1,200 community rail volunteers poised to play a key role in Scotland’s recovery

Members of a grassroots rail movement have continued to strive for Scotland’s communities and work towards a greener transport future, despite the pandemic.

Figures from Community Rail Network’s Community Rail in Scotland report – sponsored by Rail Delivery Group – highlight that over 1,200 volunteers give over 55,000 hours annually to help improve social inclusion, sustainable and healthy travel, wellbeing, economic development, and tourism in their local area, valued at £4.7 million.

Making up Scotland’s nine Community Rail Partnerships and 260 station groups, they carry out projects to bring improvements to rail services and stations, with improved accessibility and inclusion, and help communities to have a voice in rail and transport development, working with train operators, local authorities and other partners.

Across Scotland, groups are involved in community gardening, food growing and biodiversity projects on station land; the creation of heritage boards or community artwork to help people learn about and take pride in their area;  volunteering at stations to create a safe and attractive environment for passengers; work with rail industry partners towards improvements, such as better shelters, signage or pedestrian and cyclist access; and running events, workshops and activities to promote sustainable travel, bring people together, and celebrate the local community.

Community rail partnerships and groups have continued to support communities and local resilience efforts during the pandemic (see below). They are now looking forward to playing a pivotal role in building back better from Covid, helping our railways to be a vital component of a greener, more inclusive way forward as part of a ‘green recovery’.

Community rail across Scotland:

In Edinburgh, the 6VT Youth Community Rail Partnership (6VT CRP) is Britain’s only youth-led community rail partnership. It was established via the 6VT Youth Café, which provides a space for young people to come together to access support to improve their lives and realise their potential. Working mainly with 14–21-year-olds, the café has helped more than 160,000 young people since the late 1990s, providing access to a range of services and personal development opportunities. The group devises projects on issues that are important to its young members, such as supporting the launch of the Crimestoppers ‘Fearless’ anti-hate crime campaign at Edinburgh Waverley Station, hosting suicide prevention training, and an award-winning pram safety project focused on making rail travel easier for parents travelling with buggies.

More widely across Scotland – from Edinburgh, across to Glasgow and into the Highlands – the Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership has continued its support for local communities by launching a new ‘Travelling Classroom’ initiative. The project will involve local primary schools along the route between Dunkeld & Birnam and Carrbridge, and aims to help children learn about rail safety, rail travel, and promote better engagement between the railway and local people. When travel restrictions are lifted, this will see trains becoming classrooms for the pupils as they take a trip to enhance their learning.

Commenting on the importance of the community rail movement in Scotland, Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network said: “Community rail works to make our railways as inclusive as possible, bringing people together and bolstering local pride and wellbeing. In Scotland, community rail groups have adapted and responded, supporting communities through the pandemic, maintaining positivity, and continuing to help people get the most from their railways and stations.

“As our communities rebuild from Covid-19, within community rail, and across our railways, we will need to redouble efforts, with our partners, to create confidence and togetherness, and play our part in re-orientating ways of thinking and living to be more socially and environmentally responsible. Community rail is all about that: communities and connectedness, and people working together to make things better for each other and our shared future.”

Ros Houldsworth, ScotRail’s community liaison executive, adds: “From promoting tourism to improving station connectivity, from increasing opportunities for young people to encouraging environmental ambitions, the impact of community rail continues to grow. I believe that community rail will have a vital role to play in supporting ScotRail and the wider rail industry in Scotland, as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.”