How we support community rail

We facilitate access and change to our land and property, so that community rail groups can undertake their activities.

Our role in community rail 

We have around 20 community rail leads across our routes and region. They are involved in: 

  • Handling requests and referrals from community rail groups, individuals, and train operating companies.  
  • Collecting information about proposed activities and liaising with Network Rail colleagues to undertake clearance checks and risk assessments  
  • Organising community licenses for activity on Network Rail land 
  • Supporting landlord’s consent applications 
  • Supporting organisation of leases 
  • Processing requests around local heritage 
  • Explaining safety procedures 
  • Providing practical, on the ground support for community rail groups 
  • Being active members of Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs) 

Our community rail leads typically work with internal colleagues to do this, for example in asset protection, property, and legal services. 

In addition, we help our colleagues to take volunteer leave to support community rail activity.  

Types of community rail activities we help facilitate

  • Gardens, planters and raised beds
  • Vegetation tidy-ups
  • Wildflowers and wildlife reserves
  • Murals and artwork on walls, fences, and bridges
  • Statues, sculptures, and plaques
  • Information boards
  • Benches
  • Paths
  • Graffiti and litter removal
  • Community use of railway buildings

How to work with our community rail leads

Please be aware that all our Network Rail local community rail contacts are involved with community rail as part of a wider remit, so we’ll need your cooperation and input to help you better. This includes:

  • Being concise and clear with expectations of Network Rail – for example, if you are inviting a Network Rail representative to a meeting or making a request, please set out why you need our involvement or what help or input you need. This is so we can make sure we have the right person attending.
  • Giving your local community rail contact plenty of notice of meetings and their agendas. We may only be able to make it to one high-level meeting a year. Please make sure any actions are clearly agreed with the Network Rail representative on the day or through email, rather than relying on minutes.
  • Understanding that most of our funding comes from taxpayer money – we are therefore heavily restricted on what we can support financially.
  • Demonstrating that you have a clear focus on safety, including adhering to the strict safety requirements of the rail industry to keep you, passengers, and members of the public safe.
  • Being aware that each activity is unique so may need multiple permissions internally. This can take time and we will keep you informed with indicative timescales

Types of permissions we organise

Most community rail activity is organised with train operating companies (TOCs).

The exact type of permission from Network Rail depends on what the activity is, where the activity is taking place and over what time period.

Permanent changes to buildings or infrastructure

If activities involve permanent changes to buildings or infrastructure that is within a franchised station lease, then landlords’ consent might be required. For example: installation of heritage signs; new benches; installation of anything that is immovable or fixed to the ground. The train operating company (TOC) that leases the station will advise groups on whether landlords’ consent is necessary. As the TOC is the tenant of the station, they will either lead or support the process to obtain landlords’ consent from us. The FAQs tab in Network Rail Landlords Consent for Stations and Depots website provides additional information about this subject.

Land or property managed by us

If activities are on land or property that is managed by Network Rail, then a community licence or a lease is normally required.

Community licence

A community licence grants privileges on Network Rail land or infrastructure free of charge to community groups. It is typically needed for an activity that is short term (a year or less) and/or that does not involve any intrusive or permanent change to Network Rail managed land or property. For example: gardening in planters; picking up litter; clearing vegetation and graffiti; most types of community art displays.

Community licences can be renewed. Some groups, for example, have maintained gardens in raised beds at stations for several years, by having a community licence that is renewed annually.

There is typically no charge associated with community licences. To set up a community licence our community rail leads go through a series of steps, including a ‘clearance process’ and providing a safety brief to volunteers.

The process for obtaining a community licence from Network Rail is outlined in our process document (131 KB, PDF).

Community lease

A lease is typically needed for activity that is longer term (one year or more) and/or that involves intrusive or permanent change to Network Rail managed land or property. For example: planting trees into the ground; taking over a disused building; installation of solar panels.

Leases are organised by property professionals within our business. Asset protection colleagues are likely to become involved and they might need to organise a Basic Asset Protection Agreement (BAPA). Legal colleagues might need to become involved to prepare the lease documents. Consequently, there can sometimes be a cost when a group is obtaining a lease.

Community rail groups seeking external funding for their activities (e.g., from charitable foundations) might find that they are required to obtain a lease, rather than a community license, to receive funds.

Guidance around changes to Network Rail buildings and heritage

We work closely with groups undertaking these types of activity. The Rail Heritage Group collects and shares guidance.

Safety, diversity and inclusion in Community Rail 

Safety is at the heart of everything we do. We have strict safety requirements, as do train operators, and we expect all community rail initiatives and participants to adhere to these safety standards. 

Our community rail leads undertake risk assessments and organise safety briefings. 

Summary of common requirements

If you believe something is wrong, such as a person, animal, or object on the railway line, do not intervene. If there is a member of railway staff nearby, tell them. Otherwise phone the Network Rail 24-hour Helpline on 03457 11 41 41. Tell them if you think it is an emergency. If you see a crime taking place phone the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 or phone 999.

Diversity and Inclusion in Community Rail

We know that by becoming a more open, diverse, and inclusive organisation we can deliver a safe, accessible railway for everyone. We support the activities of Community Rail Network and Women in Community Rail (WiCR) in building an inclusive culture within community rail.

We subscribe to the Women in Community Rail Code of Conduct and expect those we work with to adhere to the same behaviours.

How to contact Network Rail about community rail

If you know the community rail lead for the route or region in question, please email them directly. Otherwise, please contact us through our national contact centre.

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