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This note looks at the development of community rail under successive governments. It explains the purposes of rural rail, how it is structured, and proposals for its development.

References to ‘rural railways’ are often vague and undefined. Whet tends to be meant by the tern are non-urban railway lines in areas of the country with limited population. These lines tend not to be part of the franchised train operations that are delivered on most of the rail network, but are partnerships between local, community groups and a train company.

The Labour Government developed a Community Rail Development Strategy to encourage more of these lines. However it did face some criticism for its plans on ‘network modification’ which, critics argued, makes it easier to close rural rail lines.

The Coalition Government appears to be generally supportive of community railways. However, there have been some concerns as to their future sustainability, particularly as the government bears down on the cost of the railway and local authorities see their budgets cut. At the same time, there has been a spurt of interest in the idea of developing ‘co-operative’ railways in a similar spirit to community lines.

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