The ‘Rail Journey to Recovery’ is an innovative project between Community Rail Cumbria and Turning Point, a national charity specialising in the rehabilitation of people with substance and alcohol abuse issues.
The project integrates rail-based activity within established programmes of rehabilitation, focusing on enhancing participant’s self-esteem, social interaction and confidence.
Funded through ComREG (Northern’s community rail executive group) and Direct Rail Services, the project is already achieving notable success with enthusiastic residents from Stanfield House in Workington benefitting from railway activity.
Trying to break free from the shackles of addiction is no easy task. The residents of Stanfield House, both male and female, come from every section of society. Some enter rehabilitation through the justice system, others via the NHS, others from family or self-referrals.
The rehabilitation process lasts between three and four months, and the benefits and impacts of the Rail Journey to Recovery are evident at every stage. Even when the rehab process has ended, there have been several instances where service-users continue with active participation in the rail project, another mark of success.
A wide variety of tasks are undertaken, including general maintenance at stations, landscaping, recording and encouraging wildlife, gardening and shelter painting.
This type of effort is invaluable, especially on railway lines like the Cumbrian Coast, with its remote stations. It is also much appreciated by residents along the line, who provide hot tea and biscuits on those cold West Cumbrian days!
An unanticipated development has been the formation of a dedicated station friends group at Green Road station, a remote location on the edge of the Duddon estuary. The residents of Turning Point are actively restoring the prize-winning gardens to their former glory, refurbishing the shelter, and contributing to a long-term development plan to renovate the redundant station buildings. The group are looking to provide additional passenger waiting facilities and to open a nature room, displaying the geology, flora and fauna of an area already recognised of Special Scientific Interest.
Such is the positive impact of the project further developments are already being planned. Links are being forged with rail industry partners so that project participants are offered voluntary opportunities with a possible view to future paid employment.