3,000 community rail volunteers and local partnerships will support a push following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Members of a grassroots movement – including Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership – have continued to strive for Northern England’s communities and work towards a greener transport future, despite the pandemic.

Figures from Community Rail Network’s Community Rail in the North briefing – sponsored by Rail Delivery Group – (being launched today, 24 March 2021) highlight that over 3,000 volunteers give over 140,000 hours annually, valued at £11.7 million, to improve social inclusion and wellbeing, promote sustainable and healthy travel, and support economic development, in their local area.

Working with the North’s 20 community rail partnerships and 350 station groups, they engage local people with their railways and stations, working with train operators, local authorities, and other partners. Activities include: volunteering, community gardening and biodiversity projects at stations; community arts and heritage projects; work with rail industry partners towards improvements and integration, such as shelters, signage, pedestrian and cyclist access; and events, workshops and activities to promote sustainable travel, bring people together, and celebrate the local community.

Community rail is now looking forward to playing a pivotal role in building back better from Covid, and helping our railways to be a vital component of a greener, more inclusive way forward as part of a ‘green recovery’.

Between Darlington and Bishop Auckland, The Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership is engaging with its communities to help people get the most from their local railway, promoting social inclusion and safe sustainable travel, working alongside train operators to bring about improvements, and bringing stations back to life. Some of the Bishop Line’s priorities include:

  • Reinvigorate passenger rail confidence such as Bishop Line’s recent free smiley face coverings campaign
  • Encourage train travel for local days out to tourist attractions along the Bishop Line and Tees Valley Line
  • Expand its membership to reflect the diverse make-up of communities along the Bishop Line
  • Community Engagement to understand the rail travel needs of the local community through station and community events and engagement meetings
  • Work with Northern to provide a half hourly service between Bishop Auckland and Darlington
  • Work with Weardale Railway to improve connections at Bishop Auckland

Commenting on the importance of the community rail movement in the North of England, Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network said:

“Community rail works to make our railways community-minded and inclusive, and promotes sustainable travel by rail, bringing people together and bolstering local pride and wellbeing. In the North, community rail partnerships and groups have adapted and responded, supporting communities through the pandemic, maintaining positivity, and advising rail partners on shifting local needs. As we start to rebuild from Covid-19, within the community rail movement, and across our railways, we will be redoubling efforts, to create confidence and togetherness, and play our part in enabling more people to get around by socially and environmentally responsible means. Community rail is all about communities and connectedness, and people working together locally to make things better for each other and our shared future – that couldn’t be more important right now.”

Robert Whitehouse, Chair of the Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership said:

“A huge part of what our partnership aims to do is consult with our community to find out what its needs are in terms of rail travel. Given that we are not currently able to meet with our passengers, our local charities, our key employers, or our local residents face to face, we ask you to come to us in whichever way you feel comfortable to share your views. We are contactable by email enquiries@bishopline.org we also have a facebook page and Twitter page where you can message us directly. We welcome your comments.”