Conference helps keep rural rail lines and local communities thriving

Friday, 27 April 2018

Organisations from across East Anglia came together this week to discuss how to keep on improving local rail lines across East Anglia to the benefit of local communities.

Greater Anglia held its second Community Rail Conference in Ipswich to share best practice, develop new ideas, capitalize on the impending introduction of new trains and build on the success of the Community Rail Partnerships across the region in attracting new passengers, improving services and station and working in partnership to more closely align train services with community needs.

Delegates heard from Jamie Burles, Managing Director of Greater Anglia and representatives from the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACORP).

Recent successes on community rail lines in East Anglia included cat’s eyes lighting fitted to the station approach at Chappel and Wakes Colne on the Gainsborough Line in Essex, station history projects and new walks programmes on the East Suffolk line, a new rail library initiative on the Wherry Lines between Norwich and Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft and a tea party and treasure hunt at stations on the Hereward Line between Ely and Peterborough.

Other projects around the UK highlighted included dementia-friendly schemes (something Greater Anglia is trialling) and projects to support people suffering hardship by involving them in projects to improve stations.

All these initiatives help to bring railways closer to the communities they serve, encouraging more people to take the train and supporting local communities by making it easier for residents to travel for work, learning, shopping or leisure and for visitors or tourists to get around with benefits for the local economy. Indeed, most community rail lines have seen significant growth in passenger numbers in recent years.

Some of the new schemes agreed at the conference included joint campaigns by Greater Anglia and the Community Rail Partnerships to promote rail travel and the benefits of the new trains across local communities; website changes; more station projects; an expanded schools’ liaison programme; more integrated transport improvements and further extensions of Greater Anglia’s successful Station Adoption programme which now covers 95 of the company’s 133 stations.

Much of the funding for these projects will come through Greater Anglia, which has doubled its funding for Community Rai Partnerships as part of its new franchise.

Jonathan Denby, Greater Anglia’s Head of Corporate Affairs, said, “Our second Community Rail Conference was a valuable opportunity to work together to take full advantage of the exciting future for local lines in prospect with the arrival of new, longer and better trains in 2019. In addition, we were able to update our community rail partners on developments at Greater Anglia; highlight recent community rail successes and agree some action plans for the next 12 months to ensure our local lines continue to increase their positive role in the communities they serve - including more promotion of rail travel and more station improvement schemes.

“We look forward to building on our strong track record of partnership working, which has seen community rail lines become more and more popular with customers, whilst train services and stations have become more integrated with local communities’ needs.

“We’re also grateful for the positive collaborations with our Community Rail Partnerships and station adopters which consistently bring real benefits for customers and communities.”

Other projects with Community Rail Partnerships across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire have helped to both boost tourism and local economies and improve health and well-being, through guided walks programmes, special event trains, the production of local area guides, volunteering initiatives, community art projects, wildlife initiatives, partnership initiatives to deliver service improvements and station upgrades and wider community involvement schemes.