Community rail projects in East Anglia receive national recognition

Friday, 11 December 2020

Above: A train going through Althorne, Essex. An example of the video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IdZth6UsWc&list=PL7iH6u2koXVkTOwwOtWS_n...

Inspiring projects between volunteers, community organisations and train operators were recognised last night at the national Community Rail Awards, with initiatives in East Anglia receiving four accolades.

The region’s community rail partnerships - The Bittern Line, Wherry Lines, East Suffolk Lines, Hereward, and Essex and South Suffolk - working with train operator Greater Anglia,  fought off strong competition to take home the Best Marketing or Communications Campaign award at the 16th national Community Rail Awards, on 9 December.

The partnerships were celebrated for their ‘Room with a View’ project, which showcased the amazing places and attractions within easy reach of the region’s railways lines, and encouraged people to travel more sustainably by enjoying the comfort of Greater Anglia’s new fleet of trains for days out rather than take their cars.

Promotional videos were produced for eight separate lines, complete with easy-to-download guides on things to see and do. Via extensive promotion on social media, the videos were seen by more than 220,000 people, resulting in a significant increase in passengers and greater interest in the opportunities offered by the region’s rail network.

Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said: "Our congratulations go to Greater Anglia and all the community rail partnerships involved in this project, which successfully highlighted the benefits of rail as a sociable and sustainable form of travel.

"The Community Rail Awards recognise the achievements and passion of community rail volunteers, groups and partnerships across Britain. Their tireless efforts connect local people with their railways and stations, bring communities together, and enable more people to access sustainable travel. This contributes to greener, healthier, happier, more inclusive communities, and promotes wider access to opportunity. This work couldn’t be more important right now.

"We will be holding up this brilliant example from East Anglia nationally, to inspire more communities to engage creatively with their railways."

The Hereward Community Rail Partnership was also Highly Commended in this category for its consultation work to find out the community’s views before installing brand new shelters at stations along the Ely – Peterborough line.

A partnership between the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership, the Lowestoft Central Project, Network Rail and the town’s Heritage Open Days Festival won the Tourism and Heritage award for giving people a rare opportunity to visit Lowestoft’s signal box and see it in full operation, boosting tourism in the town.

The event, held in September 2019, was a never-to-be-repeated experience as the signal box was replaced with more modern technology in early 2020.

It was the headline event in the 2019 Lowestoft Heritage Open Days Festival which subsequently saw some 15,000 people enjoy a host of events, attractions and activities across the town including an exhibition and talks held at the railway station.

The hard work of volunteer adopters at Reedham Station - on the Greater Anglia Wherry Lines between Norwich and Great Yarmouth – was also recognised, winning first place in the ‘It’s Your Station’ Silver Award category thanks to their dedication to improving the station’s floral displays and community engagement work which included tea parties, charity events and a popular carol concert.

Greater Anglia’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Jonathan Denby, said, "Congratulations to everyone involved in these brilliant projects which have helped to build links between the railway and the communities we serve, encourage sustainable tourism and contribute to making East Anglia a wonderful place to live and work."

The Community Rail Awards, organised by Community Rail Network, recognise the important, often unsung, work by community rail partnerships, station friends, and other community rail groups across Britain. They shine a light on vital projects across this growing grassroots movement, highlighting community rail’s contribution to sustainable mobility, social inclusion, community development, and wellbeing.

The awards were delivered as an online gala evening for the first time with 550 guests, including community rail volunteers, officers, rail industry leaders and government representatives.