The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched its updated Community Rail Strategy.
Originally launched in 2004, the strategy has enjoyed its first revamp since 2007.
This follows a public consultation from earlier this year; the 2018 Community Rail Strategy sets out how the government will support community rail organisations in their quest to provide a voice for the community; bring communities together; promote sustainable, healthy and accessible travel; and support diversity, inclusion plus social and economic development.
The DfT sees community rail as something that connects railways and communities through local partnerships, groups, organisations, social enterprises and volunteers, tackling at-risk parts of the network, and providing work within local areas to ensure this is successful.
Updates to the Community Rail Strategy include a range of new measures such as the creation of a transport network that boosts social connections while also providing opportunities for education, employment and life skills opportunities.
A new accreditation scheme has been created for Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs), so they can act as a trusted mark of quality, and also reflect their importance as a community-facing role.
The strategy will also play a key role in the government’s loneliness strategy, helping community groups make use of under-used or unused railway properties that can be transformed into local hubs and facilities for those located in isolated areas.
Andrew Jones, the new Rail Minister for the government, has called for train operating companies to increase support for the Community Rail Strategy.
He said: “Community rail projects are vital because they get everybody involved, from right across the community and give local people a say in how their rail network can serve their needs.
“This is why it is so important the train operators commit to supporting them.
“Since the first strategy was launched 14 years ago, we have seen hundreds of successful projects spring up across the country, giving so many people a local lifeline to events, activities and initiatives that they would otherwise have no access to.
“That is why it is so important for train operators to increase their support, opening up space and ensuring their stations become vital hubs in our communities.”