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blog: It's Community Rail Week | All Aboard for Stronger Communities

Author: Ashley Wilkes

It’s Community Rail Week this week and here at ITP we are big supporters of Community Rail across the UK. Community Rail is massively important to the rail network, with partnerships across the country making the railway more accessible, greener and more community focussed. The impact of Community Rail Partnerships can tangibly be felt with the recovery of demand following the Covid-19 pandemic with lines with Community Rail Partnerships recovering faster than those without. This year's theme is ‘More than a railway’ and that sums up Community Rail perfectly. Whether it’s the Heritage Centre at Ridgmont on the Marston Vale line or the Platform Rail Community Education Scheme set up by Gloucestershire, Severnside, South Wessex, TransWilts and Worcestershire Community Rail Partnerships.

Up and down the country there are Community Rail Partnerships led by industry experts and backed by thousands of volunteers making the railway about more than simply boarding and alighting a train. These leaders specialise in community development and cross sector partnership working and are more often than not female leaders in a male dominated sector. At ITP we are proud to work alongside them to deliver shared goals and objectives.

We have recently completed a project for the Gloucestershire Community Rail Partnership made possible through funding from the Integrated Sustainable Transport Fund, administered by Community Rail Network on behalf of the Department for Transport looking at ways to improve access to five nature sites in Gloucestershire using public transport. The sites considered were :-

  • Westonbirt, National Arboretum
  • Slimbridge, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT)
  • Woodchester Park, National Trust
  • Coaley Peak, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
  • Nympsfield Long Barrow, English Heritage

The nearest rail stations to these sites are all operated by Great Western Railway and are namely: -

  • Cam & Dursley
  • Kemble
  • Stroud
Ashley blog gis output

We firstly looked to determine current arrangements for access to the five sites by public transport via a desk-based review of timetabled rail and bus services and routes. Conversations with representatives of each nature site explored views regarding demand for sustainable travel to the sites, where passengers are travelling from, issues in providing access between public transport and the sites themselves, average dwell times at the sites and thoughts regarding ticketing and discounts for those travelling by public transport. Mapping of indices of multiple deprivation (IMD) across the county sought to identify those areas with high IMD levels, whose residents are less likely to have access to private transport and, therefore, have or possibly consider themselves to have, limited access to nature sites in the county, so that we could design services and programmes in response to this.

We also spoke to Gloucestershire County Council and transport providers to examine the flexibility on routes and timetables they may have but also to consider whether they would consider fare incentives for passengers travelling to the sites by public transport. We analysed three main options to improve accessibility to the sites :-

  • Revised Scheduled Bus Services
  • Shuttle Service
  • Demand Responsive Transport

All these options have their own unique benefits and constraints, but all would dramatically improve the ability to access these sites without using the car, thereby meeting the initial aspiration.

We are currently finalising our report for Gloucestershire Community Rail Partnership and would love to work with other Community Rail Partnerships around the country on any projects they may have. Get in touch here and let's connect and make rail a greener, more accessible choice for everyone.


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