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North Downs Line CRP helps prepare rail users for a brighter return

North Downs Line CRP online meeting
The North Downs Line CRP meeting virtually

A Sussex based community rail partnership is providing rail “travel training” for older people, adults with a disability and people with mental health needs, as well as developing photographic station and local area walking guides for adults with learning disabilities, making future travel on the Reading to Gatwick line more accessible for all.

From Earley, Winnersh, Wokingham to Ash, Wanborough and Winnersh Triangle, the North Downs Line Community Rail Partnership (CRP) is working with vulnerable people to help prepare them to travel by rail again – once it’s safe to do so. Delivered online, the training – which includes planning journeys, purchasing tickets and traveling confidently – is also extending to cub groups beyond the local area from this week.

The North Downs Line CRP’s “travel training” builds on other work by the not-for-profit organisation, since it turned its focus to the area last year, to bring communities together, including fitting out waiting shelters at Winnersh and Winnersh Triangle Stations with community art and developing plans to install “bug hotels” and planters to encourage biodiversity at Wanborough Station.

Working closely with more than 20 other local community groups including CLASP, Optalis and councils, the North Downs Line CRP’s efforts are all designed to promote healthy and sustainable travel, bring communities together and support social and economic development. It is one of 11 similar organisations in which South Western Railway invested almost £300,000 last year.

Maddy Mills of the North Downs Line CRP said: “Our work with the community is all about building relationships, and that can be tricky when you can’t meet face-to-face, but thankfully Teams and Zoom have come to the rescue! This week, we are beaming into our first cub group meeting, talking with them about how to travel by train with confidence, once it’s safe to do so.”

Andrew Harrowell, community rail manager, South Western Railway commented: “The North Downs Line CRP is working hard to help locals feel safe, comfortable and welcome travelling by train again in due course. Despite lockdowns, they have hit the ground running since their launch, and we look forward to further working with them and the community.”