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Community-led initiatives spreading across London and South East, making the rail network ‘More Than a Railway’

A London station with a thriving volunteer group and community nature garden hosted a festival of urban community rail activity as part of a nationwide campaign, showcasing a grassroots movement helping communities get the most from their railways.

Alexandra Palace Station, North London, has been a site for volunteering and positive social change for eight years, ensuring its place at the heart of the community, benefiting the local environment and people’s lives. The Friends of Ally Pally Station was set up in 2016 to create a community garden and improve the station environment. They give a voice to the community on rail improvements, and engage schools and businesses to deliver community events. The station is one of 155 stations ‘adopted’ by volunteer groups (c.1,000 volunteers between them) across the GTR and South Eastern network, and c. 1,300 across Britain.

Community Rail Network and the Friends of Ally Pally Station welcomed Shadow Rail Minister Stephen Morgan MP on 21 May to celebrate Community Rail Week.

The Shadow Minister met other community rail groups and organisations across the region to hear about their work, including Welwyn Garden City, Gipsy Hill and Community Train, had a tour of the station, with its vibrant community garden and artwork displays, and officially opened new mosaic steps leading to its Bedford Rose Garden.  

Shadow Rail Minister Stephen Morgan said:

“I’m delighted to visit Alexandra Palace Station to celebrate Community Rail Week. It’s vital that our railways and stations remain at the heart of our communities and continue to benefit local people, so it is great to see the impact the community rail movement is having here and across the country.

“As we know, our railways play such a key social role in connecting people and communities, so I’d like to pay tribute to all the people who devote their time to looking after them and making our railways more accessible and attractive for all.”

The ‘More Than a Railway’ campaign, marking this year’s Community Rail Week, 20-26 May, will involve nearly 100 community activities nationwide. These wide-ranging activities 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. The week offers a snapshot of year-round community rail initiatives, which are run across Britain, in partnership with the rail industry and community partners.

Community Rail Week, organised by Community Rail Network and sponsored by Rail Delivery Group, celebrates the work of the community rail movement across Britain, made up of 75 community rail partnerships and 1,300 station groups. Nationally they now cover 34% of Britain’s railways and about half its stations. As well as an army of 8,000 active volunteers, they directly engage an estimated 120,000 people a year, increasing access to rail and sustainable travel, and bringing people together.

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 – which is delivering more and more across London and the South East – 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 the region, harnessing the power of rail to create a more connected, inclusive, sustainable future.”

Founder and Chair of The Friends of Ally Pally Station, Michael Solomon Williams, said:

“More than a Railway is a fantastic theme reflecting the hugely positive social impact of community rail. It is a great joy to bring people together to learn new skills, make new friends and transform the lives of hundreds of the many thousands who use Ally Pally Station.”

Jenny Saunders, Customer Services Director, GTR, said:

“I was delighted to join Community Rail Network today at Alexandra Palace to celebrate and thank our Station partners and the amazing work they do.”

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