CRL - Community Rail Lancashire

Melanie passes on the baton after another busy year for Community Rail Partnership

Community Rail Lancashire chair Richard Watts presents outgoing chair of the Clitheroe Line and East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership Melanie Taylor with a bouquet

Chair of the Clitheroe Line and East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership is handing over the chair of the CRP to Mike Cliffe, Lancashire County Council’s Rail Development Manager.

Melanie will continue as a director of Community Rail Lancashire and will remain extensively involved in rail in the county in her new role as Group Leader for Public Transport at Blackpool Council.

As rail development manager for the county council, Mike brings invaluable strategic oversight of several priority projects across East Lancashire including, improving access at stations, forecasting future passenger demand and the reinstatement of DalesRail services.

Between April 2022 and April 2023, Lancashire’s five community rail partnerships delivered some 21 community-based projects with a value of almost £340,000 involving a variety of partners including Northern Trains, Avanti, TransPennine Express, the Community Rail Network and the Department for Transport.

Projects have included large scale schemes like Making Connections – a major initiative to develop and test an innovative approach to engaging young people with public transport to tackle loneliness alongside grassroots campaigns like Spotlight on Stations designed to encourage community-based organizations to bring a little TLC to their local stations by tending to flower tubs, picking litter, sweeping the station and ensuring all signage is in place.

Melanie said: “It’s been a real privilege to be part of a wonderfully dedicated team – both internally as part of the CRL team and working with invaluable stakeholder colleagues, volunteers and organisations.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed getting involved in projects like making the Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth film and raising awareness of the pioneering Dick Kerr Ladies as England’s Lionesses triumphed at Euro 2022.

“I wish the new Chair all the very best in their new role and I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.”

Community Rail Lancashire chair Richard Watts said: “I’d like to thank Melanie for her enthusiasm and outstanding leadership during her time as chair of the Clitheroe Line and East Lancashire Community Rail Partnerships. I am delighted that she will remain a director of CRL and look forward to welcoming her as the Blackpool Council representative on the South Fylde Line CRP.”

Held at County Hall in Preston, the AGM was also addressed by Chris Jackson, Regional Director, Northern Trains, who reflected on a challenging year for the area’s rail services.

Chris Jackson, Regional Director, Northern Trains outlines the priorities for Northern for the year ahead.

Chris acknowledged the operational and strategic problems posed by ongoing industrial relations issues, but said the introduction of the new timetable in December 2022, had improved reliability and seen passenger numbers continuing to grow in the wake of the pandemic.

Highlighting the introduction of new four-carriage trains on the Clitheroe Line, Chris said Northern had recruited and trained an additional 69 train drivers to address staffing issues and would continue to invest in more modern rolling stock.

Chris said: “We’re passionate about supporting the region, helping local businesses to thrive and residents get from A to B. Of the 3,000 additional services Northern introduced into its network-wide timetable in December, 2,000 of them were here in the North West. Our mission remains to make a positive impact for the North in all we do and for all we serve.”

Chris also said he hoped the DalesRail service would be reinstated – albeit with some operational refinements – in May 2024.


2022 Community Rail Lancashire Highlights


Launched in January 2023, the new TrainEd website provides resources to assist CRP officers and teachers in planning their rail-based educational engagements as well as best practice papers and up to date news.

Autism Friendly Stations

Working alongside Northern’s Accessibility Team, Community Rail Lancashire have been working towards becoming accredited as Autism Friendly by the National Autistic Society, supporting neurodiverse passengers to access rail travel confidently.

Feel Good Field Trips

Launched in March 2022 by Avanti West Coast, Feel Good Field Trips aims to provide thousands of school children aged between 4-18 with the chance to go on free, enriching and educational days out across the West Coast Mainline. Since December 2022, more than 650 pupils have enjoyed a Feel Good Field Trip, with many more trips booked in over the coming months which will benefit thousands more school children.

Refugee Railway Support Programme

CRL has developed this programme to help refugee families access rail travel confidently, devising a plan that includes planning and taking a journey on a train with the help of an Education Development Officer, in a language that is spoken or understood by the participants to create an environment of trust and cooperation.

Try the Train

Working with Northern and transport planning consultants PWLC, the Try The Train project involves a series of journey planning workshops and rail journeys with community, school and youth groups to develop confidence and independence in rail travel.

Community Rail Awards

Two of the Community Rail Lancashire team were recognised for their hard work and dedication to community rail at the Community Rail Awards, in Manchester. Founder of Community Rail Lancashire, Richard Watts was awarded the prestigious Special Recognition Award for his many years of commitment and dedication towards community rail and Tony Ford, Volunteer for South Fylde Line Community Rail partnership and Friends of St Anne’s Station came third in the Outstanding Volunteer Contribution.

International Women’s Day

Community Rail Lancashire Education Team Lead Karen Bennett coordinated a very special day for 120 schoolchildren from Bury who enjoyed a ride on the East Lancashire Railway aboard the iconic Flying Scotsman – crewed by an all-female team to mark International Women’s Day.

  • The 2022 Community Rail Lancashire Annual Report can be viewed and downloaded at the CRL website: CRL Annual Report 2022.