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2015 marks the 10th anniversary of North Staffordshire Community Rail Partnership (NSCRP), which works to promote and develop the Crewe-Stoke-Derby route, known as the North Staffordshire Line.
To commemorate its 10th anniversary and to thank North Staffordshire Line partners and station volunteers for their invaluable support in realising the many achievements for the route, NSCRP held a special celebration at Kidsgrove station on 30th September.
NSCRP was formed in 2005 under the lead of Chairman Michael Willmot, who was concerned about the sustainability of the Crewe-Stoke-Derby service with the closure of Etruria station and declining passenger numbers.
The partnership successfully brought together Cheshire East Council, Derbyshire and Staffordshire County Councils, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and East Midlands Trains to secure investment and develop community involvement projects that have improved station facilities for passengers and encouraged use of the service from local stations.
In the past decade, NSCRP has raised over £800,000 of investment for the route, which has made route stations, the majority of which are unmanned, better for passengers, with new shelters, customer information and public address, improved lighting and CCTV for improved safety.
The partnership was also central to a successful bid to Access for All to win funding for a £multi-million project to provide a new footbridge and lifts at Kidsgrove station, which will be delivered in the next two years alongside further improvements to the station facilities.
Over 50 station volunteers have been engaged by the partnership, whose support transforming station gardens has improved the station environment for passengers.
The support and involvement of 100s of schoolchildren and numerous community groups and businesses has been a further success in making stations on the route community hubs, eradicating vandalism and encouraging use of the Crewe-Stoke-Derby service.
These combined elements have served to increase passenger numbers by an average of 270% at intermediate stations on the route during the last decade.
Continuing the tradition of NSCRP, the partnership’s celebration event at Kidsgrove station also served to showcase community involvement in local rail. A 10th anniversary poster, designed by former REACH Stoke-on-Trent student 14-year-old Jordan Boughey, was unveiled to illustrate the key achievements of the partnership. And Kidsgrove resident Linda Blunt created a 10th anniversary cake to aid the celebrations, with ingredients donated by Kidsgrove TESCO Community Champion Richard Evans.
Chairman Michael Willmot said: I am delighted to join in celebrating the 10th anniversary of our Community Rail Partnership. Ten years ago the North Staffordshire Line was in a poor state of health; one of our first promotions was to remind potential passengers that Longton and Longport stations were still open for business!
“Today, thanks to the resolute support of our partners and local communities and the efforts of a superb team of award-winning volunteers, there has been a transformation. Stations have better facilities, are safer and welcoming for passengers; most importantly passenger numbers have greatly increased, meeting all the objectives of community rail.”
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been the host local authority for and a member of the partnership since its inception. Councillor Jack Brereton, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Transport and Heritage, said: "Congratulations on meeting this milestone of 10 years since the formation of the Community Rail Partnership.
“The partnership has done some fantastic work, engaging volunteers to improve rail facilities for passengers and boosting rail usage. I hope to see the partnership continue to go from strength to strength, and the City Council will continue to support its work. The new Council administration is keen to see further improvements in our rail facilities locally, and the Community Rail Partnership has a critical role in helping make this happen. Our vision is to champion improved station facilities, enhanced rail services and greater connectivity, to continue to boost rail usage and support our local economy."
Jake Kelly, Managing Director of East Midlands Trains said: “Although I’ve only been at East Midlands Trains since the beginning of the year, I have been absolutely staggered by the fantastic work I’ve seen from North Staffordshire Community Rail Partnership and its team of impressive volunteers.
“We are delighted to be helping the partnership celebrate its 10th anniversary and we are looking forward to working together over the coming years to make even further improvements to this important route.”