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Swanley train station project gets funding boost as part of Darent Valley Community Rail Partnership

A project to boost tourism and spruce up railway stations is to get a share of a huge funding pot.

Community rail schemes bring in volunteers to support stations in a number of ways.

Planting flowers near a station is one of the ways volunteers help. Picture: Southeastern
Planting flowers near a station is one of the ways volunteers help. Picture: Southeastern

Five new community rail schemes will be funded on the Southeastern network as part of its recent Direct Award contract, announced by the Department for Transport in March.

A significantly expanded £400,000 funding pot has been made available over two years, to help roll out community rail activity to more areas across Kent and East Sussex.

Two new partnerships are to be established on the Southeastern network, including a new White Cliffs Community Rail Partnership and a new Thanet Community Rail Partnership.

Three existing community rail partnerships – the Kent Community Rail Partnership, led by Sustrans, the Darent Valley Community Rail Partnership, and the Sussex Community Rail Partnership – have also been awarded funding.

The Darent Valley Community Rail Partnership is the newest of these, representing six stations between Swanley and Sevenoaks, and launched in September 2019.

Chris Vinson, senior external communications manager at Southeastern, said: “Community Rail Partnerships enrich the communities along the railway lines they adopt, helping to support tourism in the areas they serve, sprucing up stations with gardens and helping vulnerable groups volunteer and make a contribution to the local community.

“We’re delighted that this funding will now ensure that the benefits of community rail go even further across our network.”

Linda Larter MBE, chairman of the Darent Valley Community Rail Partnership, said: “The funds from Southeastern are very much appreciated and will enable our agreed action plan to start to move forward, including the appointment of our new Community Rail Officer, a website and bespoke promotional material. Although this has been impacted by Covid-19, we’re raring to go.”

Southeastern ran a bidding process open to all organisations which wanted to run community projects at their local stations.

Proposed schemes were asked to promote sustainable travel, bring together local communities and promote social wellbeing and economic development.

The Darent Valley Community Rail Partnership covers all stations on the route between Sevenoaks and Swanley – including Bat & Ball, Otford, Shoreham, and Eynsford, and is led by Sevenoaks District Council and partner organisations, with funding also from Govia Thameslink Railway.

The CRP raises awareness and promotes use of rail services in the Sevenoaks district as a sustainable way to access leisure destinations, improving confidence and mobility for all sections of the community, and involving the local community in station partnerships, arts initiatives and improving links with local schools.

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