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Grassroots movement celebrates vital role of Britain’s railways in bringing communities together

A grassroots movement made up of hundreds of community groups and 10,000 volunteers is running activities across Britain showing how our historic railways connect communities and are helping us move towards a greener, healthier, fairer future.

Marking this year’s Community Rail Week, many community rail partnerships, which cover 34% of Britain’s railway network, and station volunteer groups, who tend to about half (47%) of Britain’s 2,570 stations, will run engaging, empowering activities in their communities. [i] They aim to improve travel confidence, increase access to opportunity, tackle social isolation, give communities a voice, and put railways and stations at the heart of community life. They will also encourage people who rarely use public transport to consider the benefits of making at least the occasional switch to greener, healthier, more social forms of travel, including rail.

Community Rail Week, which runs from 22-28 May, is organised by Community Rail Network and sponsored by Rail Delivery Group, showcasing year-round work by Britain’s 76 community rail partnerships and 1,200 station groups.

Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said: “Community rail partnerships and thousands of ‘station friends’ volunteers the length and breadth of Britain are mobilising en masse, engaging local people and partners to raise awareness about sustainable travel by rail, and get people enthused about its many benefits.”

The ninety-plus planned activities include: ‘Try the train’ trips for young people, groups marginalised from rail or those with accessibility needs, helping them to use rail confidently; cultural and arts projects at stations and community venues, connecting people with each other, local heritage, and the railway’s place in it; outdoor education trips with schools; and events showcasing walking and cycling routes from the railway.

Highlights and core events across the week include:

  • Mon 22 May – Main launch at Tolworth Station, London, showcasing the work of Britain’s newest community rail partnership, Community Train CRP. This includes a tapestry project by a Polish-Ukrainian community group helping new arrivals integrate into the UK; a book launch by Kingston University students, and a demonstration of a volunteer-run community kitchen;
  • Tues 23 MayRail Minister Huw Merriman MP will meet CRP representatives from Hampshire, Purbeck, and Southeast Communities at London Waterloo Station. The CRPs will talk to the minister about their work making rail more accessible and inclusive to groups facing barriers to travel, projects bringing station buildings back to life, and initiatives promoting sustainable tourism by rail;
  • Tues 23 May – Community rail partnerships and groups across the country will focus on education and youth engagement, as part of their vital work empowering young people and families. This includes primary school children from Bradford visiting the iconic Settle to Carlisle Line, Yorkshire, learning about its history and taking part in STEM activities;
  • Weds 24 May – Community Rail Network’s Scottish parliamentary reception takes place at Holyrood to show how community rail is developing in Scotland, especially supporting the Scottish Government’s climate targets and a shift towards more sustainable travel;
  • Thurs 25 May – A nationwide community rail showcase of sustainable, exciting tourism and leisure opportunities by rail, including interactive, themed displays at shopping centres and major local attractions. Community Rail Network will be exhibiting at the Locomotion Museum in Shildon, Country Durham, where the Bishop Line CRP will also be delivering rail safety training to local schools;
  • Fri 26 May – Finals of the ‘World Cup of Stations’, organised by Rail Delivery Group, with stations celebrated for the roles they play within local communities. See more info

Ms Townsend added: “Community Rail Week is all about connecting communities and bringing people together, while supporting and enabling more people to travel sustainably by train and access the opportunities they want. Community rail has an inspiring track record of doing just that: promoting travel confidence and broadening mobility horizons, sometimes with life-changing effects, while giving communities a voice on transport, and putting railways and stations at the heart of community life.”

Jacqueline Starr, chief executive officer at Rail Delivery Group, said:“Community Rail Week is an opportunity to celebrate the brilliant initiatives that volunteers have produced in partnership with the rail industry all over the country. We are proud to partner with community rail to host our annual World Cup of Stations tournament and shine a light on some of the best loved stations. Together we want to create a more inclusive, sustainable, and customer-focused rail experience for all and celebrate the role of local communities in enhancing our rail network.”