Bishop Line Building Community Connections between Bishop Auckland and Darlington

Working to improve connections with Weardale Railway

Since her appointment earlier this year, Community Rail Officer for the Bishop Line, Felicity Machnicki has started to meet people who live, work and travel along The Bishop Line, the railway between Bishop Auckland and Darlington. Her aim is to understand what the Bishop Line community needs to help its residents get to work, training and social activities and how the railway can help.

Her work involves spending time with businesses, schools and colleges, community groups and individuals living or working near any of the Bishop Line stations; Bishop Auckland, Shildon, Newton Aycliffe, Heighington, North Road and Darlington. Felicity can help to identify funding, signpost to other organisations or to other information, and can build links between people and groups.

If you have a project that you would like to start and feel that the Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership may be able to help Felicity can be contacted by email at Felicity.Machnicki@BishopLine.org

Felicity comments “Community Rail is a term which is yet to become part of common vocabulary and it is the role of Partnerships like ours to show the public what it means and more importantly how they can become a part of it.”

She adds “Community Rail is not a thing, an activity, or a buzz word. Community Rail enables communities to feel connected and restores pride in some of the forgotten people and places close to us. Projects are happening all over the country which are bringing a sense of belonging and joy to those involved. They range from residents tending to planters on a station platform, schools or community groups working on artwork to brighten up stations like the Shildon in Motion project currently underway, or a group of rehabilitation centre residents who are taking their first steps to connect back to society. Community rail offers an opportunity to build confidence and skills which can be used to get a job, take a course or just feel comfortable travelling independently.”

The Partnership is keen to increase links between the Bishop Line and Weardale Railway and Felicity has helped to secure funding to connect the two Bishop Auckland Station platforms, which will make accessing the Weardale Railway services safer and simpler for all passengers. She has also provided wildflower seeds which are being planted along the Weardale route, so look out for them on your travels!

The Partnership is increasingly focused on engaging diverse groups, particularly those who face difficulties accessing rail or are socially marginalised. Case studies show the impact of Community Rail on people’s lives, some great examples can be found on the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) website https://communityrail.org.uk/case-studies

Felicity’s role is supported by ACoRP and Northern and she frequently meets with other Community Rail Partnerships across the country such as Tyne Valley and Esk Valley. This network means she can access useful training and events to be able to give an even better service to the Bishop Line community. She has recently attended Samaritans training to enable her to offer help and support to vulnerable station users. She has also attended a course on involving and supporting volunteers, so if you would like to become a station adopter and make an impact on one of the Bishop Line stations please contact her.