A pioneering two-year trial train service to Wareham operated by the Swanage Railway has won the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership an Innovation in Community Rail award at the annual dinner for the Association of Community Rail Partnerships
The awards ceremony took place at a gala held in The Roundhouse museum, a former railway works, at Derby on the evening of Thursday, 5 October, 2017. The special evening was hosted by East Midlands Trains.
The Swanage Railway has been a member of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership since the Partnership was formed in 1997 with the aim of enabling the reconnection of the passenger rail link between Swanage and Wareham – a link axed by British Rail in January, 1972, with more than half the line demolished.
Other members of the Partnership – an alliance that has brought together organisations to re-establish the train service on the ten-mile line – are Purbeck district and Dorset county councils, Network Rail, the Perenco operators of the Wytch Farm oilfield north of Corfe Castle, as well as the South Western Railway and Poole Borough Council.
The Innovation in Community Rail award was collected on the PCRP's behalf by the Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns, Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons as well as Kelly Flynn of Dorset County Council and Phil Dominey of the South Western Railway.
Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "We are very pleased to see the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership – of which the Swanage Railway has been a key member since 1997 – receive this coveted Innovation in Community Rail award because it is richly deserved.
"The new two-year trial service between Swanage and Wareham is unique among community rail activity across the UK and has been achieved with much dedication and hard work over the past 20 years since the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership was founded back in 1997.
"The trial service and the Association of Community Rail Partnerships' award are testament to the joint benefits of teamwork and having an unswerving goal in mind.
"There is much to be learnt from the experience of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership that could be used elsewhere in the UK to provide community-led rail services.
“This award is a brilliant result and reflects well on the sustained and collaborative approach that has been taken by the Swanage Railway – and our other partners in the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership – over many years to get the infrastructure funded and in place and the first year of the trial Wareham service completed.
“The judges particularly remarked on the complexity of the task, the benefits gained from partnership and the potential benefits for the Purbeck community.
“The Department for Transport’s (DfT) lead executive for passenger rail franchising, Peter Wilkinson, singled out the Wareham to Swanage trial service as a prime example of where they want community rail to go: engaging with communities and providing services at low cost that communities specify and need,” added Gavin.
Purbeck district and Dorset county councillor Bill Trite, Chairman of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership – and a former Swanage Railway Trust chairman – said: "Restoration of the rail link, and a regular passenger service, have been the aims of very many dedicated people since the closure of the branch line to Swanage in 1972.
“This has been achieved in parallel with the success of the steam-operated heritage railway and could not have succeeded without the latter, constructed in stages from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Norden in the teeth of the most severe financial constraints and physical difficulties.
“Many people have subsequently worked hard to move things on to this final stage of operating passenger trains into Wareham, for which public funding through a local authority levy on development has been critical.
“This award recognises the commitment of everyone and all organisations involved in what turned out to be a 45-year process. Too many people have not lived to see the outcome of their efforts over so many years,” added Mr Trite who lives in Swanage.
ACoRP is dedicated to supporting community-based groups and partnerships that connect their community with their railway and deliver social benefits.
Jools Townsend, chief executive of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, said: “We were delighted to present this award to Purbeck Community Rail Partnership for its innovative and successful partnership working.
“The Partnership has been instrumental in pulling together a large range of partners to enable this community service to start again, a process that has taken much determination, enthusiasm and collaboration,” he added.
Story and photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright,
Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.
The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so, for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email him at email@example.com.