We have a strong community ethos, which ensures we engage and work with all elements of the communities we serve.
We are strongly committed to working in partnership with the communities we serve and with socially excluded groups. Community partnership makes good business sense for us and is 'the right thing to do'. We support 18 Community Rail Partnerships that help deliver investment and make a contribution to growth on their lines. We work with various groups to bring redundant station property back into use, and have opened up our depots to the local communities. Our community involvement is varied and wide-ranging, and includes education and art projects, recognising local achievement via train naming, commissioning pieces of music and working with local charities.
There are both individuals and areas around the network that suffer from a lack of social inclusion and are prevented from accessing the rail services. The reasons for this are many and can be related to socio-economic factors, lack of mobility, culture and ethnicity. Not only do we want to contribute towards a fairer society, we also want people to have the benefits that travel can bring them. We have been working hard to make the network more physically accessible and have been looking at ways to engage with groups that feel particularly excluded.
There is immense interest in railway heritage. This is not just about the trains - it is about the men who built the great railway network across the North. We still operate trains over two of the world's most historically important railways - the Stockton and Darlington, opened in 1825, and the Liverpool and Manchester opened in 1830. We want to make more of those historical links, and that will include working with local schools and historical societies.
Good rail links are essential for economic regeneration. This means providing a reliable means of connecting people to opportunities for work, business, education, healthcare and shopping. The growth in customers since the start of the Northern franchise demonstrates that people have increasingly put their trust in local rail to meet these needs.
We work in partnership with stakeholders to deliver improvements for existing and future passengers and to support both the economy and any regeneration projects. This includes stations and new rail routes.
How well our trains are performing is an indicator of our success and is a measure of how well we are serving the public. We have improved our performance, as measured by the Public Performance Measure, since the start of the franchise and have also worked to make infrastructure and timetabling improvements. We hope to see the improvements continue.
Colleagues at our train maintenance depot at Neville Hill, Leeds have worked hard to help a local charity Leeds Mencap. Help has taken the form of financial donations but also through revamping the meeting room at the building where the charity is based. We have also been on hand to help sort out emergencies such as leaking taps and faulty washing machines, and are enjoying our growing relationship.
Northern Rail worked with the Young People's Enterprise Forum on an engineering project. The forum is a group of private and public organisations with a mission to build a culture which values, promotes and nurtures enterprise among young people. We asked students to use their creativity and technical skills to design a 21st century train carriage. The winners from Hillsborough College in Sheffield were invited to meet Northern's engineering team to discuss their pioneering ideas.
Northern have sponsored Cheshire Best Kept Stations, an annual event set up by retired businessman John Hulme to generate interest and awareness in local stations and to encourage improvements by adoption groups and train operators. The Awards bring together station adopters, rail user groups, train operators, business leaders and civic dignitaries for a celebration of the best of Community Rail in Cheshire. The distinctive 'totem' signs signifying an award grace a number of stations including Handforth, Holmes Chapel, Northwich, Knutsford, Greenbank and Chelford.
We are very proud of our association with Liverpool arts group Metal. This federation of artists and art groups have taken residence in part of the historic 1840 station buildings at Edge Hill station in Liverpool.
Also supported by Network Rail and Merseytravel, Metal have lovingly restored the buildings to provide exhibition space, studios, performance area, offices and a miniature 23 seat cinema where free film screenings take place. Metal have brought life and culture to the station and work with us on a number of projects, including designing artwork at three stations to commemorate the 180th anniversary of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway.
Some of our stations have buildings which haven't been used to their full potential for many years. At Bamber Bridge we have worked in partnership with stakeholders to refurbish the former station ticket office and convert it for community use.
The South Ribble Pensioners Association now lease the building and use it for a wide variety of community projects. The Association has received several grants to help it get established in the new centre.
To complement the refurbishment, other works at the station include two new waiting shelters, environmental improvements around the station, new seats, litter bins, signage and CCTV.
As with many of our stakeholders, we want to see greater integration of different transport modes. In Nelson, a major new transport interchange includes a travel centre on site selling both rail and bus tickets, a covered concourse, toilets and Customer Information Screens.
Lancashire County Council's Cabinet member for Sustainable Development, Matthew Tomlinson, said "This is a fantastic development for Nelson as it gives the town a flagship facility that will be the envy of many other towns in Lancashire and the northwest. It is also a great example of how the county council can work together with other organisations to provide funding and expertise that really enhances our communities".
A number of Northern stations and their associated volunteer groups picked up a clutch of awards at the 2011 Cheshire Best Kept Station Awards. The winners were: Community Award: Chelford, Big Society Award: Greenbank, Youth Challenge Award: Knutsford, Tidiest Station: Handforth, ACoRP Award: Northwich, Cheshire East Award: Holmes Chapel
These award wins are the result of our combined efforts with station adopters, other community groups, schools and councils and are a great indication of how we can all work together to improve the railway.
Local stakeholders and Northern came together to launch the South East Manchester Community Rail Partnership (CRP), aimed at engaging local communities with the railway and working with partners to improve stations along its routes. This is the 19th CRP on the Northern network. It will cover the Manchester to New Mills Central, Manchester to Rose Hill via Hyde and Manchester to Hadfield (as far as Broadbottom) lines. The partnership sees the collaboration of Northern with Manchester City Council, Stockport Borough Council, Tameside Borough Council, GMPTE and New East Manchester Ltd.
A team from Franklin College in Grimsby was the overall winner at the Northern Marketing and PR Challenge Final and team members saw their winning ideas brought to life as part of Northern's summer 2011 marketing campaign. The challenge was funded by Yorkshire Forward and supported by the Youth Enterprise Scheme as part of the £2.5m Embedding Enterprise in Education programme. Northern ran the competition with students between the ages of 16 and 19 creating a marketing and PR campaign to promote their chosen destination across Northern's network, using a number of methods such as posters, TV, radio, newspapers and online.
We supported the Jane Tomlinson Appeal's Walk for All in April 2012 and the Dales Walk for All in August 2012. For both walks we donated revenue from the ticket sales to the Appeal. We put on additional carriages on our services throughout the day of both walks to transport walkers to and from stations for the start and end of the walks. The Jane Tomlinson Appeal has been very keen to encourage walkers to take the train, saying "It's a great relaxing way to start the day."
Although it opened in December 2011, Allerton Train Care Depot was officially opened in May 2012 by the then Minister for Transport Theresa Villiers MP. The depot is home to Northern's fleet of additional 156 trains, introduced to the network as part of the Department for Transport's rolling stock programme. Northern received 60 additional carriages providing its passengers with much needed additional seats.
The Friends of Heaton Chapel station unveiled a poignant reminder for the 2012 Olympic legacy in the North West. Passengers passing through the station will now spot "The Running Man", which was installed on the Manchester-bound platform at Heaton Chapel station. The original artwork has been designed and produced by local artist Karen Allerton.