A walk along the esplanade at Scarborough on an autumn evening is hard to beat. Cold air laced with sea spray and the smell of fish and chips backed up by the distant whirl of a barrel organ lifts the spirits.
On the evening of 2 October, ping g30 keen observers of all that is brightest and best in railways will witness one of the most remarkable phenomena of the new rail industry. Far away from the contentious debates about HS2, franchising and fare hikes, an unsung army of railway heroes will be making its way to the 10th annual Community Rail Awards.
Held by the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, the awards celebrate the growing success of a quiet and patient ping g30 driver network of local initiatives involving thousands of volunteers and aimed at opening up local railways, often in overlooked parts of the country.
Most of the work is done by unpaid, Ping G25 Irons ordinary men, women and children from all walks of life. Equally at home with paint brush and planting pot, Garmin or guitar, community railway volunteers adopt and clean up stations, run awareness campaigns for railway services, stage beer and music trains, set out bookstalls and, in hundreds of ways, are helping bring the railway back into the heart of the communities it was originally set up to serve.
The Community Rail Awards, ACoRP’s Scarborough Fair, celebrates the growing success of 43 community rail partnerships. The song incidentally was not written by Paul Simon but is based on a very old folk song, thought to date back to the 17th century. In the song a boy asks a girl to perform various almost impossible tasks to win his love. These include sowing him a seamless shirt, drying it on a bush that never bore berries. Sentimental it might Titleist 913 D2 Driver be, but it fits the mood of celebration of an industry for which the British public, whatever the grizzled commuter on the 7.09 might argue, retains a unique affection.
ACoRP was founded in 2000 to put the Community Rail movement on a formal footing. By 2004, the late Strategic Rail Authority, under Richard Bowker, put in place the Community Rail Development Strategy. The SRA became a keen supporter, reflecting an emerging political consensus that community involvement and social responsibility should inform all industries.
Eventually the SRA appointed genial railway factotum Chris Austin as executive director, Community Rail development. Happily ACoRP survived the demise of the SRA, its champions melting away from Victoria Street to a safe haven behind government forces at the DfT.
Community Rail itself dates back to the early 90s. The Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, formed in 1991, was set up at Plymouth University, mainly as a marketing initiative aimed at increasing ridership on branch lines already popular among tourists. Then in 1993 rail hero Dr Paul Salveson, a one time train driver from Lancashire, came up with the idea of a community- based rail partnership whilst discussing the gloomy future of regional and rural railways in a pub one rain-swept afternoon near Huddersfield station.
After more discussions and meetings, the Penistone Line Partnership was launched in June at Stocksmoor Village Hall. Salveson Taylormade SLDR Driver went on to help found over 20 Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs) before stepping down as general manager of ACoRP in 2004.
Neil Buxton, erstwhile officer at the Esk Valley Community Rail Partnership, took on the role. The movement grew and community rail is a phenomenon that is now attracting interest from Europe. Neil Buxton answered questions for this article sitting in a pavement cafe in Lille, northern France, attending a rail funding conference organised by the EU.
‘We’re starting to have an influence in Europe with the SusStation, CAP’EM and Citizens Rail EU funded projects,’ says Neil. CAP’EM was responsible for helping fund the spectacular redevelopment of ACoRPs new offices in Huddersfield station’s water tower see pictures.
‘Community rail and ACoRP are now playing a much bigger part in new franchises, thanks to our success and a new view from DfT,’ says Neil. ‘We’ve already had input into the TSGN and East Coast franchises and we have been much more closely involved in the ScotRail, Northern and TPE franchises.’ The DfT and ministers generally want to see more evidence of community engagement by train operators. Community rail offers an already well researched and locally accepted method of achieving this.
The movement has now spread to Scotland and has been taken up by the Scottish Government. Scotland has already benefitted from the energy and ingenuity of a host of station adopters, fulsomely encouraged by the indefatigable John Yellowlees, external affairs manager at ScotRail.
Scotland now has two CRPs: The Stranraer to Ayr Line Support Association, SAYLSA – a long-standing local group. The other is East Lothian CRP, which was created this summer.
ACoRP links government organisations and railway companies with the local communities they serve. ACoRP is mainly funded by the DfT, however, local authorities chip in too. For everyone it is a cost effective win. Knowledge and best practice are shared; the energy and affection of local people for their railway is coupled up with the onward progress of an expanding industry. Community rail is working well.
Each CRP has a partnership officer – sometimes part-time – who is largely an enabler. Many of these are women and the community rail movement is a great uniter of widely different classes and types of people as the enthusiastic cohorts at the Community Rail Awards attest.
Cost benefit analysis by the DfT says for every pound spent, the railway gets back over four. Other benefits are long term and of inestimable value. People feel safe to use trains, graffiti and vandalism go down. Says Neil, ‘Local people get a sense of ownership. They’re the best ambassadors and it tends to reduce trespass and vandalism. One reason for this is because it is self-policing. If you get the trouble makers involved in doing something like art work on a station they will then feel enabled… and won’t despoil the station.’ The BTP is right behind community rail – it cuts crime and makes a real difference.
Skills and dynamism
Back in the 90s most people thought railways were doomed. Privatisation could have seen off community rail.
In fact the reverse happened and the skills and dynamism of the volunteers emphasised that the British wanted to keep all their railways, thank you very much, and no Thatcherite, ‘cut it if it doesn’t make money’, economics was going to change that. Twenty years later in a society where big business is desperate to prove it cares, community rail has become an integral part of the new rail industry.
Says Tom O’Conor, managing director of Rail Media, which is sponsoring the Community Rail Awards, Best Marketing Campaign, ‘We strive to report good news stories about railways and the people who work for and support them.
The community rail movement has provided a welcome fund of these down the years. We wish all CRPs and everyone at Scarborough every success both on the night itself and in their careers and endeavours in the future.’ Ridership on Community Rail Lines has grown by 58 per cent since 2006-07. Whilst ACoRP acknowledges that in absolute figures, there is no comparison between community rail and the rest of the network, it is nevertheless an extraordinary achievement.
Scarborough Fair is a love song about achieving the impossible. Towards the end of the song the girl replies with a series of equally extraordinary hallenges – get me a field between the sea and the sand – Simon and Garfunkel missed all this out. Hayley Westenra does a fuller version, well worth tracking down. Maybe Paul Simon was troubled by the lack of a happy ending. If so he would be immensely bucked by the Community Rail Awards in Scarborough.
Among the CRP volunteers at Scarborough will be a leaven of railway managers and bosses, celebrating an industry that with the help of its supporters achieved the impossible. Those who cannot make it will doubtless wish to be remembered to those who live there. True love, when it comes to local railways, is still going strong.