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Community projects across Britain bringing people together through rail recognised at national awards

An inspiring range of ‘community rail’ initiatives, delivered by community groups, partnerships and volunteers across Britain, has been celebrated at the 18th Community Rail Awards.

Joint winners Friends of Goostrey and Essex & South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership receiving their awards for Outstanding Contribution to Community Rail.

The event, organised by Community Rail Network, recognised a diverse array of projects supporting social inclusion, sustainable travel, empowered communities, and economic development. 15 winners were chosen from more than 200 entries, demonstrating how the community rail movement builds links, positivity and awareness between local people and their railways, benefitting communities and often changing lives.

The Outstanding Contribution to Community Rail Award was awarded to both:

  • Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership, which coordinates activity across six branch lines, and in the past year has helped refugees and asylum seekers adapt to life in Essex, run climate change and dementia-friendly trains, developed rail safety programmes with local schools, and supported volunteer-led community gardens, wildlife projects and locally-created, vibrant art displays at stations.
  • Friends of Goostrey Station, a volunteer group in Cheshire that works tirelessly to improve their historic station and enable the local community to get maximum benefit, developing Goostrey Art Studio in a lovingly restored station building, providing for nature by monitoring biodiversity, and encouraging sustainable and active travel by rail.

The awards were held at Manchester’s Central Convention Complex on 6th October. More than 430 guests attended, including community rail volunteers, officers, rail industry leaders and government representatives. The event was addressed by transport ministers from the UK and Scottish Governments, plus industry leaders and personalities passionate about community rail.

The awards recognise the crucial, often unsung work of community rail partnerships, station friends volunteers and community groups, in areas such as community and youth engagement, community-led station development, diversity and inclusion, and sustainable development. Details of all winners and highly commended entries are here, and winners listed below.

Joining Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, to present the awards were Nick Donovan, managing director for Northern, and Simon Elliott, head of rail for Transport for Greater Manchester, the joint headline sponsors of the event.

Other speakers, who underlined the value of engaging communities with their local railways and stations and the importance of rail in building a greener, more inclusive transport future, included: Rail Minister Kevin Foster and Scottish Minister Jenny Gilruth.

Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said: “The Community Rail Awards give deserved recognition to community rail partnerships, groups and volunteers across Britain. We were thrilled to welcome more than 430 guests, alongside ministers and rail industry leaders, emphasising the great value of community rail, helping to build stronger, fairer, greener communities, served and connected by their railways and wider sustainable transport network.

“Despite another challenging year, the array of entries defied expectations, showing how community rail continues to strive to help people get the most from their railways and stations, and impact positively on local places and people’s lives. Our congratulations to all our winners, and thanks to everyone who supports and champions community rail, helping the movement to go from strength to strength.”

Nick Donovan, managing director of Northern, said: “We are delighted to support the Community Rail Awards 2022. The volume and breadth of initiatives taking place right across our network is inspiring and it’s right that we shine a light on the importance of community work across the UK. After all, railway stations are an integral part of the community they serve and train operators, Network Rail and station adoption schemes among others all have a role to play in making these community assets thrive.”

Vernon Everitt, GM’s Transport Commissioner, said: “This year’s Community Rail Awards was very special. All nominations showcased work of the highest standard and, on behalf of Greater Manchester, I would like to congratulate everyone who took part. 

“Railways and stations are often the very heart of local communities. We saw how the inspirational work of nominees is embracing this to drive economic, social and environmental improvements and is enabling two-way community engagement. 

“Many of these elements are being built in to the delivery of the Bee Network – our plan for an integrated, public transport system in Greater Manchester, bringing together trams, buses, cycling and walking and suburban rail for the benefit of everyone in Greater Manchester.”

The night’s winners across all categories were (read more in our winners’ booklet):

  • Community Rail Network Award for Outstanding Contribution to Community RailEssex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership and Friends of Goostrey Station
  • Board’s Special Recognition AwardRichard Watts
  • Outstanding Volunteer Contribution sponsored by Eversholt RailJulie Levy of South East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership and Bolton Station Community Partnership
  • Station Friends and Adopters at the Heart of Communities sponsored by Siemens MobilityFriends of Buxton Station for Part of Something Positively Local
  • Involving Children and Young People sponsored by London North Eastern RailwayEngineered Learning, Derwent Valley Line Community Rail Partnership and East Midlands Railway for Turning Around Vulnerable Young Lives Through Engineering
  • Involving Diverse Groups sponsored by East Midlands RailwayGloucestershire Community Rail Partnership for Getaway
  • Community Creative Projects and Station Arts sponsored by Transport for Greater ManchesterSouth East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership for Wigan Mural Project
  • Small Projects Award (under £500) sponsored by Community Rail LancashireKent Community Rail Partnership for Sunflower Mural – Let’s Celebrate Differences
  • Most Effective Communications Campaign sponsored by CrossCountrySoutheast Communities Rail Partnership for Go Green by Train CO2 Savings
  • Best Community Engagement Project sponsored by Go-AheadHeart of England Community Rail Partnership, Highly Sprung Performance, Coventry City Council & Avanti West Coast for Coventry Station Community Day – In Transit
  • Tourism & Leisure Award sponsored by Transport for WalesGreat Little Trains of Wales and the Community Rail Partnerships in Wales and the Borders for ‘Wales on Rails Tourism Project
  • Influencing Positive Change and Sustainability sponsored by RSSBPlatform Rail Community Education Scheme for Community Education Scheme
  • Most Enhanced Railway Spaces sponsored by Greater AngliaFriends of Goostrey Station for A Creative Hub at Goostrey Station
  • Photo Competition | capturing the essence of community rail in 2021/22 sponsored by PorterbrookFriends of Irlam Station Line for A Good Workout!