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Rail minister launches strategy for grassroots community rail projects

Rail minister Andrew Jones has urged train operators to commit resources into new and existing community rail projects as he launched the 2018 Community Rail Strategy.

Jones, who returned to the role of transport minister on Tuesday following Jo Johnson’s resignation, said companies must commit more time, materials and resources to the future of grassroots rail strategy.

The minister said that since the first strategy was launched 14 years ago, there have been hundreds of successful projects nationwide which have given “so many people a local lifeline to events, activities and initiatives that they would otherwise have no access to.”

Jones launched the updated Community Rail Strategy during a visit to the Cumbrian Coast Line and its ‘rail journey to recovery’ scheme, which Andrew called one of the UK’s most successful community rail projects.

Former alcohol and drug addicts were able to get work placements and training through the Cumbrian rail network, which supports them in getting back into work.

Jones said: “Community rail projects are vital because they get everybody involved, from right across the community, and give local people a say in how their rail network can serve their needs.

“That is why it is so important for train operators to increase their support, opening up space and ensuring their stations become vital hubs in our communities.”

‘Rail journey to recovery’ is one of the of projects run by 60 community rail partnerships (CPRs) across the country set up by local groups, charities and councils working with TOCs.

The chief executive of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, Jools Townsend, said: “Hundreds of community rail partnerships and station groups across Britain are working to help local people to get the most from their railways, and support industry partners to put communities at the forefront.

“We welcome this strategy, which recognises the importance of community rail to mobility, inclusion, wellbeing and development, and provides a clear framework for partnership work between communities and industry, government and third sector partners.”

The last time the Community Rail Strategy was revamped was in 2004, and the new update comes following a public consultation earlier in the year.

Among the new measures in the 2018 strategy is a new accreditation scheme for CPRs and the creation of a transport network to provides opportunities for new education, employment and life skill opportunities.

The strategy has also said it will play a pivotal role in the government’s loneliness strategy by helping community groups make use of unused or under-used railway property to create local hubs and facilities for people.


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