Julia, who lives in South Coventry, is the Heart of England Community Rail Partnership Officer who works closely with West Midlands Railway (WMR) to ensure that local communities and businesses engage with the railway and support their local stations.
To coincide with Community Rail Week (18th to 24th October), Julia is keen to tell us about her role and let us know about future plans for community rail. Here’s what she has to say…
A bit of background…
“I started my role in January 2020 and have worked through what I think has, for all of us, been quite a challenging time!
“I am based in Coventry but work in the stations from Nuneaton down to Stratford and Coventry across to Solihull.”
On Covid challenges
“My role is centered around community engagement so I should always be out and about meeting people and planning events, something that was rendered impossible by Covid!
“I had only just started this job during the beginning of the pandemic, so from the get-go I had to think of ways to reach out to communities at a distance. On a positive note, this made me think outside the box - how could I engage with people from a different angle and focus on mental well-being in the community?
“I started organising Zoom meetings for our station adopters so that they could have contact with others and share their ideas for the stations. Most items were carried out virtually, but with some of the projects, such as rail safety lessons, we worked out ways to deliver sessions in person and remotely.”
“My role is all about finding ways to integrate stations into communities and finding ways railways can support the communities they are in. It can be very varied. Right now, for example, I am looking at barriers people might have when looking to return to the railway.
“Last September as restrictions were easing, we did a ‘Coventry acts of kindness’ event and we partnered with a mental health charity who came to one of the stations. We offered cakes and signposted attendees to the charity.
“We have a project starting in November called 'Creative Platforms’, which will help young people who suffer with issues such as anxiety. We will teach them different creative skills, helping them use art as a relaxation technique. They will go on the train to visit art galleries or installations at other stations. Our wide variety of projects means we are able to help people of all ages”
The CRP and WMR relationship
“We have a WMR representative who sits on the steering group which is a mix of train operators and local authorities. This group meets quarterly and will approve the activity plan and finances for the region.
“On a more personal level, I speak to the WMR line managers about specific stations. I also have a close relationship with the marketing team, and we keep the communication open between us, the stations, and the wider community.
“As it is currently Community Rail Week, I have two events running with the sustainability lead at WMR, Charlotte. The first event is ‘Pledge Day’ where we will be at Coventry station asking people to sign a pledge to go green by train. Rather than just getting people to sign a pledge, there will be a CRP sustainability statement online showing how the partners will be living sustainably and offering people the chance to write a more personal pledge.
The second event is working in conjunction with Coventry Transport Museum. We will be giving out information on how the stations are working to be more sustainable and lots about sustainability in general. We will also be getting children from the community to design their own sustainable station.”
Importance of role
“This is an incredibly important role within the community. We get to assist the train companies with a wide variety of community activations that support the local community – working at a local level and reaching people who are using the railway.
“I love the variety of my job. I am always doing different things - no two days are the same. It’s always interesting, but always has the same focus - community engagement.”
“Next year we have the Commonwealth Games coming to Birmingham. Obviously, this will bring a lot of tourism to the Midlands. We are already planning for the Games with a clear program of events to support the adopters at each station. It’s going to be a really exciting year!”
If you would like to find out more about how you could adopt your local station visit here .