Love the railway: Community Rail

What’s Community Rail and how can you get involved?

Community Rail is a scheme that benefits local railway lines, services and stations.

It’s a government strategy supported by the rail industry that engages local people in the development and promotion of local railways – and gives you more of a say over how your railway is run.

We’re supporting Community Rail Week (Monday 20 to Sunday 26 May). This year’s theme is more than a railway, shining a spotlight on the lesser-known community side of the railway and promoting its benefits.

Community Rail is a great opportunity for local communities to get involved with improving the railway environment by using redundant buildings and providing services such as cafes.

You can take part in things like volunteer groups at stations, social enterprises and projects to create community hubs.

In fact, the Community Rail Network says this movement of more than 1,000 voluntary groups and 74 Community Rail Partnerships will “play a pivotal role” in the government’s recently published plans to reinvigorate our railways.

They’re set to help promote rail travel for tourism and leisure, advise on station improvements and provide important social connections.

Adults and children in front of a Community Rail mural at Montpelier station
A Community Rail station mural at Montpelier station near Bristol, 2018

Is it the same as heritage railway?

No, some community railways provide a tourism service but they’re mostly separate from heritage and private railways.

Community Rail routes are still connected to the mainline – that’s the national rail network looked after by us at Network Rail. Train operating companies run services on Community Rail routes and manage the stations.

So you can hop on a modern train on a Community Rail route to get from A to B.

Any line can be designated as a Community Rail route if it meets the criteria set out in the government’s Community Rail strategy LINK. But any line can have a Community Rail Partnership if local people believe it can add value.

Read our frequently asked questions to find out more.

Volunteers pick litter at a railway station, daytime
A station clean-up by a Community Rail Partnership

What’s a Community Rail Partnership?

These are organisations whose members may include local authorities, community groups, rail user groups, train operating companies and Network Rail. They’re usually community interest companies or not-for-dividend partnerships.

Some include other bodies such as national park authorities, town or parish councils and businesses.

What have they been up to?

Community Rail initiatives cover all sorts, from making real improvements to how the railway runs to fun voluntary activities and creating walking trails.

Here are just a few of their recent stories …

Friends of Wool Station

The Community Rail Network says the Friends of Wool Station group aims to enhance the station experience by providing better information about onward travel.

The group has supplemented information from train and bus operators with its own guides in the form of a Tube-style map of rail and bus routes, a village map and summaries of bus timetables.

Severnside Community Rail Partnership

The Severnside Community Rail Partnership has supported Incredible Edible Bristol in the creation of the Secret Garden at Avonmouth station. Volunteers transformed a disused platform compound into a learning and food-growing scheme. They aimed to empower local people to grow food at home, maximising the health benefits of fresh produce and reducing dependency on support from charities.

Clitheroe Line and East Lancashire Community Rail Partnerships

The Community Rail Development Fund (CRDF) has awarded Clitheroe Line and East Lancashire Community Rail Partnerships a grant for a recycled art project that will be displayed at Blackburn railway station.

The Fantastic Recycled Plastic project will involve the Community Rail Partnerships working with team members from Community Rail Lancashire, Newfield School – a secondary school for pupils with varying physical and educational needs – and local artist Alastair Nicholson.

Read more: