Rural rail services under the spotlight at Greater Anglia conference

The East Suffolk Line through Woodbridge has a Community Rail Partnership. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The East Suffolk Line through Woodbridge has a Community Rail Partnership. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

East Anglia’s rural lines are enjoying a renaissance – that was the message at a conference of Community Rail Partnerships in Ipswich.

For more than two decades after the Beeching Era of the 1960s, the region’s rural rail lines were often seen as under threat – or at best a Cinderella service.

But new investment and the establishment of Community Rail Partnerships to support local services has helped to transform services – and boost the number of people using rural lines.

Greater Anglia held its second Community Rail Conference in Ipswich to discuss how the industry and partnerships could boost passenger numbers and improve services.

Delegates heard from Greater Anglia MD Jamie Burles, officials from the Department for Transport and representatives from the Association of Community Rail Partnerships.

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Recent successes included cats eyes lighting fitted to the station approach at Chappel and Wakes Colne on the Gainsborough Line in Essex and station history projects and new walks on the East Suffolk line.

Other projects around the UK highlighted included dementia-friendly schemes (something Greater Anglia is trialling) and projects to support people suffering hardship by involving them in projects to improve stations.

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Some of the new schemes agreed at the conference included joint campaigns by Greater Anglia and the partnerships to promote rail travel and the benefits of the new trains across local communities; website changes; more station projects; an expanded schools’ liaison programme; more integrated transport and further extensions of the station adoption programme.

Much of the funding for these projects will come through Greater Anglia, which has doubled its funding for Community Rail Partnerships as part of its new franchise.

Jonathan Denby from Greater Anglia said: “Our second Community Rail Conference was a valuable opportunity to work together to take full advantage of the exciting future for local lines in prospect with the arrival of new trains in 2019.”

“We look forward to building on our strong track record of partnership working, which has seen community rail lines become more popular with customers.”

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