Rails to recovery – community rail in the North West

Rails to recovery – community rail in the North West

16 Apr, 2021

On Wednesday 24 March the Community Rail Network launched a campaign that shows that community rail will play a pivotal role in building back better from Covid and helping our railways to be a vital component of a greener, more inclusive way forward as part of a ‘green recovery’.

The campaign sponsored by the Rail Delivery Group explains what community rail is all about and what it does to benefit the rail industry. Community Rail Lancashire (CRL) is supporting the campaign and below is a little of what CRL and its four community rail partnerships (CRPs) do.

There are four CRPs in Lancashire:

  • The Clitheroe Line CRP – Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria via Bolton and the DalesRail service from Blackpool to Carlisle
  • The East Lancashire CRP – Preston to Colne, Blackburn to Manchester via Todmorden and supports the Blackpool to York service
  • The South Fylde Line CRP – Preston to Blackpool South
  • The West of Lancashire CRP – Preston to Ormskirk, Wigan Wallgate to Southport and Wigan Wallgate to Kirkby

Each of the CRPs has a member organisation that is a partnership of representatives from the rail industry, local councils, rail user groups, friends of station groups and other local CRPs. The CRPs are supported by the CRL team that comprises the chair, two community rail development officers, two community rail education development officers and a special needs education officer.

Each CRP has an action plan, that lays out the intended work and projects of the CRP and how they link to the Department for Transport’s Community Rail Development Strategy. The work is mostly split over education, including introducing young people to the railway and how they can safely use rail to travel, and ‘on the ground work’ at stations including promoting rail as a sustainable way to travel and helping the education team with installations of artwork created by local school children with help by local artists.

Over the last decade or so CRL has developed an award-winning education programme that works with students of all ages and especially, to educate the ‘passengers of the future’. The team work closely with underprivileged groups, those with learning difficulties and those who lack confidence or feel threatened when travelling by rail.

Kul Bassi MBE, from the Department of Transport, said “Today Community Rail Lancashire continues to push boundaries, with thousands of children benefiting from the various initiatives. They have ensured that young people with additional needs and disabilities are having access to similar opportunities. The many projects undertaken with young people have led to the transformation of many local railways with their artwork bringing much needed colour to the station environment. Their continued innovation in this area is an exemplar of best practice for others.” 

Carolyn Watson, community & sustainability director, Northern, commented; “Community Rail Lancashire has been at the forefront of community engagement, notably with young people since its inception. Northern is proud to have supported its work, through the individual community rail partnerships and more recently with the establishment of the education team.” 

Carolyn went on to say; “The Community Rail Lancashire team is delivering pioneering work and sharing best practice amongst the community rail sector and beyond. Long may they continue, so congratulations to the team past and present, and we look forward to working with them in the decades to come.”

You can be assured that Community Rail Lancashire and its four constituent CRPs will be working closely with the train operators and all aspects of the local community to help build back the confidence in rail that has been lost over the last year during the pandemic.

CRL will be promoting a number of projects, old and new, across the four CRPs and these will include:

  • Clitheroe Line CRPDalesRail 2021, the famous summer Sunday service that runs between Blackpool and Carlisle via the Ribble Valley, Yorkshire Dales and the Eden Valley providing a programme of guided walks. Visit dalesrail.com for more information.
  • East Lancashire CRPAmazing Women by Rail, a new twist to an older project with a film about Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth (Gawthorpe Hall) and to promote the service between Blackburn and Manchester via Todmorden. Download ‘Amazing Women by Rail on this link: flipgorilla.com/p/25441453291342216/show
  • South Fylde Line CRP – a relaunch of the existing self-guided walks along the branch line that runs from Preston to  Blackpool South along with some new ones being developed. These self-guided walks and others can be found on communityraillancashire.co.uk/walks/self-guided-walks/
  • West of Lancashire CRP – continued promotion of the Make a Bee Line for your station project and to encourage people to discover the Hidden Gems across the Northern & Merseyrail networks. You can download the leaflet here Beeline Leaflet and click this link to read about Hidden Gems.       

Richard Watts, chair of Community Rail Lancashire, commented: “Community rail has a key supportive role to play in helping the rail industry recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As travel restrictions ease CRL, along with the four community rail partnerships it supports, will redouble its efforts to promote leisure use of the railway and one of the key initiatives will be the promotion of the iconic DalesRail service that links Lancashire to the Yorkshire Dales and Eden Valley. Rail is a safe way to travel and we look forward to welcoming everyone back again”.

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