Press Releases

HISTORIC PRESS RELEASE : First Community Rail Routes Launched [July 2005]

The press release issued by the Strategic Rail Authority on 6 July 2005.

Plans to help secure the future of Britain’s local rail routes have reached a major milestone with the designation of the country’s first official Community Rail routes.

Forming part of the Strategic Rail Authority’s Community Rail Development (CRD) strategy, the designation of the three routes – The Esk Valley Line (Middlesbrough to Whitby), St Ives Bay Line (St Ives to St Erth) and Abbey Line (Watford to St Albans) – ensures that the lines are managed to meet local requirements at an affordable price. It also provides increased powers to local partnerships, bringing together stakeholders in support of their lines.

In addition to the designations, four new Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs) have also recently been created, increasing the number of CRPs nationally to 60. These partnerships can cover designated Community Rail Routes or local services on conventional lines.

Launched by the SRA last year, the Community Rail Development Strategy aims to put the country’s branch lines on a long term footing through a combination of increased passenger numbers, cost control and improved marketing via greater community involvement.

The programme also gives local people a greater say in the running of their railway via the establishment of Community Rail Partnerships – a partnership consisting of local authorities, the train operating companies and rail infrastructure owner and operator Network Rail.

With over 50 local lines identified for designation as Community Rail routes, the scheme has already started via six pilot schemes, with three of those now officially designated (see above), following a consultation period.

In practical terms, this means:

  • On St Ives – many of the initiatives are already in place for this Summer, including a more frequent, regular interval service, increased station capacity and a simplified fares structure, which were facilitated by the CRD strategy and the proposed designation of the line.
  • On St Albans – a new Community Rail Partnership has now been formed, and designation will play a key step in plans to provide a crossing loop and increase service frequency.
  • On Esk Valley – designation is expected to facilitate the provision of better links with the North York Moors Railway and work is underway on assessment of the market potential for further development of the line.

Commented Chris Austin, the SRA’s Executive Director of Community Rail Development: “This is a tremendous start to the programme, with each of these three routes already seeing increased support from the communities they serve and in some cases, the introduction of new services focused directly on catering for local needs.”

A further four rail routes have also seen the establishment of new Community Rail Partnerships, each working towards the enhancement of these lines – North Staffordshire, Skegness to Grantham, the Isle of Wight and the Abbey Line – while work is in hand to establish a partnership on the Barton Line (Cleethorpes to Barton on Humber) in North East Lincolnshire and one for West Wales.

“Where the initial concept of Community Rail has already been embraced via existing partnerships, the results have been extremely encouraging, such as on the Bittern line in Norfolk, which has seen passenger numbers increase by almost 200% during the last eight years. The further introduction of these new rail partnerships will help strengthen an already effective community driven network.” added Chris.

Now the focus is on the remaining pilot schemes, with the designation consultation process recently completed on Grantham – Skegness and started on the Penistone line (Huddersfield to Barnsley) and Tamar Valley/Looe Valley Lines in Cornwall.

The programme will then turn to the remaining routes identified as suitable for Community Rail designation, with the overall development scheme scheduled for completion in two years.