Working with volunteers

Station volunteers can make a huge difference. From gardening projects that create a more attractive station environment, to acting as ambassadors on the platform to provide passengers with information, they help bring stations alive.

People become volunteers for many reasons including to make new friends, improve the appearance of their local station, to be part of the railway, to ‘give something back’ or as a stepping stone to employment. Volunteering helps reduce vandalism, fight loneliness and helps people to recover from illness. In the UK, the value of volunteering at stations has been calculated as £3.4 million per year (read report).


Running Man art project
Manchester (UK)

Volunteer group the Friends of Heaton Chapel Station were inspired by the London 2012 Olympic Games to create the Running Man art project. Supported by local businesses and organisations, 16 panels of artwork were sponsored and children from three local schools were involved in working with a local community artist.

This resulted in a huge attendance of more than 200 people at the unveiling ceremony to open a wonderful exhibit for station users to enjoy for the future.
Read more.

Friends of Dawlish Station
Devon (UK)

After storms pounded Dawlish station and left the line in tatters, local volunteers played a real role in reviving their station. During the line’s closure, the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership worked to rejuvenate the previously dormant Friends of Dawlish Station volunteer group. Work days were arranged as part of the Citizens’ Rail project, and new members were recruited through an appeal in the local newspaper.

The volunteers proceeded to give the station a green makeover, with 10 new planters brightening the platforms. A regular watering rota now helps to keep the station looking great. Read more.

Railway Children project

The East Japan Railway Company shows that volunteers don’t have to be adults.

Their “Railway Children” project, for boys and girls aged 10 to 18, sees youngsters cleaning up stations and rolling stock, learning first hand about different roles in the rail industry, and building their self-confidence, team working skills and rail knowledge. It has been likened to a scout scheme.

Reasons to get involved

Why get involved? Friendship, the chance 
to influence what happens at our station, staff who are hugely supportive, a way to make our town look fantastic all year round. What more could anyone ask for? Quote by Friends of Dawlish Station

Station adoption guide

More and more stations in the UK are being adopted by their local communities. Usually these are small unstaffed stations which have lacked tender loving care following the economies of the 1970s.

Station adoption brings significant benefits both to local communities and to the rail industry. Communities get a much-improved gateway to their town or village, often with enhanced facilities. The station becomes a part of the community – something in which local people can take pride. Railway companies have seen a rise in the use of stations, a reduction in vandalism and in many cases externally-funded improvements.

Get advice, inspiration and practical guidance about how to adopt a station in this in depth guide by the UK’s Association of Community Rail Partnerships.

Read the guide

Hear from people who’ve done it

Celia Minoughan, Riviera Line Officer at the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, has helped the local community to start Friends of the Station volunteer groups at several stations along the line. She has also worked closely with adults with learning difficulties at two further stations (read more in our page about working with people with disabilities).

In this video, she discusses her work and how to support volunteers to make a real difference to their railways.

How to make it happen



Find volunteers with the help of local newspaper features, posters and social media messages. Volunteer centres can help advertise and local gardening or other environmental groups are often keen to get involved at the station.



Train operating companies and Community Rail Partnerships (in the UK) can assist with risk assessment and volunteer training to ensure that all are working safely at the station.



Some station volunteer groups are very informal, and others as they develop recruit a management committee and adopt a constitution. In the UK, many groups adopt their local station.



Small grants for station improvements may be available from local authorities, train operating companies, Community Rail Partnerships (in the UK) or community funding pots. Alongside formal funding, volunteers are well placed to ask for favours or equipment donations – a bit of charm goes a long way.



Publicising the achievements of volunteers helps with recruitment and makes individual volunteers feel valued. Press releases, entering local town gardening competitions and having social events to celebrate success are all important.



Building a good relationship with station staff is key. By getting them involved from the start, everyone can work as a team and feel ownership of what is achieved.


Links to useful materials around the web:


If you have your own case studies, resources or ideas to contribute to this (or any other) section of the toolkit, please get in touch.

Email our lead partner DCRP or call +44 1752 584777 to speak to our lead partner, the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership.

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