Through line forums, committees and one-off meetings, you can help your line to be more attuned to the needs of the local community, and benefit from their ideas and perspectives.
This in turn will help achieve sustainable growth and improvements. Partners that it can be beneficial to involve include:
- Local government
- The railway
- Rail user groups
- Friends of the station groups
- Local businesses
- Tourism bodies
- The health sector
Pays de la Loire (France)
Région Pays de la Loire organises a programme of 10 committees for 31 regional lines. The idea is simple – to improve the lines by listening to the views of those who know them best. Each committee meets approximately once every 18 months, and is attended by a wide range of people, including individual passengers as well as representatives of rail user groups, disability groups, different layers of local government, rail unions and SNCF.
Each group brings its own unique perspective, leading to a much stronger understanding of how to improve the railway. Issues addressed by the committees include improvements to routes, timetables, punctuality, fares and accessibility. Read more.
Riviera Line forum
As part of the Citizens’ Rail project, the Riviera Line Community Forum was created to identify issues of concern and to agree work and project priorities.
The Forum brings together organisations including local authorities, the health service, rail user groups and other community groups.
It has got off to a flying start with over 30 organisations represented at the forum’s first meetings. Read more.
Community engagement at Eilendorf
As part of the Citizens’ Rail project, the local community in Eilendorf were asked their views about how their local station should be improved. At one event attended by approximately 50 local residents, our German partner organisations Stadt Aachen, AVV and RWTH Aachen University gave presentations setting out four different designs for the station. Residents then had the chance to ask questions and give their own views on each of the options.
The main reaction from the community was that they welcomed the chance to get involved in planning the improved station at an early stage. Their clear preference for a solution involving a bridge as opposed to a tunnel helped to confirm that this was the best way forward for the project. Read more.
How to make it happen
Decide what you are trying to achieve and why.
If you want to get feedback from local people about the railway, their aspirations for the future and to encourage their general involvement in their line or station, continue reading these tips. If instead you want to attract volunteers or station gardeners, click the links to find out more.
If you have a local rail users’ group or station friends’ group, make early contact with them. You will quickly pick up a lot of views about the present and aspirations for the future.
If there is a Community Rail Partnership for the line, it is very likely that there will already be a good deal of citizen and stakeholder involvement, so especially make sure you get in contact with them.
Make lots of contacts in the area you want to encourage people to get involved in.
Establish which groups and individuals are, or might be, interested in getting involved. In particular, make contact with local government bodies at all levels, local business and tourism bodies and organisations.
Next, hold a “Bright ideas” meeting locally. Invite the railway, local government bodies (especially the one responsible for transport in the area) and representatives of the groups and organisations you have identified as possibly being interested.
Rail users’ and station friends groups should have more than one invite, but be careful not to invite so many from these groups that they dominate the meeting.
Have no more than three short introductory “Setting the scene” presentations, one of these must be by the railway. You should do another. Then have general questions and answers, followed by breaking the meeting up into groups for each group to brainstorm their aspirations for the future, which are then fed back to the main meeting.
The meeting and what comes out of it will help to frame an action plan and be the basis of discussion at future meetings.
Following the “Bright Ideas” meeting, the next step is to draw up an action plan. Ideally you should do this with a small group formed from the “Bright Ideas” meeting but, whatever you do, you should involve any rail user or station friends’ groups already active and must involve both the train operating company and the local authority responsible for transport in the area.
Don’t underestimate the time things take – even apparently simple rail projects can and often do take a long time and much longer than you may have originally anticipated. Bear this in mind when putting together the action plan and take the advice of the train operating company and local authority.
You may also wish to establish a regular forum. The forum would pick up from the “Bright Ideas” meeting, focus on the Action Plan and would always include a short presentation by the rail representative. Ideally the Action Plan should be the Forum’s Action Plan.
A tip – it is strongly advised that the forum doesn’t focus on individual problems on individual trains. People should be advised to take these up direct with the railway as soon as possible after they happen.
The important thing is that there is progress and that people see that at least some of the things that people have raised are being actively pursued with an explanation why others are not.
If you do not wish or have the capacity to set up a forum, then it would be best instead to go, perhaps, for an annual meeting where people review action plan progress and discuss the line and its services.
Some people will hopefully want to get even more involved in their local line. The basic rule of thumb is “Encourage everyone” but do everything you can to gently manage expectations as to what is or isn’t realistic or even possible.
If you help people do what they want to do on the railway (obviously within reason and guided as necessary), more good things will get done and, ideally, they will want to do more too. A golden rule is respond to everyone – yes, it’s only polite but it is also essential if you want people to be involved and stay involved.
If you have your own case studies, resources or ideas to contribute to this (or any other) section of the toolkit, please add a comment to the foot of this article.
Alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 1752 584777 to speak to our lead partner, the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership.
More from the toolkit
Improve existing stations
– Early consultation
– Designing with students
– Art and gardening projects
– Community-focused buildings
New uses for station buildings
Creating new stations
More trains, better stations
Attracting more users
Involving citizens and stakeholders
People with disabilities