Passengers in the south west will see a greater community involvement with the designation of the Heart of Wessex Line between Bristol and Weymouth as a community rail service, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers announced today (10 October 2011).
Designation allows train companies to work more closely with community rail partnerships to better design services to meet local need.
Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said:
I am delighted to be able to make this announcement on the day of First Great Western’s Community Rail Conference which will consider ways to develop the concept of community rail in the south west of England. Designation means that local communities can become even more involved in how these services run and encourage train companies to provide the services local people want.
Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of First Great Western, which runs services on the route, said:
First Great Western really values the excellent work that is done by the Community Rail Partnerships in our region, helping to boost passenger numbers to record breaking levels and increasing the value of our local lines to the communities that they serve. We very much welcome the designation of the Heart of Wessex line services, and the benefits that will bring, further assisting the partnership in the valuable work that they do.
Eric Egar, Chair of the Heart of Wessex Community Rail Partnership said:
The Bristol to Weymouth ‘Heart of Wessex’ line is a vital regional route connecting major employment, retail and leisure destinations in Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bath and Bristol. Designation is an endorsement of the substantial benefits we have already achieved as a partnership of local authorities working with community and volunteer groups to enhance and promote this route, its destinations and local economies, and an opportunity to take this work to the next level.
The Community Rail Development Strategy looks at innovative ways of operating local branch lines, through a programme of cost management, a drive to increase passenger numbers and direct community involvement via local authorities, community rail partnerships, and other stakeholder groups.
To date, 18 lines with their services have been designated as Community Rail lines, these are:
- St Ives Bay Line: St Erth to St Ives June 2005. Selected as one of the six pilot projects.
- Abbey Line: St Albans Abbey to Watford Junction June 2005. Selected as one of the six pilot projects.
- Esk Valley Line: Middlesbrough to Whitby June 2005. Selected as one of the six pilot lines.
- Tamar Valley Line: Plymouth to Gunnislake September 2005. Linked with Looe alley as one of the six pilot projects.
- Looe Valley Line: Liskeard to Looe September 2005. Linked with Tamar Valley as one of the six pilot projects.
- Penistone Line: Barnsley to Huddersfield September 2005. Selected as one of the six pilot projects.
- Island Line: Isle of Wight (Ryde to Shanklin), March 2006.
- Tarka Line: Barnstaple to Cowley Junction Exeter, September 2006.
- Maritime Line: Falmouth to Truro September 2006.
- Derwent Valley: Derby to Matlock September 2006.
- East Lancashire Line: Colne to Gannow Junction Burnley November 2006.
- Gainsborough Line: Marks Tey to Sudbury November 2006
- Barton Line: Barton-on-Humber to Ulceby N. Junction January 2007
- Bittern Line: Norwich to Sheringham September 2007.
- Lakes Line: Oxenholme - Windermere April 2008.
- South Fylde Line: Blackpool South - Preston April 2008.
- Lymington Line: Brockenhurst - Lymington July 2008
- Preston to Ormskirk Line: Preston to Ormskirk September 2011
Additionally, 11 services have been designated as community rail services whilst not designating the lines on which they run. These services are designated when there are reasons why the infrastructure cannot be included in the designation - because it carries non local traffic or heavy freight or has previously been designated as part of the Trans European Network.
This latest designation will be officially announced at First Great Western’s Community Rail Conference in Cornwall on the 10th October 2011. First Great Western hold a community rail conference each year with delegates from community rail partnerships, local authorities, rail user groups, station volunteers and industry partners.