Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change and Welsh Government Transport Minister, heard today about the vital work of a grassroots movement, engaging local communities with rail, and helping Wales shift towards green, integrated, inclusive travel.
Mr Waters and Transport for Wales representatives visited Swansea Station to meet the team from Community Rail Network, community rail’s umbrella body, and South West Wales Connected and Heart of Wales Line Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs). They explained how they bring people together, provide a voice for communities, and support social inclusion, while enabling sustainable travel and tourism to help tackle the climate emergency.
Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, spoke to Mr Waters about the growing community rail movement, with five community rail partnerships (community-based organisations working closely with TfW and local partners) and 140 station friends volunteer groups made up of over 1,000 volunteers across Wales. She highlighted successful projects that: help people to switch journeys from car to rail, buses, active and shared travel; promote sustainable tourism by rail; break down travel barriers to increase access to opportunity; and improve integration between trains, buses, walking and cycling.
South West Wales Connected CRP staff led a tour of Swansea Station, highlighting a new mural created with ten local community groups, and the site for a planned community garden – both initiatives designed to promote wellbeing, create a sense of ownership towards the station, and make a welcoming and green gateway for the town.
Mr Waters heard from the Heart of Wales Line CRP on their work supporting sustainable tourism, including creating walking routes from and between stations. The CRPs also discussed Wales on Rails, a joint project between all the Welsh community rail partnerships and heritage railways to encourage safe, sustainable, scenic adventures.
Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for transport, Lee Waters said: “Getting more people to travel by train is an important part of reaching our NetZero targets and the Welsh Government is investing £800 Million in brand new trains across Wales.
I was pleased to hear about all the vital work that is taking place across Wales to engage local communities as we work together to deliver an integrated, sustainable and inclusive transport system across Wales.”
Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said: “Community rail partnerships and station volunteer groups work tirelessly across Wales and the Borders to engage communities, promote sustainable travel, and enrich lives. We were so pleased to be able to showcase to the Deputy Minister this important, inspiring work, which is driven by and deeply rooted in communities. Community rail enables more people to make greener journeys and access new opportunities, breaking down barriers and helping rail better meet local needs. This helps to address the climate emergency – with transport emissions, mostly from cars, now the biggest contributor – while empowering communities and benefitting local environments and economies.”
The Welsh Government’s transport strategy, Llwybr Newydd, aims to support more sustainable and inclusive transport. Modal shift onto rail, buses, walking and cycling, and shared mobility is crucial to hit climate targets and create a fairer system of mobility; the Welsh Government has a targets for 45% of journeys to be made by public transport, walking, and cycling by 2040, compared to 32% currently.
Rail accounted for just 1% of UK domestic transport emissions in 2020, despite representing 6% of the total distance travelled, and for a 30-mile journey, travelling by train instead of by car can reduce emissions by up to 86%. ¹
For more information on modal shift and community rail’s contribution, see Community Rail Network’s modal shift report.
Jools Townsend added: “The evidence shows that reducing car use is crucial to tackling the climate emergency, and it can unleash great benefits for communities and families too, by improving health and wellbeing, addressing the cost of living, and making our streets and communities safer, nicer places. But we know it’s not so simple as ‘persuading’ people to ditch the car: as well as raising awareness we need to break down barriers and widen access to public and community transport, combined with active and shared travel. Community rail and other locally-led initiatives have a vital part to play.”
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