Community rail in Britain is the support of railway lines and stations by local organisations, usually through community rail partnerships (CRPs) comprising railway operators, local councils, and other community organisations, and rail user groups (RUGs). 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 and also offers assistance to voluntary station friends groups that support their local stations through the station adoption scheme. Since 2005 the 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 (Abbey Line, Esk Valley Line, Looe Valley Line, Penistone Line, Poacher Line, St Ives Bay Line, and 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||Partnership||Line or service|
|July 2005||Abbey Line||St Albans to Watford Junction||Abbey Line Community Rail Partnership||Community line|
|July 2005||Esk Valley Line||Whitby to Middlesbrough||Esk Valley Railway Development Co||Community line|
|July 2005||St Ives Bay Line||St Ives to St Erth||Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership||Community line|
|September 2005||Looe Valley Line||Looe to Liskeard||Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership||Community line|
|September 2005||Penistone Line||Huddersfield to Barnsley||Penistone Line Partnership||Community line|
|September 2005||Tamar Valley Line||Gunnislake to Plymouth||Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership||Community line|
|March 2006||Island Line||Shanklin to Ryde Pier Head||Community line|
|July 2006||Derwent Valley Line||Matlock to Derby||Derwent Valley Line Community Rail Partnership||Community line|
|July 2006||Poacher Line||Skegness to Grantham||Grantham – Skegness Community Rail Partnership||Community service|
|September 2006||Atlantic Coast Line||Newquay to Par||Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership||Community service|
|September 2006||Maritime Line||Falmouth Docks to Truro||Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership||Community line|
|September 2006||Tarka Line||Barnstaple to Exeter Central||Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership||Community line|
|November 2006||East Lancashire Line||Colne to Preston||East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership||Community line|
|November 2006||Gainsborough Line||Marks Tey to Sudbury||Essex & South Suffolk Rail Partnership||Community line|
|November 2006||Marston Vale Line||Bedford to Bletchley||Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership||Community service|
|February 2007||Barton Line||Barton-on-Humber to Cleethorpes||Community Rail Humber||Community line|
|February 2007||Wherry Line||Great Yarmouth to Norwich||Community Rail Norfolk||Community service|
|February 2007||Wherry Line||Lowestoft to Norwich||Community Rail Norfolk||Community service|
|March 2007||Clitheroe Line||Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria||Clitheroe Line CRP||Community service|
|September 2007||Bittern Line||Sherringham to Norwich||Community Rail Norfolk||Community line|
|September 2007||Medway Valley Line||Strood to Paddock Wood||Kent & Medway Rural Transport Partnership||Community service|
|April 2008||Lakes Line||Windermere to Oxenholme||Lakes Line Community Rail Partnership||Community line|
|April 2008||Severn Beach Line||Severn Beach to Bristol Temple Meads||Severnside CRP||Community service|
|April 2008||South Fylde Line||Blackpool South to Preston Line||South Fylde Community Rail Partnership||Community line|
|July 2008||Lymington Branch Line||Lymington Pier to Brockenhurst||Lymington-Brockenhurst Community Rail Partnership||Community line|
|November 2008||North Staffordshire Line||Crewe to Derby||North Staffordshire CRP||Community service|
|September 2009||Cumbrian Coast Line||Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle||Community service|
|January 2011||Bishop Line||Bishop Auckland to Darlington||Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership||Community service|
|September 2011||Preston to Ormskirk Line||Ormskirk to Preston||West of Lancashire Rail Partnership||Community line|
|October 2011||Heart of Wessex Line||Weymouth to Bristol||Heart of Wessex Rail Partnership||Community service|
|January 2012||Mid-Cheshire Line||Chester to Manchester via Northwich||Mid Cheshire Rail Partnership||Community service|
|June 2012||Furness Line||Barrow-in-Furness to Carnforth||Community service|
|September 2012||Avocet Line||Exmouth to Exeter St Davids||Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership||Community line|
|October 2012||Bentham Line||Heysham Port/Morecambe to Leeds||Leeds – Morecambe Community Rail Partnership||Community service|
|October 2012||Hereward Line||Ely to Peterborough||Hereward CRP||Community line|
|September 2016||TransWilts Line||Swindon to Westbury via Melksham||TransWilts Community Rail Partnership||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 and 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