On Thursday 17th August, Huw Merriman MP, Minister of State for Rail, visited the Bentham Line, as part of his summer tour of Britain, to meet the people and organisations from the Community Rail side of the rail industry.
He was warmly welcomed at Skipton station by Gerald Townson, Chairman of the Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership. The Partnership is accredited by the Department of Transport, in support of its work with communities, stakeholders and rail bodies along the length of the line between Leeds and Heysham Port.
Gerald was pleased to be able to share with the Minister a good number of positive and successful projects which have promoted engagement with the diverse communities on the route and have encouraged rail travel as a greener form of transport. Some of them, such as the national award-winning ‘Dementia and Community Rail project’, have had a nationwide effect and encouraged other community rail partnerships and train operating companies to adopt and develop aspects of the initiative to improve access to the railway for those with additional needs, especially those with hidden disabilities.
The Minister was presented with a copy of the ‘Bentham Line Development Strategy to 2042’, which was published by the partnership last year. Amongst the many aspects of the report it gives careful thought to the Eden Project Morecambe and a ‘greener’ approach to the development of the rail services on the Bentham Line and the local services between Lancaster and Morecambe, and the associated infrastructure, to complement the project, which opens in 2026. It was also an opportunity to touch on other celebrations ahead with Bradford being the ‘City of Culture’ in 2025 and the Bentham Line’s own 175th anniversary in June the same year.
The Minister was pleased to hear about the work of the Partnership Team with young people both of school age and university students, to bring them closer to the railway by promoting projects to get them involved. These have included the on-going ‘Sheep on the Line’ rail safety campaign with pupils and the ‘Access for All’ and ‘Destination Wellbeing’ promotions developed with the students. He praised the recent ‘Rail and Sail’ project developed for Heysham Port to coincide with the introduction of the new vessel, ‘Manxman’, by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and reflected on the high quality of the artwork produced for the station and terminal.
In conclusion, the Minister offered his sincere thanks to the Partnership Team for their unstinting work in support of all aspects of the Community Rail Strategy, their far-reaching endeavours to make the Bentham Line a route for every one and their on-going work to provide access to the railway for all.
Image shows: Gerald Townson with Huw Merrimann outside Skipton Station.