The new Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership has celebrated its launch at an event at Pitlochry Station.
More than 40 guests attended - including John Swinney, MSP Deputy First Minister and Phil Verster, Managing Director of the ScotRail Alliance, who were welcomed to the celebrations by Sally Spaven, Chair of the HML CRP.
The partnership is designed to form a bridge between the railway and local communities and works with community groups, businesses and organisations in the area as well as the rail industry to encourage more locals and visitors to use trains.
It embraces the rail routes from Dunkeld and Birnam to Carrbridge, taking in Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie, and Aviemore.
At the event, John Swinney, Deputy First Minister said:
"This is an excellent partnership which brings together the dual priorities of sustainable public transport and vibrant well connected rural communities. I wish to pay tribute to the work of everyone involved in preparing for this launch from within communities and partner organisations. In particular I would like to express my gratitude to John Yellowlees of ScotRail for his personal commitment to this partnership and for the substantial contribution he has made over the many years to all Scottish Station Groups".
Mr Verster said that the ScotRail Alliance was committed to Community Rail Partnerships because they further strengthen the rail industry's connections with communities, support local business and improve its responsiveness to customers.
He added: “Through our dedicated community rail team we will work closely with the HML CRP to encourage even more people to use the train.
“We have already seen how CRPs can improve conditions at stations and raise footfall and local awareness of the railway. On some less frequently used services on other railways such collaboration with the local communities has increased footfall between 7 - 10%.
“A flagship £1m Community Rail programme has also been established which will ensure we deliver our commitment to encourage and facilitate deeper and more meaningful community participation in the railway.”
Sally Spaven said: “I must pay tribute to the many people who have worked with us over the past two years, since our 150th Anniversary celebrations, to bring this Community Rail Partnership to life. Up until 2013 we had all been working separately and the enthusiasm generated at that time, encouraged us to join forces and form the HML CRP. I would like to thank the many volunteers, Station staff, the staff at ACoRP, our previous Project Officer Jim Wilkins for his patience and encouragement and finally John Yellowlees, ScotRail External Relations Manager, for his unstinting support, encouragement, knowledge and humour over the past two years and indeed for the previous 21 years. We have all been working at our respective Stations as Station Adopters and Liaison Groups for many years and are delighted to finally bring all the individual groups working along the track together. We welcome the opportunity of partnership working and supporting this majestic, historic railway line achieve another 150 years of success”.
The HML CRP, whose status was conferred by the Scottish Government to drive community involvement in local railway lines, has already set its priorities for the next few years, including:
- Making rail more attractive and accessible to the community.
- Encouraging more commuters to leave the car at home and use public / active transport.
- Improving access and linkages between stations and community centres / points of interest
- Supporting the economic development of the region
- Seeking to improve accessibility for those with mobility issues and others with accessibility issues, and:
- Acting as an interface between the community, the Regional Transport Partnerships HITRANS and Tactrans and the rail industry.
To be financially supported by ScotRail, the train operator, the not for profit HML CRP has 9 Executive Committee members and more than 40 volunteer members representing a wide range of interests across the line.
Organisations with projects that they feel would enhance the railway's benefit to the community, can make an approach to the HML CRP email@example.com
For more information please visit www.highlandmainlinecrp.co.uk