Community rail groups used a national day of action to join forces and showcase some of Britain’s most scenic train journeys and promote sustainable tourism by rail.
Now in its ninth year, ‘Community Rail in the City’ is an increasingly widespread celebration aimed at developing tourism and travel for recreation on Britain’s community rail routes, encouraging thousands of passengers to explore epic landscapes, coastal scenes, and sites of historic interest.
This year’s event involved 36 community rail partnerships and groups – up from 24 groups last year – and their rail and tourism partners hosting activities at 20 mainline railway stations, including in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.
Groups spoke to an estimated 75,000 people throughout the day, promoting the tourism opportunities accessible via Britain’s expanding community rail network.
Highlights of the event included a ‘Highland Fling’ at Kings Cross, a countryside scene celebrating the 70th anniversary of National Parks at Waterloo, an 18-foot replica of the Mayflower on display at London Liverpool Street, and a giant paint-by-numbers mural at Birmingham New Street.
Rail Minister, Andrew Jones took a visit to London’s Waterloo Station to meet with community rail partnerships attending at the station to find out more about the sustainable travel and leisure opportunities that are in easy access of their lines.
Community rail partnerships work at grassroots level to engage local communities, help people to get the most from their railways, and promote rail as a key part of sustainable, healthy travel.
Community Rail in the City is organised by the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP), the umbrella body for community rail groups across Britain, which supports its members to work with partners to integrate rail travel into their area’s local tourism offer.
As well as helping people access more of Britain through enjoyable, environmentally friendly means, tourism by rail makes a growing and vital contribution to local economies. Rail usage in this sector has increased by 30% over the last decade, with approximately three million annual visitors using the train as part of their trip, adding £510m to the UK economy. Other national organisations have recently highlighted the importance of promoting sustainable travel, with the National Parks Association issuing a report stating the need to help more people access the countryside via public transport.
Rail Minister, Andrew Jones, said: “Community Rail Partnerships transform our stations, provide purpose and pride, and give people a say in how their local rail network can work for them. These organisations do vital work to encourage regional tourism, promoting rail travel to some of the country’s outstanding beauty spots and heritage sites.”
“Through our new Community Rail Strategy this government is committed to supporting the growth of community rail and seeing these benefits for passengers delivered right across the country.”
ACoRP’s chief executive, Jools Townsend, said: “This campaign is all about promoting the exploration of historic, scenic Britain through our wonderful, often not-well-known, community railway lines. These lines take you off the beaten track, to some of our most amazing and fascinating destinations – and travel on them is especially rewarding, as these railways played a crucial part in our heritage, and bring you into the heart of communities. Tourism by rail is great for families and holiday-makers, and for the places they visit, as it’s more sustainable and healthier than driving, helping to reduce pollution, noise, and congestion, and providing a critical boost to local economies.”
“This year we have more community rail partnerships and groups than ever before taking part in Community Rail in the City, working with rail industry and tourism partners to promote their lines to tens of thousands of people.”
Planning is already underway for the 2020 event, with some community rail groups looking to promote links with Mayflower 400, a series of celebrations commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s pioneering voyage.