Grassroots movement celebrates vital role of the Midlands’ railways in bringing communities together

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Young people from the Midlands will take the train to London experience a day in a national newsroom, while another group will journey to Manchester for ‘food sorcery’ classes, in two of 70-plus nationwide activities taking place during Community Rail Week.

Students from Harris CE Academy in Rugby will make the journey to London Euston to visit The Guardian’s jead office as part of Avanti West Coast’s Feel Good Field Trips programme, led by Community Rail Lancashire.

They will learn about the history of the newspaper and take part in sessions about news reporting and how to spot ‘fake news.’

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Another group, from Holden Lane Primary School, Stoke-on-Trent, will travel by train to Stockport before heading on to Food Sorcery in Didsbury, Greater Manchester, where they will work with trained chefs to make paneer curries and flatbreads.

The Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle-to-Carlisle line.The Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle-to-Carlisle line.
The Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle-to-Carlisle line.

While on their journeys, both groups will learn about the range of opportunities that can be accessed via rail travel, as well as travel skills and rail safety.

The ‘Feel Good’ trips are among a range of activities in the Midlands and across Britain during Community Rail Week, from May 22-28, including youth engagement initiatives, projects celebrating local history, culture, and the arts, guided walks and station tours, and campaigns promoting scenic and sustainable leisure travel, all aiming to connect and empower communities, break down travel barriers, and encourage a greener, healthier transport future.

Community Rail Week, organised by Community Rail Network and sponsored by Rail Delivery Group, shines a light on the year-round work of Britain’s 76 community rail partnerships, which cover 34 per cent of Britain’s railway network, and 1,200 station friends groups made up of more than 10,000 volunteers, who tend to about half of Britain’s 2,570 stations. This includes eight community rail partnerships and more than 100 station groups covering routes right across the Midlands.

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Community rail aims to improve travel confidence, increase access to opportunity, tackle social isolation, give communities a voice, and put railways and stations at the heart of community life, while supporting a shift to sustainable, more social forms of travel, including rail.

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Jools Townsend, Community Rail Network chief executive, said: “Community rail partnerships and thousands of ‘station friends’ volunteers the length and breadth of Britain, including many across the Midlands, are mobilising en masse, engaging local people and partners to raise awareness about sustainable travel by rail, and get people enthused about its many benefits.”

Other activities in the Midlands include:

  • Heart of England Community Rail Partnership hosting guided walks and rail trails from Coventry and Leamington Spa stations, alongside try the train trips and rail safety training for local schools;
  • North Staffordshire Community Rail Partnership leading a ‘Duck Bills’ walking tour of Stoke-on-Trent taking in its major attractions and highlights;
  • Community rail partnerships the Poacher Line, Hereward Line, North Notts & Lincs, High Peak & Hope Valley, the Robin Hood Line and North Staffordshire showcasing their work and the attractions on their lines via displays and activities at Nottingham, Crewe, and Worksop stations;
  • Four Midlands’ stations being shortlisted in the ‘World Cup of Stations’, organised by Rail Delivery Group, which this year is celebrating the roles stations play within local communities.

Ms Townsend saod: “Community Rail Week is all about connecting communities and bringing people together, while supporting and enabling more people to travel sustainably by train and access the opportunities they want. Community rail has an inspiring track record of doing just that: promoting travel confidence and broadening mobility horizons, sometimes with life-changing effects, while giving communities a voice on transport, and putting railways and stations at the heart of community life.”

Nationwide events for the week include: the national launch at Tolworth Station in London to highlight the work of Britain’s newest community rail partnership, Community Train CRP; rail minister Huw Merriman visiting a community rail promotional display at London Waterloo Station; an interactive day of STEM activities for young people at Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle-to-Carlisle Line; a Scottish parliamentary reception at Holyrood; a nationwide community rail showcase of sustainable, exciting tourism and leisure opportunities by rail; and the finals of the World Cup of Stations.