Throughout August, Rail Minister Huw Merriman MP has been embarking upon a rail tour of England and Wales to see first-hand all the amazing things our rail network has to offer.
We’re delighted to see that community rail partnerships have featured prominently on the Minister’s tour agenda. Read on to find out more about each of the visits.
Conwy Valley & North West Wales Coast CRP
For the first community rail stop on his tour, the Minister took a trip on the stunning Conwy Valley line, hearing about how the community rail partnerships of Wales and Borders are working to promote tourism by rail, showcasing the hidden gems the area has to offer that are accessible by rail and other forms of public and shared transport.
Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company
At Ribblehead Station, the Minister had the pleasure of meeting volunteers and staff from the Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company and the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line, who strive to preserve the history and heritage of the area, promoting their railway link as a thriving tourist and visitor attraction. The Minister presented the groups with the Sunday Times award naming Ribblehead as the second loveliest station in the UK.
In Skipton, the Minister met Gerald Townson, Chair of the Leeds-Morecambe CRP, to hear about how the Bentham Line has made modern-day history as the first railway to actively support the journeys of people living with dementia. Accessibility is a top priority for the Bentham Line – with the help of Northern’s ‘Year in Industry’ students, the Partnership developed the ‘Access for All’ programme, proposing a series of accessibility and inclusion improvements at stations along the line. The Minister described these projects as a ‘credit’ to community rail and the local community.
Penistone Line Partnership
At Huddersfield Station, the Penistone Line Partnership gave the Minister a tour of Platform 2, showcasing examples of their projects that have engaged young people in rail safety and travel confidence, as well as promoting career opportunities in the rail industry.
PLP was joined by volunteers from the Friends of Huddersfield Station, who are involved in gardening and arts activities at the station, as well as representatives from mental health charity Platform 1. The Minister was able to see the results of Platform 1’s 2021 win in the Department for Transport’s ‘Transform a Pacer’ competition – the new space at the station provides mental health and welfare support, crisis intervention, and counselling services for the whole community.
Our chief executive Jools joined PLP at Huddersfield Station and was able to speak to the Minister about community rail in a wider context, and how community empowerment delivers greater value from rail, promotes sustainable mobility, and brings people together.
In Southampton, the Minister was introduced to the fantastic Hampshire CRP volunteers and learnt about the importance of the Waterside line project which, thanks to the Department for Transport’s ‘Restoring Your Railway’ fund, will be developing proposals to reintroduce passenger services.
The Minister heard more from Hampshire CRP about its current and future projects, and acknowledged how so much impactful work on our railway is thanks to an army of community rail volunteers.
In Swanage, members of Purbeck CRP were delighted to take the Minister on the long-awaited rail link to Wareham, where he met volunteers from the Friends of Wareham Station, who devote their time and energy to making the station welcoming and vibrant, solidifying its place as a hub at the heart of the community.
During his visit, the Minister was made aware of the CRP’s ambitions for sustainable and joined-up transport initiatives, and the support needed from government and other partners to move this agenda forward.
At the start of his Summer Rail Tour, the Minister spoke about how it is the people across our railways which make it all come together. Meeting our fantastic members has been a great way for the Minister to see tangible, visual examples of community rail projects, hearing first-hand how community rail delivers greater value, promotes sustainable mobility, and brings people together.
It is encouraging to see the Minister display such enthusiasm and express his desire to continue supporting, working with, and advocating for community rail going forward. At each of his community rail visits he thanked the members and volunteers for their time and energy, and for everything they do to connect communities to their railways.