MEMBERS of a growing grassroots rail movement are looking forward to supporting local recovery in Wales as the country begins to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Figures from a Community Rail Network report, sponsored by Rail Delivery Group, highlight that more than 1,100 volunteers give 50,000 hours annually, valued at £4.3 million, to support social inclusion and wellbeing, sustainable and healthy travel, economic development and tourism in their area.

Wales and the Borders’ six community rail partnerships and 140 station friends groups 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; community arts and heritage projects to help people learn about and take pride in their area; working 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 partnerships and groups have continued to grow in number and support communities and local resilience during the pandemic. They are now looking forward to playing a key role in building back better and greener from Covid, helping railways to be a vital component of a more sustainable and inclusive way forward, and supporting Wales’ new transport strategy Llwybr Newydd.

The newly-formed South West Wales Connected community rail partnership recently held a series of online events, bringing together local groups to co-create shared visions and action plans for stations and their surroundings.

Last summer saw the Heart of Wales Line and South West Wales Connected offer small grants to help community groups continue through the pandemic or to drive positive change locally.

Station friends groups and social enterprises across Wales and the Borders – from Borth to Llandovery, Gobowen to Lamphey and Llanelli to Treherbert – are looking forward to resuming volunteering, community gardening, reopening community cafes and various inclusion and environmental projects.

In a bid to boost sustainable travel by rail post-Covid, all Welsh community rail partnerships are working together to promote rail-based tourism throughout Wales, encouraging sustainable, scenic adventures through a new website that will offer information on where to find fantastic food, gorgeous gardens, heroic heritage and obtainable outdoors.

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 Wales, 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.”

For more information on community rail and to find your local partnership or group, visit