Community rail in the United Kingdom is a railway line or station which is specially supported by local organisations. This support is usually through a Community Rail Partnerships (CRP) – comprising the railway operator, local councils and other community organisations – or sometimes by Rail User Groups (RUG). Community railways are managed to fit local circumstances recognising the need to increase revenue, reduce costs, increase community involvement and support social and economic development.
The Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) supports its fifty or so member CRPs in the United Kingdom and also offers assistance to voluntary Station Friends groups that support their local stations through the Station Adoption scheme. Since 2005 the UK's Department for Transport has formally designated a number of railway lines as community rail schemes in order to recognise the need for different, more appropriate standards than are applied to main line railway routes, and therefore make them more cost effective.
Association of Community Rail Partnerships 
The Association of Community Rail Partnerships is funded by the Department for Transport as an umbrella group to support CRPs and Station Friends groups. The Association shares ideas and best practice among its members through various channels including conferences and seminars and a quarterly magazine Train Times, also a monthly electronic newsletter. An annual Community Rail Awards event is held each autumn on a different community railway around the country each year.
Designated lines and services
The Department for Transport announced a pilot project in 2005 under their Community Rail Development Strategy, with the intention of having seven differing lines (the Abbey Line, Esk Valley Line, Looe Valley Line, Penistone Line, Poacher Line, St Ives Bay Line, and the Tamar Valley Line) test out different types of community rail schemes. The aims of these schemes are to:
- establish the contribution of Community Rail Development in achieving locally set objectives such as reducing road congestion and increasing accessibility;
- establish the costs for the line and services;
- establish the effectiveness of different methods for reducing the net financial loss of Community Rail lines by increasing revenue and reducing costs where practicable.
Designation does not physically separate a line from the rest of the network or remove it from either Network Rail or franchise operation. It is not generally intended to be used as a mechanism to reopen lines or create "microfranchises", although these options may be investigated on some routes.
In addition each line has a remit agreed in a "Route Prospectus" which gives more detailed aims and objectives for each scheme, such as infrastructure improvements, new ticketing arrangements, or cooperation with other local transport operators.
The DfT has identified about fifty routes in England and Wales that would benefit from designation, covering 10% of Network Rail and some 390 stations. Some routes will only be designated as community rail services (rather than community rail lines) as the infrastructure may be used by other operators in a way that precludes designation. The routes designated so far are:
|Date of designation||Line||Between||Line or service|
|July 2005||Abbey Line||St Albans to Watford Junction||Community line|
|July 2005||Esk Valley Line||Whitby to Middlesbrough||Community line|
|July 2005||St Ives Bay Line||St Ives to St Erth||Community line|
|September 2005||Looe Valley Line||Looe to Liskeard||Community line|
|September 2005||Penistone Line||Huddersfield to Barnsley||Community line|
|September 2005||Tamar Valley Line||Gunnislake to Plymouth||Community line|
|March 2006||Island Line||Shanklin to Ryde Pier Head||Community line|
|July 2006||Derwent Valley Line||Matlock to Derby||Community line|
|July 2006||Poacher Line||Skegness to Grantham||Community service|
|September 2006||Atlantic Coast Line||Newquay to Par||Community service|
|September 2006||Maritime Line||Falmouth Docks to Truro||Community line|
|September 2006||Tarka Line||Barnstaple to Exeter Central||Community line|
|November 2006||East Lancashire Line||Colne to Preston||Community line|
|November 2006||Gainsborough Line||Marks Tey to Sudbury||Community line|
|November 2006||Marston Vale Line||Bedford to Bletchley||Community service|
|February 2007||Barton Line||Barton-on-Humber to Cleethorpes||Community line|
|February 2007||Wherry Line||Great Yarmouth to Norwich||Community service|
|February 2007||Wherry Line||Lowestoft to Norwich||Community service|
|March 2007||Clitheroe Line||Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria||Community service|
|September 2007||Bittern Line||Sherringham to Norwich||Community line|
|September 2007||Medway Valley Line||Strood to Paddock Wood||Community service|
|April 2008||Lakes Line||Windermere to Oxenholme||Community line|
|April 2008||Severn Beach Line||Severn Beach to Bristol Temple Meads||Community service|
|April 2008||South Fylde Line||Blackpool South to Preston Line||Community line|
|July 2008||Lymington Branch Line||Lymington Pier to Brockenhurst||Community line|
|November 2008||North Staffordshire Line||Crewe to Derby||Community service|
|September 2009||Cumbrian Coast Line||Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle||Community service|
|January 2011||Bishop Line||Bishop Auckland to Darlington||Community service|
|September 2011||Preston to Ormskirk Line||Ormskirk to Preston||Community line|
|October 2011||Heart of Wessex Line||Weymouth to Bristol||Community service|
|January 2012||Mid-Cheshire Line||Chester to Manchester via Northwich||Community service|
|June 2012||Furness Line||Barrow-in-Furness to Carnforth||Community service|
|September 2012||Avocet Line||Exmouth to Exeter St Davids||Community line|
|October 2012||Bentham Line||Heysham Port/Morecambe to Leeds||Community service|
A number of smaller stations have been supported by local voluntary groups for many years. The concept has now been formalised by many train operating companies which operate Station Adoption schemes.
Station "friends" groups or "rail user" groups care for their local station in various ways such as planting flower beds and litter clearance. Many of them actively promote the train service by printing and distributing timetable leaflets, maintaining community noticeboards at their station, and even operating websites.
- ACoRP website
- Department for Transport, Rail Group (2005), Introduction to Community Rail
- Department for Transport, Rail Group (2005), Route prospectus for the … St Ives Bay Line