A scheme which allows local communities to adopt under-used stations and rail lines is set to enter a new era under multi-million pound plans to be announced by the Rail Minister Paul Maynard.
Nearly 60 Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs) have been set up around the country since 1993, and have helped to revive and reshape more than 80 routes and stations, thanks to volunteers, community engagement and funding from the government and train operators, which last year topped £3 million.
And now the Department for Transport plans to build on the success of the scheme by launching an updated community rail strategy – with millions of pounds of investment available for successful schemes. The plan is to see the scheme expanded and replicated on a wider scale across the country.
The most successful projects have seen passenger numbers boosted, while others have recreated railway stations as important community hubs.
Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: “We have seen nearly a quarter of a century of communities pulling together to breathe new life into railway lines and stations – and we want to build on that success.
“We want give the volunteers the support they deserve, spread their success and encourage new partnerships to be created and flourish.
“This forms a key part of the investment the government is making in the railways – the biggest since the Victorian era, delivering new carriages, new routes, track upgrades and better stations.”
The minister is launching a consultation into how to expand and enhance community partnerships today at one of the scheme’s success stories, Burnley’s Manchester Road station. Over the past year, the station has seen passenger numbers rise by more than 100,000.
The funding each partnership receives allows them to promote their station or line in the local community and improve accessibility which has increased passenger footfall and helped to reduce vandalism.
More than 3,200 volunteers give 250,000 hours of their time every year to partnerships across the network.
The new strategy for England and Wales is the first since 2007, and will be launched in Spring next year following the end of the public consultation on 28 January 2018.
The consultation focuses on 4 themes
- connecting people to places and opportunities
- supporting communities, diversity and inclusion
- supporting local and regional economies
- suggesting innovative ways to improve the way the railway works
The Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP), the national umbrella organisation for community rail, has also produced a booklet setting out the benefits of community rail.