More than 600 community rail volunteers are poised to play a key role in South West's post-covid economic recovery.
Members of the Community Rail Network, which includes a group supporting the Swindon-Westbury route, and are looking forward to supporting local recovery.
Figures from Community Rail Network’s Community Rail in the South West report, sponsored by Rail Delivery Group and released today - 31 March - highlight that more than 600 volunteers give over 27,000 hours annually.
The organisation aims to support social inclusion and wellbeing, sustainable and healthy travel, economic development and tourism.
Emma Morris, community manager at GWR, said: "Community rail plays a vital role ensuring people get the most from their railways.
"Working alongside local, regional, and national partners - Community Rail Partnerships, station adoption groups and individual volunteers - community rail encourages social inclusion, community wellbeing and empowers economic development."
Seven community rail partnerships and 70 station groups across the South West region engage local people with their railways and stations, working with train operators, local authorities and other partners.
Their activities include volunteering, community gardening, food growing and biodiversity projects at stations. There are community arts and heritage projects to help people learn about and take pride in their area.
Volunteers also work with rail industry partners towards improvements and integration, such as shelters, signage or pedestrian and cyclist access, and events, workshops and activities to promote sustainable travel, bring people together, and celebrate local communities.
Community rail across the South West is now looking forward to playing a pivotal role in building back better from Covid, and helping railways to be a vital component of a greener, more inclusive way forward as part of a green recovery.
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.
"Across the South West, 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, within the community rail movement, and across our railways, we will be redoubling efforts to create confidence and togetherness, and help 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.”