South West Wales now has its very own Community Rail Partnership, designed to help communities get the most benefit from their existing railway lines.
The new Community Rail Partnership, South West Wales Connected, will engage with communities across Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire to maximise the role the railway can play in fulfilling the goals of the Welsh Government’s Well-Being of Future Generations Act.
South West Wales Connected has been established by Transport for Wales and is hosted by 4theRegion, a membership alliance working to bring about positive change across the region. It is based in a dedicated community facility at Swansea Railway Station in a previously empty area that has been redeveloped as part of Transport for Wales’ Station Improvement Vision.
The overall aim of SWW Connected is to connect local communities with their railway, delivering social and economic benefit and increasing rail use within the region. Among other things it will promote rail as a sustainable, accessible and healthy means of travel, encourage rail use by locals and tourists, and help local communities and businesses engage with the rail network.
New Community Rail Partnership Officer Jennifer Barfoot, who will be leading the initiative, said it will bring the communities and the railway closer together to promote and celebrate everything the region has to offer.
“I am very excited to be joining South West Wales Connected,” she said. “We are distinctly aware of the challenges that Covid-19 has brought to our communities and we have the opportunity to help communities overcome those challenges.
“By connecting and encouraging collaboration among businesses and organisations in local communities, we can empower those communities to work better together on a whole range of social, economic, cultural and environmental issues. I am very much looking forward to working with communities across South West Wales.”
Jennifer has a background in education and has been delivering regional initiatives for the past nine years, including My Train Wales, an initiative to educate school pupils about rail safety.
“We welcome Jennifer to this new role, for which she is perfectly suited,” said 4theRegion founder and chair Dawn Lyle. “South West Wales Connected will play an important part in helping 4theRegion achieve its aims of creating positive change in the region in areas such as wellbeing, sustainability, tourism and economic development. Our rail network is a hugely valuable resource that connects and unites the region, and we want to help people get the most out of it. We very much look forward to working with Jennifer and SWW Connected on this project.”
Transport for Wales is part funding South West Wales Connected to deliver its wider vision for community rail. South West Wales Connected will work collaboratively with Transport for Wales and other local partners to identify and develop opportunities to help individuals, groups and communities make the most of the advantages the rail network can deliver.
Head of Community Rail at Transport for Wales Hugh Evans said: “Community Rail can drive real change for the better across our network, helping make rail travel more accessible and inclusive, which in turn creates a real economic benefit and an opportunity, during these difficult times, to support the health and mental wellbeing of people in these communities.
“We’re delighted that South West Wales Connected have become the first new Community Rail Partnership since Transport for Wales took over the Wales and Borders network. Their ideas and ambitions are incredibly exciting and we look forward to working with them over the coming years.”
Community Rail Network Chief Executive, Jools Townsend said: “As the umbrella body representing community rail partnerships and groups across Wales and beyond, we’re thrilled to welcome South West Wales Connected on board. Community rail plays an incredibly important role in helping communities get the most benefit from their local railways, including promoting sustainable travel and tourism by rail, and developing accessibility and inclusion. They also help local people to have a voice in rail development, making the railway more inclusive, community-minded and future-focused. This is doubly important right now in helping our communities and railways recover and build back better from Covid-19. We’re looking forward to supporting South West Wales Connected to engage and empower their local communities, connecting them with their railways.”
Transport for Wales Rail Services also works with five other community rail partnerships around its network. Its wider Community Rail Vision also includes an active and successful station adoption scheme. The eventual aim is to have Community Rail Partnerships to cover its entire network of 247 stations across almost 30 local authority areas.