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Taking positive opportunities during Covid-19 – Heart of England CRP

Heart of England Community Rail Partnership is a recently formed community rail partnership, covering stations between Stratford-upon-Avon / Leamington Spa and Tysley, as well as stations to Nuneaton and West Coast mainline stations between Marston Green and Coventry. The CRP has adapted to the challenges brought on by Covid-19, by amplifying their online messaging and support for local businesses.

What happened

Being a relatively new CRP, Heart of England started from scratch with their online channels (website & social media). Newly installed line officer, Julia Singleton-Tasker made the decision to create a website for the partnership and focus on positive, community building social media messaging, when lockdown restrictions came into force. The website’s initial aims were twofold. First, to to act as a resource for people during lockdown and beyond, highlighting support available for groups/businesses during Covid-19.

new website was designed and created during the first throes of Covid-19, to become an online hub for local information, and the wider community at large. The website was created through the online website building platform, Wix.

Julia’s first task was to create a database of schools, community groups, local attractions and businesses, to build relationships via social media, to build profile for the partnership, and to target support messages to these groups about community rail related support.

Another goal of the site was to make an inventory of smaller local businesses in the CRP area which were offering services during the lockdown, and listing them by station location. In addition, links to local council business funding and support were included.

Julia also set up Twitter and Instagram accounts for the partnership, to provide signposting and positive messaging to the partnerships stakeholder and followers. Julia focussed initially on three areas for the partnership’s social media:

  • Messages from industry: Amplifying posts from train operators, local authorities, regulatory bodies on travel restrictions and support available for local communities and business;
  • Promoting the community: Building relationships and promoting work undertaken by local community groups during lockdown;
  • Station visits: Once lockdown restrictions had been eased, images were shown of volunteers coming back to stations (socially distanced), with an appreciative tone. See this example.

Julia said that one of the positives to emerge from Covid-19 was that community strength and spirit had increased. She said that it was vital to try and nurture this post-Covid, i.e. working to keep new groups going, retaining new volunteers, and possibly encouraging them into community rail.