Surrey Hills to South Downs Community Rail Partnership

Reflection and Review of the last 12 months’ CRP activity

2020 was certainly a challenging year with many of our stakeholder organisations having to shut their doors and government led restrictions on movements and travel dramatically reducing the use of our line. However, for the SD-SH CRP we continued to work behind the scenes, ably led by our new Line Officer, establishing our work programme and launching a range of projects ready for when we are able to welcome travellers back to the wonderful Surrey Hills and beautiful South Downs to enjoy all the activities on offer in our region. Looking forward we hope that the CRP continues to support our stakeholders and promote the use of our line.

Andy Jeffery,

Chair, Surrey Hills to South Downs Community Rail Partnership, June 2021

or read report below:

Background

The Partnership was launched on June 13, 2019 for the mutual benefit of all the people and organisations of Haslemere, Witley, Milford, Godalming and Farncombe, together with their immediate surrounding areas.

Working with South Western Railway (SWR) with the support of the Community Rail Network, the SH-SD CRP aims to provide access to the local area via rail and more sustainable transport modes.  It has a clear vision and direction to deliver the following key objectives:

  • To promote the towns along the route of the SH-SD CRP and their surrounding districts, including the Surrey Hills, South Downs National Park and the National Trust, plus the organisations working within these boundaries.
  • To promote local events and cultural activities across the SH-SD CRP area.
  • To promote social enterprise activities within the SH-SD CRP area.
  • To work with schools, youth organisations and vulnerable adults to provide information about the railway including how to keep safe, through activities including try the Train Experiences.
  • To work with the local community and SWR, to provide a high standard of infrastructure and aesthetics at all stations, and to bring them into the heart of the community.
  • To encourage greater use of sustainable and environmentally friendly public transport.
  • To work with partners to develop and enhance local train services, stations and improve access for all – for example to ensure all our stations are dementia and disabled friendly.
  • To work with SWR to increase off-peak rail passenger numbers.
  • To enable local railways to play a larger role in local and regional economic and social regeneration including projects to enhance tourist, educational, health, cultural and environmental regeneration and development activities.

All these priorities align with the four pillars of community rail in the Department for Transport 2018 Community Rail Development Strategy (updated 14 April 2020):

  1. Providing a voice for the community
  2. Promoting sustainable, healthy and accessible travel
  3. Bringing communities together and supporting diversity and inclusion
  4. Supporting social and economic development. 

All the SH-SD CRP’s activities as set out in the Partnership Activity Plan support or implement these four pillars and follow the SMART principles.

Governance

Steering Group and Stakeholders Group

Steering group meetings are held tri-annually with post-lockdown meetings planned to be hosted by rotation.

Our steering group includes the following partners:

  • Community Rail Network, Godalming Town Council,
  • Haslemere Town Council
  • Milford and Witley Parish Council
  • Network Rail
  • South Downs National Park
  • South Western Railway
  • Stagecoach Bus Company
  • Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Stakeholders group meetings are held annually with an AGM (September)

Our stakeholders are:

  • Farncombe Boat House, Farncombe Initiative, Godalming & District Chamber of Commerce, Godalming Dementia Action Alliance, Godalming Museum, Haslemere Community Station, Haslemere Museum, Haslemere Youth Hub Merry Harriers Llama Trek, National Trust, Skillway, South Downs Local Access Forum/Surrey Hills Society, Surrey Chambers of Commerce, Surrey County Council, Surrey Hills Cycle Hire, The Meath, The Village Spirit collective, U3A, Visit Surrey, Watts Gallery, Waverley Borough Council, Waverley Hoppa Transport

Planning  and Development Meeting

  • Service Level Agreement with South West Rail:

There is a requirement within the Service Level Agreement with South West Rail that requires the SH-SD CRP to work with SWR to identify major planning developments in the area served by the CRP to ensure rail is an integral part of sustainable development. To this end an initial meeting is planned with Waverley Borough Council’s Head of Planning and Surrey County Council’s Transport Development Planning Officer, South Team

The SH-SD CRP is constituted as a company limited by guarantee and registered at Companies House.

Posts:

Directors’ meetings are held twice a year.

The following posts are held:

Chair and Director                           Andy Jeffery, Godalming Town Council Town Clerk

Treasurer and Director                   Jan Steward, Volunteer

Directors                                            Allison Thorpe (South Downs National Park) Caroline Price (Surrey Hills AONB  Board)

                                                            Nikki Barton

All posts will be reviewed at the annual Stakeholders AGM (date tbc) open to all stakeholders: with additional local groups to invited to attend.

Good news and reflections

The Partnership aims to promote the visitor economy on this section of the Portsmouth line – to support local businesses and visitor attractions and to promote sustainable transport access to the countryside, particularly to those without access to private cars.  

The line stations are all accessible in less than an hour from Waterloo station, one of the busiest in London with a very large demographic catchment. The direct involvement of the local visitor information bureau, the business chambers and Waverley Borough Council’s Economic Development portfolio holder (who are all committed to promoting the visitor economy through the SH-SD CRP) lends further depth and strength to the Partnership.

Due to unprecedented times during the pandemic, the aim of the CRP has been to lay the foundations for the future to encourage sustainable travel and more people to visit the area using our stations as their base. One task during the pandemic has been to continue raising awareness with local groups and organisations and relationship building for the CRP.

Marketing CRP

Line Guide:

A CRP Line Guide has been created and designed pro-bono by a local designer and was produced working collaboratively with all partners. The line guide will be available to download on our newly launched SH-SD CRPwebsite.

Hard copies will appear at all stations along the line and at other mainline stations.

Initial funding to print the line guide has been provided by Godalming Town Council with further funding offered by SWR for the larger stations. To complement the Line Guide the SH-SD CRP will be commissioning an A3 poster to be placed at mainline stations with QR guides to enable to the public to download more information from the SH-SD website.

Distribution of Partner Leaflets and Posters:

It has been agreed with Station Manager Kim Blake for all SH-SD CRP partnerstations, that information leaflets promoting all the area will be available at all partner stations complementing the work of the Haslemere Hub.  Monthly station visits will become part of the Line Officer’s role to replenish leaflets displayed.

Website:

Having been awarded funding from Community Rail, the SH-SD CRP has commissioned and launched a new informative, functional website.  It has been designed in consultation with our partners to produce a very visual and simple to use website for our visitors and local community.   It will assist with accessibility to the partners’ areas and support the local visitor economy by promoting hospitality.

The website is a work-in-progress with more cycle rides, walks and community projects to be added.

Projects:

Cycle Back to Health

Funding:

Using the sustainable travel grant from Community Rail, Cycle Back to Health has been launched.

  • With station car parks not fully utilised, SWR has agreed to allowed SH-SD CRP make use of them at weekends.
  • All stations have had a cycle audit(by Nick Farthing of Transport Works)
  • Heavily subsidised cycle training is offered to adults not confident riding a bike
  • Bike Doctors will be available to check bikes over before travel
  • Accompanied beginner rides will be available
  • Involving Godalming Cycle Forum, a leader has been identified and will be trained to accompany people on bike rides both on and off-road
  • The Zoo Café at Milford Railway Station will rebrand as the Bike Shed supporting cyclists to encourage visitors from out of the area to enjoy cycling

Walks with Wheels:

Local families are involved in helping us to design simple family friendly walks from our stations by sharing places to visit, places to go and things to see. These will be available on our website.

Station Adoptions:

Due to the pandemic, plans for more station adoptions have been on hold. However as we come out of lockdown progress is being made.

The Future

Plans for the future are for the CRP to continue working even more closely with local communities and serving stations

  • The CRP is booked to attend the Godalming Green Gala, a sustainable event in August to promote the CRP and sustainable travel.
  • A local artist has been commissioned, with funding provided by Network Rail, to create a mural at Farncombe Station depicting local history.
  • The Daisy Charity (disability in the arts) have responded to the Line Officer to work with them on a future mutually suitable project.
  • With the guidance of SWR the CRP will be contacting appropriate local groups to ‘Try the Train’
  • The CRP will be working with the Arts Council to become involved with local schools and community groups to offer a place to display artwork.  
  • The line officer will be visiting schools to encourage students to use the trains confidently and safely
  • The CRP will work in partnership to provide Dementia Friendly training to SWR staff at the stations along the SH-SD CRP Line.

Starting the role of line officer at SH-SD CRP could not have come at a worse time: as I started so did lockdown! Luckily I like a challenge, and it has been a productive year laying the foundations of what will become an active community of people all encouraging the use of sustainable travel in this stunning area. It has been great to work with such inspirational and supportive people.

Lucy Lomax – Line Officer