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South Western Railway publishes first Social Value Report

South Western Railway (SWR) has published its first Social Value Report, becoming the first train operating company to do so.

The report is a summary of the impact that SWR has on society, the environment, and the economy, from delivering improvements for its customers, to supporting local communities of the South West, and helping build the economic and social prosperity of the UK.

To provide a common, consistent basis for understanding and measuring social impacts across British rail industry organisations, projects, and programmes, RSSB Research established the Common Social Impact Framework (CSIF), soon to be known as the Rail Social Value tool. This identifies ten key areas of social impact for rail: community safety, accessibility, employment and skills, social inclusion, diversity and inclusion, health and wellbeing, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, local and sustainable procurement, and regeneration. SWR used the tool to assess its social impact both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Key achievements highlighted in the report include:

  • Supporting 215 people to complete an apprenticeship
  • Procuring 7.5% of all spend from small and medium-sized businesses
  • Providing £10.7 million worth of training courses
  • Appointing and training 82 mental health first aiders
  • Increasing the proportion of step-free access stations to 68%
  • Investing £1.03 million in the Customer and Communities Improvement Fund
  • Preventing 175 incidents through interventions from frontline teams
  • Limiting colleague turnover to 5.6% through colleague engagement
  • Donating £259,316 to charities
  • Dedicating 117.5 hours of colleague time to the delivery of health and wellbeing courses
  • Establishing five key networks to help achieve greater diversity and stronger inclusion
  • Achieving a 4 or 5 out of 5 rating for station experience from 76% of respondents to the customer survey
  • Introducing a passenger assistance satisfaction survey
  • Developing a network for apprentices

In the social inclusion section of the report, SWR champions the achievements of the 11 community rail partnerships (CRPs) it supports across its network, and its army of more than 60 volunteer station adopters. It highlights the ‘free shops’ that have been established at Petersfield and Swaythling stations by the East Hants CRP and Three Rivers CRP, and celebrates the Isle of Wight and Lymington-Brockenhurst CRPs’ ‘Food on the Move’ initiative, which delivered more than 20,000 meals to families in need.

Under the theme of regeneration, the report talks about the support provided by Community Rail Network to SWR in reviewing all buildings across its network in a bid to find redundant spaces that can be converted for community use.

Our chief executive, Jools Townsend, is quoted in the report, stating: “We’re so pleased to be partnering with SWR to help them return disused station spaces to community use and bring stations into the heart of communities. This type of work is especially important as we help communities to recover and build back better from COVID-19.”

Going forward, SWR states that it will focus on improving the practice of recording of social impact data in all areas, while continuing to work with the RSSB to improve measurement of social impact. The company plans to publish a social value report every year.

Amy Dickinson, SWR’s head of sustainability, said“South Western Railway works hard on delivering improvements for our customers every day, but our responsibilities go beyond our customers, to the communities we serve, and helping build the economic and social prosperity of the UK.

“As one of the busiest networks in the country, we inevitably have an impact – on society, the environment, and the economy – and it is our responsibility to achieve maximum social value, taking every opportunity to have positive impacts, while mitigating the potential for disbenefits.

“As our first report of this kind, we know that it is not perfect, but to know where we are going, we had to know where we were coming from – and so, we are proud to share it. It serves as a benchmark from which SWR can build this year, and every year.

“Our stakeholders, customers, and communities should consider it an invitation. Whether you have a great idea, an exciting new project, or simply just want to find out more, we would love to hear from you. Together, we can ensure that the people of the South West get the most out of life.”

Michelle Papayannakos, RSSB’s sustainable rail programme lead, added“RSSB is proud to work with South Western Railway as one of the first rail operators to apply the Rail Social Value tool and the first to embrace public social impact reporting.

“We hope to continue to collaborate with SWR to develop consistency in reporting across railway organisations, and ultimately champion and document at an industry level the wide social benefits and opportunities Britain’s railways bring.

“We believe the railways should be valued not only as a mode of transportation of people and freight, but also for the greater social goods that they deliver.”

For more on information on assessing and evidencing social value and impact, you can read about our Impact activity tracking tool, access our guidance on using an outcomes-based approach to projects, or consider the exploratory framework for identifying and assessing social value in community rail contained in our ‘Value of Community Rail’ report (pages 35-39).