Army of volunteers help keep economic growth on track

Honiton railway station

The Friends of Honiton Station work with South Western Railway to encourage, plan or carry out visual improvements at the station - Credit: Tim Dixon

Figures from Community Rail Network’s Community Rail in the South West report, sponsored by the Rail Delivery Group and released on March 31, show that more than 600 volunteers give over 27,000 hours annually to support social inclusion and wellbeing, sustainable and healthy travel, economic development and tourism in the area, valued at £2.3 million a year.
Seven community rail partnerships and 70 station adoption groups across the South West region engage local people with their railways and stations, working with train operators, local authorities and other partners. 
The Friends of Honiton Station work with South Western Railway (SWR) to encourage, plan or carry out visual improvements to the station environment such as carrying out planting projects. The group also seeks to make Honiton Station a community resource, by organising displays and by promoting local activities and events using its community noticeboard on the platform.
The Friends of Honiton Station also promote rail travel from Honiton to local people, for instance through its website, as well as campaigning for improvements to rail services.
Across the region, station adoption groups take part in community gardening, food growing and biodiversity projects at stations; community arts and heritage projects to help people learn about and take pride in their area; work with rail industry partners towards improvements and integration, such as shelters, signage or pedestrian and cyclist access; and events, workshops and activities to promote sustainable travel, bring people together, and celebrate local communities.
Community rail across the South West is now looking forward to helping our railways to be a vital component of a greener, more inclusive future, as part of a ‘green recovery’.
For instance, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership is encouraging people to plan sustainable tourism by rail when restrictions are eased, showcasing local histories, stories, sights and attractions, and highlighting the great scenic views to be seen from the train window.
Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said: “Community rail works to make our railways community-minded and inclusive, and promotes sustainable travel by rail, bringing people together and bolstering local pride and wellbeing. Across the South West, community rail partnerships and station adoption groups have adapted and responded, supporting communities through the pandemic, maintaining positivity, and advising rail partners on shifting local needs.”

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