bring people together, maintain dialogue and understanding between communities and their railways, and helping to rebuild rail confidence and put rail at the centre of a sustainable transport future.
Community rail in action across Britain during the pandemic:
Ÿ Volunteers at St Anne’s Station on the South Fylde Line made much-needed scrubs and bags for their local Blackpool Victoria Hospital, medical centres and care homes.
Ÿ Many community rail volunteers, such as those at the Bishop Line Partnership in County Durham, handed out face coverings to key workers to make journeys as safe as possible.
Ÿ East Midlands Railway worked with Derwent Valley Line, North Staffordshire and Poacher Line Community Rail Partnerships, and the Friends of Beeston Station to support and donate to food banks helping families facing difficulties through the pandemic.
Ÿ Southeast Communities Community Rail Partnership worked with schools to reassure students about using trains to get back to school after lockdown, promoting active travel, and providing a ‘virtual schoolbag’, an online information service for parents and pupils.
Ÿ In a bid to boost sustainable travel by rail post-Covid, Welsh community rail partnerships are working together to promote rail-based tourism throughout Wales, encouraging sustainable, scenic adventures through a new website that will offer information on where to find fantastic food, gorgeous gardens, heroic heritage, and obtainable outdoors.
- In Scotland, Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership has developed a new ‘Travelling Classroom’ initiative involving local primary schools. When travel restrictions are lifted, this will see trains becoming classrooms, helping pupils develop their travel confidence.
Ÿ The Friends of Wool Station continued to progress activities making their station a welcoming hub and gateway for the community, and integrating rail with other sustainable modes. They have created easy-to-follow guides and maps showing local bus and rail routes, and improved signage for cyclists.
Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said: “Community rail works to make our railways community-minded and inclusive, and promotes sustainable travel by rail, bringing people together and bolstering local pride and wellbeing. Across the country, community rail partnerships and groups have adapted and responded, supporting communities through the pandemic, maintaining positivity, and advising rail partners on shifting local needs.
“As we start to rebuild from COVID-19, within the community rail movement, and across our railways, we will be redoubling efforts, to create confidence and togetherness, and play our part in enabling more people to get around by socially and environmentally responsible means. Community rail is all about communities and connectedness, and people working together locally to make things better for each other and our shared future – that couldn’t be more important right now.”
Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The railway is at the heart of local communities and the fantastic initiatives by community rail volunteers across Britain play to its strengths, connecting people up and down the country. As we recover from the pandemic, getting more people back on trains will be vital to boost local economies and the environment, so the support of community rail will be more important than ever.”
For more information on community rail and examples of activities across Britain, visit communityrail.org.uk
* The URL link provided in the press release gives links to the published ‘regional reports’ (Scotland, North, Midlands and East). Links to the three reports covering the South East, South West and Wales will also be published on Wednesday 31st March, but are available separately here:
- Community rail is a grassroots movement spanning Britain that is made up of community rail partnerships, which work along whole railway lines or in specific regions, and volunteer station ‘friends’ or ‘adoption’ groups to connect communities with their railways.
- There are 74 community rail partnerships and 1,000 station friends volunteer groups across Britain.
- Community rail involves working with train operators, local authorities and other partners to involve local communities with their railways and stations, promoting sustainable travel, social inclusion and local development, and helping communities to have a voice in rail and transport development.
- Established in 2000, Community Rail Network supports those working and volunteering in community rail and their partners. It shares best practice and connects community rail partnerships and groups together, while working with governments at different levels, the transport industry, and voluntary sector to champion community rail and shares its insights on sustainable and inclusive transport development.
Photo credit: Community Rail Network