Darent Valley tourism to benefit from £400,000 funding from Southeastern for new community rail schemes

  • Five schemes to benefit from funding of new initiatives to boost tourism and spruce up stations
  • Funding will boost volunteering and help groups make a contribution to the local community
  • Two brand new schemes along the White Cliffs route and in Thanet will benefit alongside existing partnerships in Kent and East Sussex

The Darent Valley Community Rail Partnership, which includes six stations between Swanley and Sevenoaks is one of five new community rail schemes which will be receive funding from the Southeastern network to help boost tourism in the area.

Sevenoaks Station

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

As part of the increase in community rail activity, 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’.

In addition to the two prospective Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs) which have received funding, 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 to expand their activity to current and new community rail lines.

The Darent Valley Community Rail Partnership is the newest of these, representing the 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.”

The refurbished Bat & Ball Station is part of the Darent Valley Community Rail Partnership along with Otford, Shoreham, Eynsford, Swanley, and Sevenoaks

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.”

Funding was awarded to current and prospective community rail partnerships after Southeastern ran a bidding process open to all organisations which wanted to run community projects at their local stations.

Bidders had the option of committing to securing an official designation of Community Rail Partnership under the Community Rail Network, or had already secured this and wanted to expand their activity.

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, is led by Sevenoaks District Council and partner organisations, with funding also from Govia Thameslink Railway. The CRP raises awareness and promotes usage 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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