Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership (CRP), has achieved success at the national Community Rail Awards for its innovative work engaging communities with their local railway line.

Bishop Line CRP was finalist in three categories at the 18th national Community Rail Awards:

  • Second place in Most Effective Communications Campaign category with their ‘Pass on a Smile‘ campaign,
  • Third place in the Involving Diverse Groups category with ‘Our Line Connections’ and
  • Finalist in the Involving Children and Young People category with ‘Creative Journeys‘.

This year’s Community Rail Awards recognised a diverse array of projects, all demonstrating how the community rail movement continues to build links, positivity and awareness between local people and their railways.

The partnership’s  Pass on a Smile campaign to encourage rail passengers to help others feel more comfortable and confident when travelling as smiling is contagious and has many health benefits. 1200 ‘friendly’ face coverings featuring the Bishop Line smile were distributed by partners Bishop Trains, to passengers between July 2020 and December 2021.

Our Line Connections celebrated the value of connection. It aimed to help people feel a greater connection to others, better connected to their place and positive about connecting with people and places through rail travel. Over 5 months, 200+ people participated in visual arts and musical workshops with 4 artists. Schools/groups were linked up to co-create artwork and songs using their feelings around connection and now each school/group is connected with at least one new school/group in the Bishop Line community. The project was celebrated with the production of a Songbook featuring artwork and songs, and with a face to face event at Locomotion, Shildon.

Creative Journeys was developed to deliver key life & creative skills, knowledge, awareness and opportunities to young people along the Bishop Line in primary school and young adults aged 15-26 outside of traditional education. Under the theme ‘Journeys’, young people learned about food journeys – the journey the food we eat takes to reach our plate, and train journeys – exploring the local heritage along the line. Their knowledge was shared using creative writing skills developed during the project and Students from Thornhill Primary performed their work at a live event at Locomotion.

More broadly, Bishop Line CRP runs a wide range of community engagement and social inclusion initiatives, supports volunteering at stations, delivers rail safety sessions in schools, colleges and community groups, promotes green travel and tourism by rail, and works with railway and local authority partners.

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

“Our partnership is incredibly proud to have been recognised at this year’s national community rail awards for three of our recent projects. We work very closely with our local community and are proud to share these achievements with them and thank them for their involvement.’

‘Particular thanks go to Luxi, for their ongoing commitment to Our Line Connections, a project evolved from the Our Line play launched back in 2017.’

‘Huge thanks also go to New Writing North for their management of the Creative Journeys project, a relationship which continues with our support of the Durham Book Festival to communities along the Bishop Line.’

‘And a big thanks goes to Bishop Trains for their ongoing support at Bishop Auckland station and for helping to ensure our passengers travelled safely and passed on a smile during Covid.’

‘And finally a huge thank goes to our partnership officer Felicity Machnicki, for helping to develop and deliver three award-winning projects.”

The Community Rail Awards were held at Manchester’s Central Convention Complex on 6th October. More than 450 guests attended, including community rail volunteers, officers, rail industry leaders and government representatives.

The awards recognise the crucial, often unsung work carried out by community rail partnerships, station friends volunteers and community groups, in areas such as community and youth engagement, community-led station development, diversity and inclusion, and sustainable development.

Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said:

“The Community Rail Awards give deserved recognition to community rail partnerships, groups and volunteers across Britain. We were thrilled to welcome more than 430 guests, alongside ministers and rail industry leaders, emphasising the great value of community rail, helping to build stronger, fairer, greener communities, served and connected by their railways and wider sustainable transport network.

“Despite another challenging year, the array of entries defied expectations, showing how community rail continues to strive to help people get the most from their railways and stations, and impact positively on local places and people’s lives.

Our congratulations go to Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership and all winners and highly commended, and thanks to everyone who supports community rail, helping the movement to go from strength to strength.”