A new report says community-based partnerships and groups, working in tandem with the rail industry, are making a positive impact to the economic, social, and environmental vitality of local areas.
The report, ‘Community rail and sustainable development’, was produced by the Community Rail Network with the help of the Rail Delivery Group. It demonstrates how railways and stations can stimulate sustainable development at a grassroots level – and how community rail plays an important part.
Sustainable development, the report says, relies heavily on community-level activity, change and engagement. Community partnerships and groups, it found, lead the way in embedding sustainable development.
A range of sustainable development projects and engagement activities that respond to local needs are showcased in the report, including:
- Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership and the Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership supporting local economies by championing independent businesses and developing schemes to add value for rail passengers;
- A host of community rail partnerships and groups supporting recovery from the pandemic, bolstering community resilience and social sustainability;
- Petersfield and Swaythling stations in Hampshire offering ‘Free Shops’, redistributing food and other items such as school uniforms to reduce waste and support those most in need;
- Redundant buildings at Haltwhistle Station in the Tyne Valley being converted to flexible office and studio space, utilising solar power;
- Stations across Essex installing permanent and eco-friendly water supplies to help keep gardens in perfect condition.
The report follows on from publication of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail – which included a commitment to inclusivity, accessibility, sustainability and locally-responsive rail. The plan wants to empower local groups and partnerships to strengthn the economic impact of rail. It says “community rail” can provide an ideal vehicle for this, working with industry partners to spearhead positive changes against a backdrop of rail transformation, transport decarbonisation, and a greener, fairer recovery from COVID-19.
Chief executive of Community Rail Network, Jools Townsend, said: “Community rail is sustainable development in action at a grassroots level. Sustainable development is critical to everyone’s future, and communities need to be empowered and encouraged to lead the way, spearheading positive change locally.
“Community rail partnerships and groups are increasingly framing projects with sustainability in mind, but there are undoubtedly still many more new, innovative ways that communities can be supported to develop, and different directions for sustainability projects to go in.
“Community Rail Network is committed to supporting its members in seeking out these directions and further embedding the principles of sustainable development in their work.”
Rail Delivery Group director general Andy Bagnall added: “These projects showcase that stations are more than just departure and arrival points, they can bring communities and businesses together.
“Train travel is already the greenest mode of public transport, and the rail community is doing everything it can to ensure sustainability is at the forefront of all aspects of the rail experience.”