South West Wales Community Rail Partnership
TEMPORARY STEERING GROUP – 30th April 2020
4theRegion is the host organisation for a new Community Rail Partnership for South West Wales. The COVID-19 crisis has affected our plans for the recruitment of a Community Rail Officer and put on hold the planned events and conversations across the region. In the meantime, we are forming a temporary steering group to help us shape the CRP and its activity, so that we are well placed to move forward when the crisis is over. We will meet online via Zoom video conference. If you would like to be part of the temporary steering group, or if you have feedback or input you would like to contribute, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, or call 07789 226 457.
Here follows a report of the first virtual meeting of the temporary steering group, on 30th April 2020. You can find the papers circulated for the steering group meeting, as well as a write up of notes from the event below.
You can listen to an audio recording of the full 2 hour meeting below:
Audio Recording of the Meeting
WHAT SHALL WE CALL OURSELVES?
We started from the point of view that we need to collectively agree what we call ourselves, as a CRP and as a region. We love the way “The Heart of Wales Line” has become a recognisable identity for a region that spreads itself along a railway line, and we think it connects with visitors and residents alike. It is simultaneously a “brand”, and name for the line itself, and a name for the CRP. Of course, our region is bigger and different, in that we are seeking to connect not only the towns and villages along the railway line, but all the communities across all four counties of South West Wales, and many of these already have their own successful tourism identities – Pembrokeshire, Gower, the Garden of Wales.
There was (and remains!) some confusion as to whether we are naming our organisation, or our region, and whether the name is intended to attract visitors (e.g. as a tourism brand) or to engage residents and businesses that are based in South West Wales. The most immediate deployment of the name will be in the URL of the new CRP website and in our social media handles. It will be used on maps, marketing campaigns and publications that the CRP might produce.
Beyond this, we hope that partners, communities and organisations across the region will see the value of using the new regional identity in their own materials and activity, as a sign of collaboration, shared interest, and commitment to regional working. This video recording captures some of the discussion about choosing a name for the CRP and the region. By the end of the meeting there was a surprising level of consensus!
REFLECTIONS ON THE DISCUSSION
There was some lack of clarity during the meeting over the purpose of the Community Rail Partnership, and a fixation on the railway itself and the tourism sector. The key point for us is that the purpose of the CRP is not just about trains and it’s not just about tourism. It’s about how the rail network can be leveraged to unlock greater wellbeing in all its forms – prosperity, health, equality, environmental, social and cultural, encouraging more joined up thinking and collaborative working across South West Wales, and helping everyone (not just visitors) to feel better connected to opportunities and experiences right across the region – education, employment, leisure, culture, wellbeing…
Much of the conversation centred on the difficulty of defining the identity of South West Wales through a single “brand”, due to it being such a large and diverse region. And of course it has been attempted in the past – and efforts have failed – so what can we learn and do differently now? Collectively, we gained some new clarity around using “campaigns” and themes for tourism marketing – and that some of the previously suggested “names” for the CRP were in fact different themes and ideas for particular future campaigns. Also, celebrating the diversity our region offers, and realising that different audiences will be attracted to different things.
Iwan Thomas, PLANED
I think what we need to do is to use this opportunity of the Community Rail Partnership to overcome some of the divisions across the region, and actually turn it into a strength for the region. We are a region of diverse elements, the industrial side, the coast, the countryside, we’ve got culture, language, all in different parts of the region. I think what we need to do is to show that the rail network can open up the region, so that people can go and have a meeting with industry, they can take their bike on the train to Neath, they can come to Pembrokeshire and to the coast, they can go and see the garden of Wales which is Carmarthenshire.
Perhaps what I’m nervous about is that a lot of the conversation seems to be about tourism, and campaigns about tourism. What I’m thinking is that we’re using the rail network as a “connected” South West Wales, that we connect to… economy, skills, for young people to get to places of education, for people to get to places of work, but we also connect it for people to understand the food and drink producers that we have across the region, all these small businesses who are really struggling now and will require accessibility and promotion post-lockdown. And also connection to wellbeing, for example the wellbeing village in Delta Lakes in Carmarthenshire.
So I would say we use “connected”, which I know has been utilised many times before, but if we’re smart and we use it for the rail network to open up how we’re connected to different sectors, different geographies across the region, and we bring it together and we say, South West Wales is connected, be it for business, leisure, tourism, well-being, whatever it may be.
It was great to reach such consensus around the idea of using just “SOUTH WEST WALES” as our shared “brand”, which seems rather obvious now! We expect that partners across the region will continue to focus purely on marketing Pembrokeshire, or Gower, or “the Garden of Wales”, as successful brands in themselves, and that’s understandable. Perhaps the mission of the CRP is to encourage better joined up working to unlock opportunities and maximise potential, and if we can encourage the use of “South West Wales” as a subtitle, or an aside, we should regard that as a win!
Connectivity and connection were key words for many participants during the meeting, that seemed to encapsulate both the PURPOSE of the CRP, and the aspiration for the region – suggesting travel connectivity but not limited to transport. We need to strive towards connecting both rural and larger communities, businesses and organisations in order to encourage a wider area of trade, skills and education. This theme of ‘connection” was popular within the discussion.
You can find the papers circulated for the steering group meeting, as well as a write up of notes from the event below.
TFW REGIONAL STAKEHOLDER FORUM
The Community Rail Partnership will not be an effective forum for talking about rail services or the performance of TfW. As hosts of the CRP, 4theRegion is not an expert in trains or services, and has no power to improve them. “Train business”, such as reporting service problems and lobbying for changes to timetables, will be signposted to TfW’s new Regional Stakeholder Forum.
Katie Powis, Stakeholder Manager for TFW
Our newly appointed Regional Stakeholder Managers will lead and manage local relationships, aiming to find ways to maximise the impact of our work and better understand local people’s needs. For matters relating to transport planning, strategy, and making sure the train service does what it should in the region, the new Stakeholder Forums will have a varied membership including the Welsh Government, Network Rail, British Transport Police, local authorities, rail user groups, and business groups. This forum will improve collaboration between stakeholders, creating the opportunity to discuss our performance and progress as well as to provide us with valuable feedback that will allow us to continually improve and shape our plans. Katie Powis will remain involved with the new Community Rail Partnership for South West Wales, and will be a point of contact for all matters relating to the trains, the services, and the network itself.
Rheolwr Rhanddeiliaid / Stakeholder Manager
Trafnidiaeth Cymru / Transport for Wales
T: 07493 060539