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Community rail: business benefits and real community impact

Source: RTM June/July

Community rail is a grassroots movement well placed to engage local people in rail, and build trust and understanding. Jools Townsend, chief executive of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, argues that people-led schemes are a hugely valuable resource.

We are seeing a groundswell of awareness that our railways would benefit from being more people and passenger focused.

Many questions are being asked, through the Williams Review and by industry leaders, about how that is best achieved.

As the national umbrella body for a burgeoning number of community rail partnerships, station friends and over 75 community stations projects across Britain.

We believe that effective community engagement, making use of our well-established and successful community rail network, is key, and can deliver major business benefits as well as social good.

community railway

Going back 25 years, community rail partnerships emerged from a backdrop of concern that under-used lines might be under threat, and a staunch belief that engaging local communities would enhance interest, use and pride in these lines.

We are now in a very different context, with ridership having soared, but community rail is more relevant than ever.

Our research shows how community rail is delivering impressive outcomes in relation to the themes of the DfT’s Community Rail Development Strategy: community voice; sustainable, healthy, accessible travel; social inclusion; and social and economic development.

We have countless, inspiring examples of community rail having a powerful effect in terms of place-making, regeneration, sustainability, opportunity and cohesion – and changing people’s lives for the better.

However, there is more we can do to ensure everyone in rail understands community rail, can draw on its insights, and supports and engages with it fully. Opportunities for industry partners range from consulting community rail partnerships and station groups about engineering projects and development plans, to providing in-kind support, sponsorship and staff volunteering.

Involvement with community rail not only helps the movement to help the industry in a broad sense; it can also deliver immediate business benefits.

From better community communications and relations, and enhanced reputation, to the improved employee satisfaction and morale that comes with seeing the benefits your work has for people’s lives.

ACoRP is working with a growing range of corporate partners to facilitate wider support and engagement with the inspiring world of community rail, so if your company is not already connected, or there’s scope to do more, do get in touch.



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