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Community rail in Scotland looks to the future

Published 19 April 2022 by Community Rail Network

As ScotRail services transferred into public ownership on 1st April, Scotland’s network of community rail partnerships and station groups looked forward to playing an increasingly strong role in shifting Scotland towards a more sustainable and inclusive transport future.

Community Rail Network, the umbrella body for community rail, and member of Transform Scotland, highlighted how the change to public ownership provides a positive opportunity for the Scottish Government to work with communities to move towards a greener transport future, especially supporting the shift we need towards public and shared transport, walking and cycling.

Railways are the backbone of this sustainable transport network, and engaging communities in their development, promotion and integration is a powerful and proven way to enable and encourage more people to use them.

Jools Townsend, chief executive at Community Rail Network, with members of the 6VT Youth community rail project, waiting to board the Hydroflex train at COP26.

Community rail shows how sustainable and inclusive travel can be achieved through collaboration and local action. In Scotland, the movement includes eight community rail partnerships and 260 station groups. They are community driven, locally focused, work with the rail industry and are extensively supported by volunteers.

Initiatives include station-based art and community gardening projects, building rail confidence and awareness among young people, promoting sustainable tourism, and improving active travel and bus connections – promoting green travel while empowering communities and creating a sense of belonging. This resonates with ScotRail’s transition into the public domain, and the growing awareness that tackling climate action, and shaping place-based sustainable transport networks, starts from the grassroots.

Scotland’s community rail partnerships are: Borders Railway Community Partnership; South West Scotland CRP; East Lothian CRP; Strathallan CRP; Highland Main Line CRP; West Highland CRP; Rail 74 CRP (South Lanarkshire); and 6VT Youth CRP (Edinburgh-based, and the only youth-led CRP in Britain).

Community Rail Network works with our members across Britain to support and champion the vital, sometimes life-changing work taking place across the network. Our ‘Community Rail in Scotland’ report, published in 2021, highlights the efforts of 1,200 volunteers who give over 55,000 hours annually, to promote sustainable and healthy travel, wellbeing, economic development, and tourism in their local areas. Our evidence also shows how effective community rail partnerships are in bolstering rail use on their local lines.

Last month, we released a video showing the inspiring community rail work being delivered from the Borders to the Highlands, and the message that getting around more sustainably, including by rail, is vital to the future of our communities and our planet. This follows on from our growing emphasis on sustainable travel, including working with partners to showcase community rail and other community-led action on green transport at an event at COP26 last year, People Make Transport.

In May, our members, including those in Scotland, will be gearing up for the second Community Rail Week (23-29 May), and its simple call to action, ‘Give the Train a Try’. By showing how communities are engaging with local railways and helping more people to use the train, the week builds positivity around sustainable, inclusive and community friendly travel for everyone, with rail at its heart.

For more information, visit communityrail.org.uk.