24th March 2021

3,000 community rail volunteers and local partnerships poised to play a key role in the North of England’s recovery ....

Members of a grassroots movement – including groups in Northwich, Knutsford, Altrincham and surrounding villages - have continued to strive for Northern England’s communities and work towards a greener transport future, despite the pandemic.

Figures from Community Rail Network’s Community Rail in the North briefing – sponsored by Rail Delivery Group - (being launched today, 24 March) highlight that over 3,000 volunteers give over 140,000 hours annually, valued at £11.7 million, to improve social inclusion and wellbeing, promote sustainable and healthy travel, and support economic development, in their local area.

Working with the North’s 20 community rail partnerships and 350 station groups, they engage local people with their railways and stations, working with train operators, local authorities, and other partners.

Activities include: volunteering, community gardening and biodiversity projects at stations; community arts and heritage projects; work with rail industry partners towards improvements and integration, such as shelters, signage, pedestrian and cyclist access; and events, workshops and activities to promote sustainable travel, bring people together, and celebrate the local community.

Community rail is now looking forward to playing a pivotal role in building back better from Covid and helping our railways to be a vital component of a greener, more inclusive way forward as part of a ‘green recovery’.

Locally, the Mid Cheshire Community Rail Partnership will be playing a key role in this ‘green initiative’.

The Mid Cheshire Line connects Chester to Manchester via Northwich, Knutsford, Altrincham, and Stockport.

Along the Line, the station gardens are tended by local volunteers and the Partnership has worked closely with local tourism and hospitality partners to encourage leisure travel with its Marvellous Days Out project.

The Friends of Altrincham Interchange have recently set up display boards with uplifting poems which has attracted contributions from across the region and the Friends of Hale Station have been working with the Partnership and Trafford Council to put plans in place to protect and conserve the Grade II listed station buildings in the Conservation Area.

The Line has much to offer off-peak leisure visitors with wonderful walks and cycle rides from all its stations, exciting places to visit and great shopping and eating experiences at our cities, towns, and villages.

Commenting on the importance of the community rail movement in the North of England, Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network said:

“Community rail works to make our railways community-minded and inclusive, and promotes sustainable travel by rail, bringing people together and bolstering local pride and wellbeing. In the North, community rail partnerships and groups have adapted and responded, supporting communities through the pandemic, maintaining positivity, and advising rail partners on shifting local needs.

“As we start to rebuild from Covid-19, within the community rail movement, and across our railways, we will be redoubling efforts, to create confidence and togetherness, and play our part in enabling more people to get around by socially and environmentally responsible means. Community rail is all about communities and connectedness, and people working together locally to make things better for each other and our shared future – that couldn’t be more important right now.”

John Hulme, a Director of the Mid Cheshire Community Rail Partnership said:

“During the pandemic, the Partnership has been working behind the scenes to help with post Covid Recovery.

“We will be working hard to help all our business partners along the Line to get back to normal by promoting sustainable and healthy travel.

“Our Line has much to offer off-peak leisure travel and we hope that will bring much business to our vibrant cities, town and villages along the Line.”

Sarah Morgan, Community Rail Officer for the Mid Cheshire Community Rail Partnership said:

“I am looking forward to the Partnership playing its part in this green initiative to support post Covid recovery.

“During the pandemic, we were fortunate to have our own Gallery in the Gardens at Tatton Park depicting Cheshire’s ‘Wonderful Wildlife’ by acclaimed Cheshire artist, Nicky Thompson.

"With the help of Northwich Town Council, we will be moving this very successful exhibition to Northwich after lockdown.

“We are also actively talking to Knutsford Town Council about local projects to enhance and promote the station, and we have been engaging with parish councils and community groups along the line to encourage local partnership working.

“Local rail services and their stations are hugely important to our connected communities and the Partnership is there not only to bring a local voice, but also to make things happen.”

For more information on community rail, visit


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