Community Rail Partnerships have become an increasingly popular means through which local communities can become involved in their local railways. They are essentially informal associations between various interested parties, usually local authorities, train operators, Network Rail, rail user groups, and other community organisations, which are signed up to a joint set of aims and objectives. Their primary purpose, as defined in the Government’s Community Rail Development Strategy, is to re-think the way in which local railways are managed, so that patronage can be boosted at the same time as lowering costs (and ultimately subsidy).
The approach taken by CRPs to railway management is vastly different to traditional practices. CRPs take a community-based approach, encouraging people to take an interest and get involved in their local railway through a variety of means, such as community events, special trains, and promotional campaigns. The work of the CRP is jointly funded by its member organisations, and CRPs normally appoint one (or more) Community Rail Officer, who undertakes most of the CRPs work.
Community Rail Partnerships have become so popular that the Department for Transport has adopted a national Community Rail Development Strategy, which was subsequently updated by a review of the strategy. This has re-affirmed the importance of Community Rail at a national level, as well as to the locals who benefit from them!