Scottish members of a grassroots ‘community rail’ movement are joining forces to support a shift to greener, healthier, fairer transport, and encouraging people to ditch the car for one in five journeys when they can.
The country’s network of community rail partnerships, supported by Community Rail Network and Paths for All, used the 2023 Rail Scotland Conference to launch their ‘Let’s go for 1 in 5’ campaign, in support of Transport Scotland’s commitment to cutting car use by 20% by 2030. They used the conference to explore how the rail industry can play a key role, working with communities, to support more sustainable journeys that work for everyone and protect our climate.
From the Borders to the Highlands, Scotland’s community rail partnerships engage communities with their local railways and stations, enabling and encouraging more people to get around sustainably by train. Since the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, they have been raising awareness of how green rail is compared to driving (see statistics below), and working with communities and rail partners to make it easier to use the train combined with walking, wheeling and cycling, buses and community transport.
Transport is the largest contributor to climate emissions in Scotland. In response to the climate emergency, Transport Scotland has committed to reducing emissions by 75% by 2030, and net-zero by 2045. Rail accounted for just 1% of UK domestic transport emissions in 2019, despite representing 7% of the total distance travelled, and for a 30-mile journey, travelling by train instead of by car can reduce emissions by up to 86%.
Community Rail Network chief executive Jools Townsend told the conference how community rail, and the new campaign, contributes to Scotland’s vision of a sustainable, inclusive, safe and accessible transport system. This allied to some of the major themes of the event – which also featured an address from Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth MSP – such as modal shift from road to rail and the rail network’s net-zero targets.
Ms Townsend said: “Cutting car use by 20% is crucial to tackling the climate emergency, and it can unleash great benefits for communities and families too, by improving health and wellbeing, addressing the cost of living, and making our streets and communities safer, nicer places. But we know it’s not so simple as ‘persuading’ people to ditch the car: as well as raising awareness we need to break down barriers and widen access to public and community transport, combined with walking, wheeling and cycling.
“Community rail and other locally-led initiatives have a vital part to play. We’re all about helping communities to feel confident and positive about rail and sustainable travel, addressing issues and worries people might have, and helping communities to have a voice and shape a green and inclusive transport future. We’re encouraging communities across Scotland to get involved, and for drivers to consider how they can help Scotland make the ‘1 in 5’ switch, to more climate-safe and community-friendly journeys.”
Community rail works across Britain to develop the place of railways and stations at the heart of local communities, and help communities get maximum benefit from rail. This growing, thriving grassroots movement, brought together under Community Rail Network, is made up of 76 community rail partnerships and 1,200+ station friends’ groups and other local groups.
Scotland’s eight community rail partnerships, who will lead on activities linked to the ‘Let’s go for 1 in 5’ campaign are: Borders Railway Community Partnership; South West Scotland CRP; East Lothian CRP; Strathallan CRP; Highland Main Line CRP; Rail 74 CRP; 6VT Youth CRP and West Highland CRP.
The partnerships are supported by Community Rail Network and the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme, funded by Transport Scotland and administered by Paths for All. This support helps to develop projects and deliver work promoting sustainable journeys with rail at their heart.
Graham McQueen, Smarter Choices, Smarter Places manager, said: “Paths for All’s Smarter Choices Smarter Places Open Fund is about supporting local and community-based transport solutions to the climate crisis. We want to see more people walking, cycling and using more sustainable forms of transport for their everyday journeys. Projects like this that encourage people to get out of their cars and travel more sustainably are fantastic examples of how grassroots community organisations can lead on the changes we need to make happen”.