What you need to know to have your local railway designated as a Community Rail line
Local communities benefit when their railway is a Community Rail line. They can have more say on how the local railway is run, timetables and fares.
It encourages train operating companies (TOCs), Network Rail, local authorities and the community to work together to maximise the opportunities it provides and improve cost-effectiveness.
How the designation process starts
Community Rail Partnerships (CRP) work closely with the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP), which will assist them in liaising with the Department for Transport to decide whether to designate a line or service. In Scotland and Wales, Community Rail Partnerships are designated automatically – there is no differentiation.
The CRP, together with ACoRP, will produce a simple route prospectus identifying all the constraints and opportunities for the line, and which will reflect the local nature of the line.
This is accompanied by a route specification setting out some of the technical issues on the line such as capacity, weight restrictions, loading gauge (the height and width profile of the route, which determines whether a railway vehicle and its load can travel on it, ensuring that the vehicle passes clear of all structures including bridges and tunnels), and defining the limits of the proposed designation.
These documents must be fully aligned with the appropriate route utilisation strategy (RUS) and route plans, which outline the plans for development and maintenance on the line.
Designation will only be considered where there is an active CRP or railway development company (RDC).
The stages of the designation process
The Department for Transport (DfT) will announce any potential Community Rail projects on Gov.uk, including an estimate of the date that consultation will take place and a request for short submissions of views, to be taken into consideration.
There’s a list of lines being considered for Community Rail designation in the government strategy.
The DfT will produce templated documents based on the information already to hand, existing plans and initiatives likely to be value-for-money, as revealed by stage one. These will then be sent out for consultation.
Consultation between the following stakeholders will take place prior to designation:
- county councils, district councils and unitary authorities associated with the line
- metropolitan borough councils and passenger transport executives (PTE) served by the line
- the CRP or RDC
- the Rail Passenger Council (which may also take into consideration the views of any rail user group that isn’t a formal consultee)
- all Train Operating Companies (TOCs) associated with the line
- all Freight Operating Companies (FOCs)
- Network Rail
- Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
There will generally be six weeks from issue of documentation to closure of the formal consultation.
Local MPs will be informed of the plans, but won’t be formal consultees.
The documentation may be revised in light of the consultation, after consideration by the Community Rail Development Steering Group.
DfT Rail Executive Group will invite the Secretary of State to designate the line as Community Rail under the revised documentation, but only if there’s clear local support. Consultees will be told the outcome in writing.
Typically, once a line is designated as a Community Rail line, this won’t be reviewed for at least three years. The designation process will be repeated as described above if there’s significant demand.
There is currently a preferred order for future Community Rail designations set by DfT’s Community Rail Development Steering Group. This may change if there is a particular requirement to bring a line forward for designation.
Will a designated line be downgraded or closed?
No. The intention is to run these lines cost effectively, reducing the drain on taxpayers’ money, not to close them down.
The idea is to find ways that designated lines can be run to standards appropriate to their current levels of rail traffic and that they are appropriately specified for any future development.
Community Rail status also gives the opportunity for local innovation and for service developments that meet local needs.
How can our group reopen a closed line?
ACoRP can supply advice on railway reopenings, but this is not something we encourage.
How can our group reopen a closed station?
Do not expect a quick result. There are many issues to consider, finance being just one. Stations have an impact on line capacity (the number of trains that can operate is reduced because of trains stopping at stations), and additional stations on some routes may not be possible.
You also need to consider the effect on the train service. Additional stops will extend journey times and may increase the number of trains required to operate the service.
Extra passengers require extra seats, so the costs involved may not just be for the station itself, but also to lease more rolling stock. A longer journey time may also make the service less attractive to passengers from other stations on the route.
You’d need to do a feasibility study to look at the overall impact on the network, on train services, and to demonstrate that there is, or will be, demand for the station.
As the promoter, generally you will need to pay for this study.