Kent Community Rail Partnership and Sheppey College provide opportunities for the college students to get involved in a range of community projects. The partnership works with different student cohorts – IT, business, construction, landscaping, travel and tourism – to develop schemes offering real-life work experience and the chance for students to showcase their skills.
To introduce them to the projects, groups of students – some of whom have never travelled by rail before or even left the Isle of Sheppey – are taken on the train to stations on the Swale Rail Line. Alongside information on how to travel safely and independently, they are tasked with looking at issues at the stations and identifying improvements they feel could promote and encourage further use, by young people and all sections of local communities.
To complement their own ideas, the students design surveys to collect data from passengers and local residents on what they would like to see at the stations, with the results informing projects as well as being fed back to the community rail partnership and the train operator, Southeastern.
In the two years the projects have been running, students have created promotional videos to promote the line and a website listing things to do and places to visit in the local area. Stations have been brightened up with artwork, adorned with awareness-raising posters on issues such as equality, mental health, addiction, and train etiquette, and enhanced by new landscaping, planters, benches, bird boxes and floral displays.
The college has now officially adopted all five stations on the line, and linking their work to the community rail projects allows the students to put the skills they have learnt in the classroom into practice while also having a positive, tangible impact on the communities they live in.