Lincoln played host to the ACoRP and the Department for Transport’s annual Community Rail Seminar on the 22nd and 23rd March 2017. Gathering at the city’s DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel were our CRPs, Train Operating Companies and other key stakeholders contributing to an engaging two days of discussion on how we together, shape the future of community rail. Over 100 delegates were in attendance, sharing their knowledge, experience and examples of good practise in the sector. Presentations from the event can be downloaded from the menu to the right.
Day one started in sprightly mood with a welcome address from Jonathan Denby (Head of Corporate Affairs for Greater Anglia and member of the National Community Rail Steering Group), followed by a presentation from Nicky Forsdike (Director, Forsdike Associates), focusing on “What is innovation and how do you develop it?” Nicky discussed first the practical methods and models of problem solving, before developing the theme to a group exercise encouraging delegates look at the problems they have faced in community rail and how to formulate positive solutions.
After a short drinks interval, the first three of our specialist workshops got underway. The DfT’s Andrew Nock and Network Rail’s Jerry Swift delivered an informative presentation on “Engaging with franchise bidders”, offering practical advice on how CRPs can extend their influence to potential franchises community rail strategies.
Community Rail Lancashire’s Richard Watts, Sheila Dee from the Chester – Shrewsbury CRP and Sally Buttifant – Mid Cheshire Community Rail Partnership Officer delivered a great workshop on best practise in the “Showcasing of award-winning community rail projects”, using their experiences to provide a template for promotional activities.
Our very own Community Stations Development Manager, Martin Yallop gave a very informative presentation, in his own inimitable style on “Transforming redundant station buildings – how to manage the projects, the challenges and long term”, alongside Marston Vale CRP’s Community Rail Officer, Stephen Sleight.
The evening session commenced with dinner at the DoubleTree followed by an inspirational after-dinner presentation by Dutch artist and social-entrepreneur, Michel Huisman. Michel recalled memories of his hometown Heerlen, in the Netherlands, and how both the passage of time and attitudes to the promotion of commerciality over emotional capital had caused the town to suffer both architectural and social damage. As a man of action, Michel then took us through his journey, taking a once crime ridden and socially deprived area of Heerlen and illustrating its transformation into the desirable Maankwartier (Quarter moon) district, with its distinctive architecture and sympathetic apartment design, providing inspiring spaces for both living and working. Michel’s quirky and entertaining presentation style was hit with the audience and provided a real “digestif for thought” for all our attendees.
Day two was once again opened by Jonathan Denby, followed by an update from the Department for Transport, presented by Franchise Director, Eddie Muraszko and Head of Rolling Stock Policy & Contracts, with an emphasis on franchising and rolling stock.
Following this was an update on the recent happenings here at ACoRP. Chief executive, Jools Townsend spoke to the audience about the recent expansion of the ACoRP team, what extra support we can now offer with the team in place, and a considered some of the key areas of our five-year strategy. Jools was ably assisted by Senior Operations Manager, Brian Barnsley and Senior Commercial Manger, Anders Hanson… both updating on the activities and support their respective departments can give to members and stakeholders.
A key constituent of Community Rail is Tourism and Heritage, and with this in mind we were pleased to have three informative presentations on the subject. Opening the proceedings was our own Tourism & Heritage Officer, Alice Mannion discussing the upcoming Scenic Rail Britain website. She was followed by Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership’s Development Officer, Rebecca Catterall illustrating how the TV drama Poldark was used as a driver for increasing tourism and consequently rail passenger numbers to the region. The session was bookended by Gill Simpson, Community Rail Officer with Community Rail Humber. Gill took us through the process and experiences in promoting the East Coast, from Cleethorpes to Scarborough, and how the CRP put a destination marketing plan together with rail travel right at the heart.
Sarah Deakin, Community Rail Engagement Officer with Kent CRP was up next, reporting on the Abellio Challenge 2016 – the Smarter Travel Challenge. Sarah took us through a year of project working, encouraging school pupils into thinking about sustainable travel and how the railway can aide this.
Following a spot of lunch, the event’s final workshops took place. Professor Paul Salveson led a very informative and thought provoking workshop titled, “How can government and the rail industry support community rail to bring about sustainable development?”
ACoRP Chief exec’, Jools Townsend asked the question with her workshop, “How do the distinct roles of the Dept’ for Transport, ACoRP and the rail industry help deliver the Community Rail Strategy?”
Richard Watts led the final workshop and discussion on, “How do we measure the Community Rail Strategy?”
It was really energising to see the enthusiasm our delegates had when contributing to these sessions. Their contributions throughout the two days will be collated and used in the formation of not only the community rail strategy, but other upcoming projects.
Special thanks is extended to ACoRPs Events & Fundraising Manager Hazel Bonner, for organising a great, smooth running event. Many of the delegates we spoke to on the Thursday afternoon commented on what an informative and engaging seminar it had been and plenty were taking a number of ideas discussed, home with them to cogitate further with their respective CRPs.
Said Hazel, “We were really pleased with the level of attendance, with some delegates travelling from as far as Glasgow and Plymouth to share and hear good practice. Workshops offering the opportunity to contribute to the future direction of Community Rail were welcomed by all present.”