Community Rail Partnership Officer Fiona

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Fiona Saxon, who lives in Northfield, is an officer with the Worcestershire Community Rail Partnership and works closely with West Midlands Railway (WMR) to help build links between communities and the railway.

Fiona, who only took up her post in September, aims to create social and economic regeneration by bringing together communities, businesses and local stations.

As part of Community Rail Week (18th to 24th October) what better way to kick things off than to welcome a new community rail champion. Fiona is keen to spread awareness to community rail and explore what the future has in store for local communities along West Midlands railway lines.

Here’s what she had to say:

Welcome to the railway…

“I only started my role recently, it has been amazing so far and the time has gone in a flash! There’s lots to do and lots to learn, and I’m keen to immerse myself in all thing’s community and rail!

Worcestershire Community Rail Partnership team in action!

A bit of background…

“I’ve been involved in community engagement for many years now. During the lockdowns I worked as an engagement manager for the Census, encouraging people to fill out their forms and helping them overcome any barriers to completing them. For example, some older people struggled with completing the Census online so I made sure they could access paper forms.

“Prior to my Census work, I had taken time out of the workplace to fulfil a long-held ambition of completing a history degree - I believe wholeheartedly in life-long learning! I’ve also worked for diverse industries such as shipbuilding, banking and electronics, as well as roles with the government and voluntary sector. All of these have given me an insight into many different working practices and objectives which will be invaluable in my new role.”

On Covid & The Census challenges

“The Census is all about people but with Covid and lockdowns there could be no face-to-face contact and I found that the lack of direct engagement could be frustrating. Meetings and community events had to be conducted online instead of being able to physically meet people and experience the communities in which they lived

“On the upside, because I wasn’t able to travel to see people, I had a lot more time to research and plan how to engage with my target groups.”

Current role

“My role is to work with local communities and businesses to place railway stations at the centre of the communities they serve. By encouraging and facilitating an involvement from locals, we hope to create a sense of ownership and belonging within the community which will then act as a catalyst for change.

“By expressing a station’s individuality, through the pride and self-belief engendered by making a station their own, the community has a natural draw for travellers passing through who will want to discover more about the area. This means that by taking an active role in showcasing their local stations, communities can encourage tourism and new businesses to come to their hometowns. Communities will thrive!

“I will be working with residents, volunteers, stakeholders and rail and station staff to create environments that are welcoming and vibrant but also conducive to regeneration and identity building. It will be a challenging yet rewarding role and I can’t wait to find out about all the diverse communities.

“I love the variety this role offers - every single day is different. I’m always meeting new people and new community groups and we’re constantly coming up with new ideas for the stations.”

The CRP and Train Company relationship

“We work with several train operators and receive funding from them. We have a joint board whose representatives meet four times a year to decide what projects to look at and what we want to focus on.

“Each station is treated as a separate entity. In Droitwich Spa, funding was allocated for the Friends of Droitwich Spa to maintain planters, but this could have been artwork such as the mural that can be found at Worcestershire Parkway. These projects are community led so it’s what locals feel is right for the station.

“Another focus at the moment is to get all of the stations in Worcestershire adopted. In Kidderminster we have a community group interested in maintaining the station, and we’re hoping to get plants donated from a local garden centre. In Hagley, we are going to approach local schools to see if they would like to support the adoption of the station - it’s all about bringing the community together to make change happen!”

Importance of the role

“Community rail and Community Rail Partnership Officers like me serve to integrate a station into the community. We emphasise the significant role that rail serves in the community. Travel is an essential part of the community, and we remind people that the station is there to serve them and that the more they use the stations and railway network, the more integrated it becomes. With more people using the railway and station, the more improvements we can make.”

Future aspirations

“I have so many ideas buzzing around in my head! Obviously, a priority is to get all the stations adopted and I will be encouraging local people to get involved with that. Sustainable travel and environmentally friendly stations are also a high priority so I’m particularly excited to facilitate any projects that support this such as bike hire, good walking and cycling routes to the station and planting insect friendly flowers and shrubs.”

If you would like to find out more about how you could adopt your local station visit here .