Monday, 6 April 2015

International collaboration looks to improve rail travel

UCLan Tourism & Hospitality Management students took part in an international project to generate new ideas for promoting rail travel within Lancashire and beyond.

Joined by colleagues from Plymouth, Germany and the Netherlands, our Institute of Transport and Tourism (ITT) hosted a two-day Masterclass for the Citizens Rail project - a European Union initiative to develop local and regional railways by involving the local community.

Participants visited Burnley, Blackpool and Preston train stations before working with experts in transport planning and policy, tourism, marketing and economic regeneration to share ideas on how rail travel can further appeal to commuters, families and tourists both in the UK and Europe.

Ideas include making the journey part of the leisure experience for tourists, improved pre-paid public transport cards, better connected timetables for commuters and advertising on up-and-coming social networks like Instagram.

UCLan Hospitality student Helen Burrows commented: "We like the idea that travelling by train means everyone can enjoy the journey and the pressure isn't on one person to drive. It's about making the journey part of the leisure experience and not just the destination.

"It's been interesting to work with international students to see their perspective on rail travel and exciting to know our opinions and ideas will feed directly into a European-wide project."

Citizens' Rail is an EU initiative that began in May 2012 and runs until September of this year. Its main focus is on new and refurbished station buildings, more frequent services, volunteering, social outreach and local marketing campaigns to encourage more people to use and be part of their local train services.

The scheme has already helped fund the new station building at Burnley Manchester Road, soon to be in the spotlight with the launch of direct rail services to Manchester beginning in May.

Mike Parker-Bray, Citizens' Rail Communications Officer, said: "Our project is all about improving local and regional rail services and facilities, and encouraging more people to take the train. It has been great to harness the creativity of the students to make this happen."

ITT Director Dr Richard Weston oversaw the organisation of the event. He said: "The Masterclass is a unique part of the Citizens' Rail project, as it offers the chance for university partners to draw from their students' knowledge and understanding, whilst also providing dissemination of the good work the project continues to bring to the public."

Citizens' Rail, part of the EU Interreg IVB North West Europe programme, spans the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Each local area has its own rail and community engagement expertise which is freely shared for other people to use.

Project organisers are now looking at which of the students' ideas can be put into practice and these will be shared at a final conference in Torquay in October.

Students from UCLan, Plymouth University, RWTH Aachen University in Germany and Zuyd Hogeschool in the Netherlands took part in the Masterclass, which also featured a guest lecture by Professor Martina Fromhold-Eisebith from RWTH Aachen.

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