What is Community Rail?
Community Rail is a Government strategy supported by the rail industry.
In most respects, community railways are no different from the rest of the railway. The Community Rail Development Strategy is based upon the wishes of the communities served to remain connected to the national rail network but seeks to deliver that in a more sustainable way.
It offers the concept of a different category of local railway, separately specified, fit for purpose, but with standards appropriate to its use. Importantly, it actively involves the wishes of local communities in the development of their railway.
The Department for Transport (DfT) says that the aim of Community Rail Development is ‘putting local and rural railways on a sustainable basis for the long term, so that they can continue to offer a vital service for passengers and freight and can contribute more to the local economy, as well as to meeting government targets on accessibility, the environment and social inclusion.’
The Dft wants to ‘double the number of passengers using these lines, and cut the subsidy by a third’.
What are Community Rail Partnerships (CRPS)
Community Rail partnerships are a bridge between the railway and local communities. They are about positive development, bringing together a wide range of interests along the rail corridor.
CRPS organisations help involve people in their local rail services. The aim is that everyone plays an active part in their system – including train operators, Network Rail, local authorities, local employers, development and tourism agencies, community and other local groups including rail user groups.
Some partnerships have been instrumental in achieving spectacular increases in use of rail through innovative marketing, improved services and better station facilities.
Their work includes improving bus links to stations, developing walking and cycling routes, bringing station buildings back to life, art and education projects and organising special events which promote the railway and its relevance to the community.
What is Happening Now
There are currently 6 pilot projects for community rail, covering 7 routes. These are:
- St Ives Line: St Ives to St Erth: Looe to Liskeard and Plymouth to Gunnislake
- Abbey Line: Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey
- Poacher Line: Grantham to Skegness
- Penistone Line: Barnsley to Huddersfield
- Esk Valley Line: Middlesbrough to Whitby
Community Rail IS Popular
Passenger numbers have increased more on routes with Community Rail Partnerships than other similar lines, especially in off-peak journeys.
Government figures show that journeys on CRP lines grew by 14% on average last year. The figure for non-partnership routes was exactly half that number.
The Government View
The Government is of the view that the future of rural lines depends on effective partnerships between local authorities, community groups and passengers as well as local communities supporting and developing the lines.
The Government hopes that community rail will help to generate some innovative ideas about increasing the amount of freight moved on local and rural railways - such as those developed in the Scottish Highlands.