Neil Buxton, General Manager of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP), addressed the Scottish Region meeting in Edinburgh on 5 October 2010 on the work of the ACoRP, beginning with an introduction to the organizations activities and their role in the railway industry.
ACoRP is a national body that represents more than 60 rail partnerships and railway promotion groups across the UK and is supported by the Department for Transport, the Association of Train Operating Companies, the Welsh Assembly Government, Network Rail and local authorities. It's role is to assist in the development and delivery of community rail strategies and supports the membership of the Association as well as develops new partnerships and illustrates examples of good practice as well as producing a variety of publications, reports and news letters.
Community Rail Partnerships are "grass roots" organizations and provide the link between the community and railway and bring together a diverse range of interests along the railway corridor. Community Rail Partnerships are funded from a variety of sources ranging from local councils and businesses to County Councils, PTE's and Regional Development Agencies.
Community Rail is about the community and the railway working together for their mutual benefit and getting value for the community from local and rural railways. The value is not just in terms of transport but by imporving access to work and training and health facilities. By encouraging modal shift the environment can benefit and it can lead to regeneration and sustainable communities.
Examples of Community Railway partnerships include such lines as the rural Esk Valley line and the long distance Heart of Wales line. To illustrate what the partnerships can do, Mr. Buxton illustrated line guides aimed at attracting visitors to the area and encouraging use of the line. One very successful initiative is the "Real Ale Trails" which highlights local hostelries in the vicinity of the lines and this has proved very popular and provides not only revenue for the railway but also the public house and also the local community as well.
Newsletters are also an important means of communication and can e used to keep local communities informed of service changes, special offers etc. To achieve this there is an investment of people's time and non railway money, in other words, it is the community that provides the resources.
Community Rail also supports the Department for Transport's five priority objectives. These are supporting the economy as in some areas the tourist economy is vital, but also local rail provides many the means of getting to work. The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is achieved by getting more people to use trains and encouraging modal shift. Modal shift can also reduce traffic congestion.
Improving the quality of life is achieved by improving access to work and training opportunities, better access to leisure facilities and better amenity value of local stations as the community looks after them. Community rail can also improve the equality of opportunity in that community lines can offer a low cost local transport service for people to get to work and who would otherwise have travel difficulties.
Community rail also plays a role in promoting safety, security and health in that it is a safe way to travel, fits well into active travel patterns and with station adoption vandalism can be reduced. Volunteers are an important part of Community Rail and there are now over 4,000 volunteers making a contribution estimated to be worth over 27 million to the railway industry. Mr. Buxton illustrated these aspects with some examples of good practice and initiatives that have been implemented in various parts of the country.
He then answered questions from the audience and there was a debate on many aspects of community rail and the part it can play in improving rail services for the community. The meeting was drawn to a close by the Immediate Past Chairman presenting Mr. Buxton with a copy of a book on Scottish railways to the western isles.
Report by John Fender.
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