Community Rail News weekly update – 25 March 2020

Community Rail News weekly update – 25 March 2020

26 Mar, 2020

Hello and good wishes to all members and partners – we hope you’re keeping safe and well through this unprecedented situation. Further to our email last week, advising on immediate concerns, we wanted to provide some more updates and suggestions of how we can all stay connected and positive, and most importantly, keep making a difference to our communities, through and beyond this crisis.

Alongside this, please ensure you’re up-to-date with government advice, and follow it.

Weekly updates for everyone in community rail
We are switching to a more regular weekly bulletin, every Wednesday until further notice, to help provide the guidance, reassurance and positivity we all need at the moment, and maintain a sense of togetherness across the community rail community.

If you know anyone involved or interested in community rail, who doesn’t get our updates but wants to stay informed, encourage them to sign up at communityrail.org.uk/news/community-rail-news-sign-up/.

Engaging colleagues and partners on social media
 It’s never been more important for us to stay connected and keep talking. Social media provides a great way to keep in touch with us and community rail people across Britain: we’ll be making increased use of it to share what community rail is doing to adapt and move forward despite the challenges. If you’re not already, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. You can also use our Facebook groups  to discuss community rail issues and advise each other on how you’re adapting. We’ve already seen some good examples of innovation, which we’ll be sharing. Don’t forget to keep tagging posts with #CommunityRail.

Of course, you can use social media to interact with local and national colleagues and partners, in rail, business, and the wider community and voluntary sector, to show your support and develop links. It’s a good time to look at who you’re engaging with, and build connections with wider groups.

For straightforward advice on using social media, see our guidance sheet.

Adapting and finding alternative ways to work
Although many of our team are used to working from home some of the time, with our office shut and team unable to travel, we have been adapting and adjusting. We’re working on the assumption that we’ll be working from home for at least three months, and have been reshaping our plans (see below) and ways of working accordingly. Adapting how we work has included:

  • Discussing together what we and our members need over the coming weeks and months
  • Ensuring our staff are supported and well-set-up to work well from home (advice here)
  • Prioritising people, and their wellbeing, health and mental health
  • Upping the amount we talk by phone and social media; having (virtual) team meetings more often
  • Switching all meetings to phone or video conferencing

Easy-to-use, free services we use and suggest to members include: free conference call (for large group conference calls, or video calls for up to five people); Zoom (video calls free up to 40 minutes); Skype; or Teams if you use Office365. All these services offer calls by voice or video and allow you to present slides and share documents. Let us know which you’ve tried.

We recommend that all community rail partnerships, and station groups as relevant, follow these principles. That includes using the phone, or online services, rather than cancelling meetings and discussions, and discussing and agreeing together how you’ll adapt. It’s crucial to keep talking to each other, partners and volunteers, and consider people who may be feeling especially isolated or anxious.

Our operations team can advise on adapting your activities: speak to your main contact. Do also tell Nik if you have a great example of adapting that we can share with others.

Supporting community resilience and rebuilding
Communities and community groups around Britain are finding ways to cope and build resilience, including by mobilising volunteer support to assist the most vulnerable. Many local authorities are coordinating local volunteering, plus there is national coordination by British Red Cross and NHS Volunteer Responders.

Do consider if there are ways you can help, through a well-organised scheme, while keeping safe and following government advice and instructions. We all need to play whatever part we can in helping our localities get through this, plus supporting people and reaching out to local partners is likely to strengthen community rail’s role in the long-run.

Adjusting our plans
We have been looking at our plans for the coming months and considering what Covid-19 means for our services and events. We’ll keep providing updates, but some of the main points from this are:

  • Our operations team may not be able to visit, but they are still here for you by phone and email. You can contact them, and expect to hear from them more in coming weeks;
  • We are hoping to keep going with CRP (re)accreditation meetings using conference call/video conferencing, with the first one on Thursday. So please keep booking yours in;
  • Community Rail in the City may be cancelled, but our tourism officer Alice will be reaching out to members (and is keen to hear from you) on developing info on our Scenic Rail Britain site, and your websites, to promote leisure and tourism by rail when we can start travelling again;
  • We’re looking at whether we can open our Awards entries early, and the possibility of switching our summer seminars to a series of webinars. Watch this space: further updates next week.

Assurances of community rail funding
While many community rail partnerships have received funding or agreements from train operators in recent months, a few have contacted us to ask for reassurance about core funding that’s expected in the coming six months, while emergency measures are in place. We have been told by the DfT that:

“During the Emergency Measures Agreement period, we are funding train operators to continue to meet existing commitments to provide core funding to community rail partnerships, particularly for staffing. However, with regard to Customer and Community Improvement Funds, we would expect work to pause, given the nature of many projects. Whether funds will be opened will be considered by train operators on a case-by-case basis. 

As train operators need to focus on running the trains at present, community rail organisations are also urged to consider if it is essential, before contacting them about community rail projects.”

If any members have worries about funding or financial security, speak to your operations team contact. Please be aware that train operators may be redeploying community rail staff to other duties, so feel free to speak to us in the first instance.

Keep safe and well,

Jools and Richard

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