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Britain’s community rail movement now spans a third of our rail network, making the railway a positive force for change

A grassroots movement of 75 locally-led community rail partnerships and 1,300 volunteer groups – now spanning 34% of Britain’s rail network and half of Britain’s 2,580 stations – is being celebrated for its growing work empowering communities to get more from their railways.

The More Than a Railway campaign, marking Community Rail Week, 20-26 May, will involve nearly 100 community events and activities nationwide this week. These wide-ranging initiatives increase access to opportunity, help communities to have a voice on rail, bolster sustainable travel and tourism, tackle social isolation, and put railways and stations at the heart of community life.

This week offers a snapshot of community rail’s year-round work, run in partnership with the rail industry and community partners, involving an army of c. 8,000 volunteers, and directly engaging and empowering an estimated 120,000 people annually.

Community Rail Week is organised by Community Rail Network, a national not-for-profit organisation supporting community involvement with rail, and sponsored by Rail Delivery Group.

Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said: “Rail can be much more than a mode of travel: a catalyst for positive change, unlocking opportunities, connecting communities, and enabling climate-friendly mobility. The community rail movement shows how communities and railways, and the wider transport sector, can work together with amazing results, enhancing local places and changing lives. From engaging young people on travel confidence, to advising train operators on accessibility and inclusion, to active travel and bus-rail integration, to community gardens and social enterprises at stations: community rail is playing a growing role in harnessing the power of rail to create a more connected, inclusive, sustainable future.”

Highlights of the week include:

  • Mon 20 May – Yatton Station, Somerset – a celebration of community rail activities at Yatton and across the region, including a station-based social enterprise providing jobs, training and skills among young people with learning disabilities, a cycle hub supporting greener journeys, a community garden boosting biodiversity and wellbeing, and a programme engaging thousands of children and young people on rail confidence;
  • Tues 21 May – Festival of urban community rail, Alexandra Palace Station, London – guests including Shadow Rail Minister Stephen Morgan MP will hear about the work of community rail groups bringing together communities and promoting sustainable travel around London, and officially unveil a community-led arts project in the station’s garden;
  • Thurs 23 May – Community rail showcase – major city stations will host activities promoting sustainable tourism along Britain’s scenic and historic community railway lines. This includes a beach scene at Birmingham New Street by Welsh CRPs promoting car-free travel in Wales, a CRPs from East Anglia at Liverpool Street Station promoting rail-based tourism and leisure;
  • Friday 24 May – Newton Heath depot, Manchester – Students from Fairfield High School For Girls in Droylsden will take part in a community rail session including depot tour, discussing opportunities the railway can open up, and rail’s green credentials.

Jacqueline Starr, chief executive officer at Rail Delivery Group, said: “We are proud to partner with community rail and shine a spotlight on the work across the rail network carried out by dedicated staff and volunteers. This year’s Community Rail Week gives us a chance to celebrate the brilliant projects around the country that empower individuals and open doors to new opportunities. Together we want to create a more inclusive, sustainable, and customer-focused rail experience for all because it’s More than a Railway.”

Rail Minister Huw Merriman MP added: “Our rail network offers so much more than simply getting people from A to B. It’s a family that sits at the heart of our communities, connecting us to loved ones and opportunities.

“Whether it’s offering an environmentally friendly way of travelling, or improving access to jobs and education, our railways bring huge benefits to villages, towns and cities right across the UK. That’s why this campaign and the work of the wider community rail network is so important, and I’m delighted to see it celebrating the efforts of our fantastic industry which puts customers and their journeys first.”

For more information, visit www.communityrail.org.uk/events-and-campaigns/community-rail-week/