Our success with the Select Committee, still highlighted that there are groups largely invisible in the conversation about passenger rail. This includes the small towns along the rail lines where public transport is almost non-existent, the gen X, Y and Z population who is motivated to use sustainable, climate-responsive, and accessible public transport, and iwi, whose very land and people are directly affected.
Right from the start of this project in 2013, I have wanted to see people travel by train, to explore local culture, and engage with local people. To see connection, responsible and safe commutes for workers, students and tourist, and find ways to revitalise small towns along the train route.
Having spent my time with T.R.O.N. focussed mainly on community engagement, I elected to look at this as part of our larger submission to government.
We want to encourage individuals, communities, voluntary organisations and businesses to take responsibility for the issues that matter to them and their communities. The voice of community is a crucial part of this success, enabled by drawing on local insight to understand and function as an advocate for local people’s views and needs and inform decisions about services and infrastructure to improve local transport provision.
Connecting people is at the heart of our purpose and is the very essence of community rail. With a network that is at the same time national and local, rail can have a wider social impact. We identify the need to look beyond the people and groups who have traditionally been involved with the railways and be open to everyone; by involving a wider mix of people inter-regional passenger rail can play a valuable role in building and supporting integrated communities.
Being communicative and transparent, being open to everyone’s input and involvement through different means, consulting widely across communities, and ensuring local needs and views are at the forefront of decisions, particularly around which projects and activities to support and deliver, will help ensure that community rail is reflecting the local community and its needs as fully as possible.