Nikki Barton – Independent councillor for Surrey County Council (Haslemere Ward) and Haslemere Town Council (Haslemere South Ward). Serving community interests and not political interests. Haslemere first.
Tag Archives: Haslemere Community Rail Partnership
Sharing a guest blog post written by local business man, David Goddin. David is a volunteer for the Haslemere Community Rail Partnership and set up the website which you can see here. David writes:
There’s a powerful new force spreading across UK railways. It has the capacity to make a real difference for the travelling public – and local economies across the nation. It’s called community rail.
In essence, community rail is groups of volunteers – often with the backing of local business and other organisations – who adopt ‘their’ stations and work alongside the train operators and Network Rail to enhance facilities and make them more attractive for regular travellers and occasional visitors.
Community rail is not a convenient public relations cop-out for either the station owner (Network Rail) or the station management – usually the route’s dominant train operating company (TOC). Community rail
Irrespective of any arguments on how the railways are organised, the fact is that the infrastructure and rolling stock needed to provide any reasonable service requires huge investment. And there’s not much left for frills.
Sure, Network Rail and the TOCs could do more for local stations – but inevitably at a cost to the passenger and the taxpayer. The likely result would probably also see a blanket range of improvements with little chance of station individuality.
Community rail, on the other hand, draws on funding from local and central sources to finance individually tailored and locally driven projects to enhance the interface between train and the area a station serves. If these projects are a success, they could help to boost ticket sales for leisure travel – making off-peak train services more profitable.
I became involved in this non-political movement when our local chamber of trade and commerce was showing interest in a local initiative to form a community rail partnership (CRP). We worked together with a number of other local voluntary organisations, as well as the town council, the South Downs National Park Authority and, more recently, the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to create the Haslemere Community Rail Partnership.
This was made possible through ongoing support from the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) and our TOC – originally South West Trains and now South Western Railway.
As with many other station adoptions, we have a small team who regularly tend the station’s flower beds. But our activity goes much further.
Haslemere was fortunate to have a vacant small retail premises on the station forecourt, next to the ticket hall and gateline. The CRP has been able to take this over to use as an ‘information hub’, staffed by volunteers who share local tourist information, maps and leaflets with visitors – especially those wishing to enjoy the abundance of walking and cycling routes in our area.
The Information Hub exists to extend a warm welcome to visitors, helping them to choose destinations and routes that suit their taste – both scenic and commercial. We are fully aware of the importance of the tourist pound, and every one that visitors spend here is a win for the local economy.
We are currently negotiating for alterations and improvements to the Hub, to create additional space and greater visibility – both to visitors and the thousands of commuters who pass it each day. The improved Hub will provide enhanced publicity opportunities for local organisations. We also hope that it will lead to an increase in volunteer numbers, facilitating longer opening hours.
In another exciting development, our CRP has just been upgraded to the Surrey Hills to South Downs Community Rail Partnership which will see our influence spreading northwards through local volunteers at four as-yet unadopted stations: Witley, Milford, Godalming and Farncombe – with all of which we have much in common.
Right now we are working on a range of ideas for projects that could win central funding and contribute significantly to an improved travel experience through Haslemere, which this year celebrates 160 railway years.
Community rail is highly regarded in official circles, as were reminded at the recent ACoRP-led Community Rail in the City event at London Waterloo in ad hoc face-to-face contacts with Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, responsible for railways, at the Department for Transport, and Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail.
So what do I see in it? Well, aside from the opportunity to make a small voluntary contribution on the fringe of the rail sector (partly appeasing the long-held boyhood desire to be an engine driver) community rail has much to offer to a wide range of businesses. That strengthens demand for communication – and that’s the challenge I thrive on.
Click here to read David Goddin’s original article on his own website.
Yesterday, I shared a press release about the inaugural Steering Group meeting of the Surrey Hills to South Downs CRP. More here.
Andy Harrowell, South West Railway’s Community Rail Manager and I were interviewed about the project by BBC Surrey.
Here is a transcription of the interview, which helps explain more about this initiative.
BBC Surrey: A new community group has been set up to
help look after train stations in parts of Surrey, particularly around the
Surrey Hills and the South Downs area. The Community Rail Partnership, as it’s
called, will work alongside South Western Railway to make stations more
attractive and to help publicise destinations. Andy Harrowell is from South Western
Railway and says the volunteers will take on a number of tasks, and visitors
will start to notice a difference.
Andy Harrowell: Community Partnerships are all around
four different pillars of work. That’s looking at things such as promoting
healthy and sustainable travel, supported and social development as well as including
quite a diverse audience. The actual work tends to come down to an agreement of
an activity plan between a range of different stakeholders and partners to traditionally
to see things such as line guides, which helps to promote destinations
accessible from stations. It could be looking at how you can promote gardening
or volunteering at the station, as well as raising awareness of other links
between different methods of transport and the railway.
BBC Surrey: Now, I tend to use the train quite a lot
throughout the course of the year to get around. And it’s quite interesting to
notice differences between stations because you do stop off with some stations,
where you know, a lot of love and care has gone into the upkeep. You see
beautiful flower displays and artwork as well. Is it likely that at these
stations that’s the result of the volunteers with the CRP?
Andy Harrowell: Yes, that’s very much the case. So,
we have what we know as station adoption. What we’re doing is trying to look to
work with volunteer groups who want to adopt their station and help it further
reflect the local area, which can often be through art or gardening or a book
swap. So, we’ve actually got 18 of those registered with us across the network
and that’s everywhere from Inner London, Brentford down to Templecombe and
BBC Surrey: So that’s Andy Harrowell from South Western
Railway talking about the launch of this new Community Rail Partnership in the Surrey
Hills and the South Downs area. Let’s find out some more. Nikki Barton is a
councillor for Haslemere and just happens to be Chair of the Community Rail Partnership
steering group as well. Good evening, Nikki, hopefully you had a chance to
listen to what Andy was saying there. So, some exciting plans ahead. What is in
store for the group? What can we expect?
Nikki Barton: Well, it’s a really exciting initiative. We’re really delighted to bring together a fantastic range of partners. Our new partnership is called The Surrey Hills and The South Downs Rail Partnership. We brought together the South Downs National Park, The Surrey Hills, and the parish councils and various community groups from each of the communities along the line. In terms of projects, we’ve got a whole range of initiatives and ideas. We’d like our stations to be a lot more attractive, to have more planting. As you were saying earlier, in your earlier piece, some art too. We’d like to follow some of the passion of Love Haslemere Hate Waste, and have water refill units at the station so you can avoid single use plastics. We would really like to encourage tourists to come down to visit. We get big groups of people coming down from London, rambling up into the South Downs and The Surrey Hills. At the moment, when you arrive at our stations, there’s no guidelines, there’s no map. So, we’ve been developing some Rail To Trail and Rail To Ramble maps that serve the station. <more here>.
BBC Surrey: Basically, it’s making the visitor/the
passenger experience that bit better.
Nikki Barton: It is. I think the interesting thing
about the project is that you can look at it on a number of levels. So yes, the
visitor experience but also we’d really like to improve it for the everyday
user travelling through Haslemere station. We have got over 1.7 million
passenger journeys a year. It’s a huge number of people using the stations. And
there are areas that we could really do with improvements, for example, we’d
really like to improve the integration between the bus and the train network.
At the moment, it’s almost impossible to commute from a village or outside the
town because the buses don’t connect with the trains, for example. I think
there is a great range of initiatives that this Partnership will explore going
BBC Surrey: Okay, I mean, I’m not sort of courting
controversy here. But I’m just intrigued by the idea that this relies on
volunteers … Is it right that basically sprucing up our network and our
stations should fall to volunteers?
Nikki Barton: Yes, I think that’s a really good
question. We do have some amazing volunteers that give a lot of time. I do at
times wonder, given how much rail travel costs, whether that should be
something we’re doing but, I think it’s all about community pride. And in each
of the villages and the towns along the route of this Rail Partnership, the
station is really our main transport hub. If it’s looking good, and it’s
attractive, it’s good for us all. One of the key elements is really to
encourage people to come and visit our amazing towns. Haslemere has got
fantastic businesses, independent businesses, and what we’d really like to do
is, by making the station an attractive place, and the same with Witley, and
Milford and in the future, Godalming and Farncombe, that people come down to
see towns on the line and go and have a coffee, buy a book and explore the
towns as well. It’s about really a holistic approach to our community
BBC Surrey: And you can’t argue with that. And just
finally, in a few words, how can we find out more and look to become a
BBC Surrey: Good stuff. Nikki, thanks for joining us
this evening. Have a great weekend. And I look forward to our stations around Surrey
and The South Downs area looking at a little bit more spruced up as we move
In the current edition of The Haslemere Herald, the paper published an article about a new public access defibrillator that has been installed on the station forecourt.
Nikki Barton is cited in the article:
“We are very grateful to the Shottermill Great War Memorial Trust, Haslemere First Responders, the Association of Community Rail Partners and South Western Railway for their contributions to this life saving equipment.”
Do you have up to an hour free this afternoon from 2pm? Meet us at the info hub to go on to weed the flower bed on the south side of platform 2/3 .. bring your kneeler, gardening gloves & fork! #haslemere#volunteering
In Haslemere today, some of the lovely volunteers who, as part of the Haslemere Community Rail Partnership team, helped clear the station’s flower beds on the platform. The daffodils are now looking gorgeous.
What a great improvement! Lovely to see the sun and blue sky too after the snow.
On behalf of the Haslemere Community Rail Partnership, we’re hiring a Community Manager.
This role will help to deliver the Haslemere Community Rail Partnership’s (HCRP) aim of encouraging more visitors to travel to Haslemere, the surrounding villages and the South Downs National Park. It will enable the many separate local organisations in Haslemere to promote themselves, and the many events and activities that they organise in and around the town. The role will also encourage sustainable travel behavior of visitors and local residents from a HCRP Information Centre based at Haslemere Railway Station.
ACoRP – the Association of Community Rail Partnerships – is the membership body for almost 50 community rail partnerships, representing over 80 community rail lines across the UK, as well as more than 1,000 station adoption groups.
The Haslemere Community Rail Partnership was established in October 2015 with the purpose of promoting Haslemere and its surrounding countryside, to promote rail travel to the town as a more sustainable travel mode and to improve the station and forecourt environment. You can read more about it here in this town council document and here in a past update on this blog.
In Haslemere today, I spent a few hours weeding and tidying the flower beds on the platform. There is more work to be done!
If you are free for an hour or two on Thursday morning from 9am, please do come along with gardening gloves for some gentle weeding. I’ll bring a flask of tea for us to share.