Association of Community Rail Partnerships
Station Adoption Conference
Manchester 23rd June 2005.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this important event. My expenses were paid by Ross and Cromarty Enterprise, since I was not only representing The Friends of The Far North Line, but also Alness Initiative, and the Small Towns Network, European Northern Periphery Programme.
My journey was by GNER to Edinburgh, and Virgin Voyager to Manchester. GNER delivered on time, though the HSTs are in dire need of refurbishment, and the riding seems rougher as the age of the units increases. The Voyager also delivered, but only after a very physical scramble for seats because of the failure of the booking system. Central Manchester is now a very pleasant place to be, with efficient trams and buses, and little other traffic.
The main event of the Conference was the launch of 'Station Adoption', the booklet which provides 'a guide for the local community', published by ACORP in conjunction with Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive. This booklet sets out the responsibilities and limitations of what volunteer groups can do, and provides very clear guidelines for implementing a successful scheme. Examples of successful station adoption schemes in the Manchester area were described, and several others throughout England and Wales. The question sessions were lively and the 100 or so attendees represented the rail industry and very many local volunteer groups.
First ScotRail was not represented, but this month it has launched its own scheme. John Yellowlees has been encouraging communities to become involved. On the Far North Line there are moves afoot by the communities to improve at least Tain, Invergordon, Alness and Dingwall stations, in partnership with First ScotRail, Highland Rail Partnership, Hitrans and others.
One man in great demand at the Conference was Jerry Swift, Account Director, Community Railways, with Network Rail. I had met him before, with Frank Roach, on the North Train between Dingwall and Tain. He had seen at first hand the problems at Alness Station. Hopefully, Alness can demonstrate a successful adoption of an unmanned station. Comprehensive plans are being discussed and 'The Friends of Alness Station' exist as a subgroup of the Alness Community Association.