STATION ADOPTION – Friends of Stations Groups
What is station adoption?
The Community Rail Network’s definition is ‘the involvement of two or more individuals or organisations from outside the railway industry in the care of a station’. Community Rail Lancashire (CRL), Northern Trains (Northern) and the Community Rail Network all promote and support the adoption of railway stations by volunteer groups.
Why might you want to adopt your local station?
Station adoption brings significant benefits both to local communities and to the rail industry. Communities get a much-improved gateway to their town or village, often with enhanced facilities.
The station becomes a part of the community; something in which local people can take pride. Railway companies have seen a rise in the use of stations, a reduction in vandalism and in many cases externally-funded improvements.
Adoption of a station by the community adds value to what is already there, and helps make the station more welcoming and attractive: a vital part of the local community! Often it is the station that lets down a community in ‘Britain in Bloom’ and similar competitions.
What can adopters or ‘Friends of Stations’ groups do?
The short answer is ‘as much or as little as you like’. The important thing is to make sure that your local train operator and Network Rail (Infrastructure owners) know that you want to and are happy with you doing it.
The basics are usually things such as sweeping platforms, litter picking, planting flower beds and planters. The train operator will also welcome your help in reporting faults on the station such damaged fencing or faulty lights.
As your group grows you might want to think about seeking funding for larger planters or getting involved in the Incredible Edible movement. If the station has a building that is in use e.g. a booking office then you might think about a book exchange. Many groups brighten up their stations with children’s artwork and your local community rail partnership will be able to help with ideas (and funding) and possibly school contacts.
What can’t adopters or ‘Friends of Stations’ groups do?
Within reason almost anything goes, but, Friends of Stations groups should not attempt any major structural work as this is the responsibility of the landlord (Network Rail) or the tenant (local train operator). You should not do anything that would be regarded as being unsafe (see safety section below).
Safety on stations
Now the serious bit! There are two things that need to be covered – always and never.
+ Wear hi-visibility clothing as appropriate;
+ Be prepared to give your name and reason for being there if asked;
+ Ensure that you don’t create any thing that could cause an obstruction;
+ Always observe basic health and safety rules;
+ Comply with instructions on vehicle parking;
+ Stop working if requested to do so by a railway official; and
+ Report any accidents or incidents to the train operator.
+ Be under the influence of drink or drugs when doing your work;
+ Work in an area outside of your authorisation;
+ Cross the railway line except by official public crossings;
+ Work any closer to the platform edge than 2 metres;
+ Go beyond the platform ends;
+ Use any heavy machinery or mains electrical equipment;
+ Work above head height; and
+ Use any railway equipment without authorisation.
The first thing to do is to get some like-minded people together that will form the core of your group. Initially the group doesn’t have to be large – between 3 & 5 is quite normal although there are some individual ‘guerrilla gardeners’ out there as well as some groups with up to 30 members.
Next thing is to contact the train operator (details on posters at the station) and/or your local community rail partnership (CRP) if there is one, or the Community Rail Network (email@example.com or 01484 548926) if you are unsure about either of the other options.
It is helpful to have thought of a name for your group (most go for Friends of xxxx Station), to have a list of members, a nominated leader and a basic action plan that should include perceived problems, opportunities and aspirations. If you are thinking that you might be able to secure funding then a bank account is essential along with a treasurer.
You should agree a date with the train operator/CRP for an initial meeting at the station, when all members can attend, so that a safety brief can be given. It is helpful to set regular days when station working groups/meetings are to be held and to invite the train operator and the CRP to attend.
Once this is all sorted you will be able to start working on your station and create the gateway to the community that it deserves. It is helpful to keep a record of the amount of time volunteers are spending on the station as this can be used in many funding bids as match funding.
There is a great deal of information available to help you with setting up your Friends of Station group and with ideas for projects and this can normally be found on:
+ The train operator’s website – e.g. www.northernrailway.co.uk;
+ The Community Rail Network’s website – www.communityrail.org.uk ; or
+ The local CRP’s website – e.g. www.communityraillancashire.co.uk.
The Community Rail Network (as ACoRP) published a Station Adoption Handbook in 2014 that is still relevant today, which covers everything about starting a Friends of Station group and a whole lot more. This can be downloaded from the CRL website at: