Greater Manchester and Lancashire’s largest rail operator, Northern Rail, has launched a new scheme to understand the needs of several local areas in the region when it comes to travelling by train. The areas included in the ‘Northern Community Ambassadors’ scheme have been highlighted for a variety of reasons, such as high ethnicity or social exclusion.
Northern, who manages over 100 stations in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire region, has employed four Community Ambassadors who will get out into local areas around Blackburn, Rochdale, Farnworth and Brierfield to understand the needs of certain communities, and identify the barriers that currently stop them travelling by train.
The launch event was held on Friday 11th February at Manchester’s Mint Hotel, and saw members of the Greater Manchester and Lancashire communities come together with Northern Rail representatives and its stakeholders.
The event was introduced with a speech by Northern’s Commercial Director, Jamie Burles, who highlighted the reasons why this scheme has come to light. Burles comments: “We are aware that within certain areas of Greater Manchester and Lancashire there is a large part of the community who does not use their local station and travel by train. We want to understand why this is the case and create a service that appeals to all these groups as a means of travel, more than it does at present.”
“Our four Community Ambassadors are all well known and liked within their own communities and are perfectly placed to build relationships and help break down any existing barriers.”
Sohail Ahmad, Manager of Deeplish Community Centre in Rochdale, comments: “We are delighted to see the launch of this scheme and we are fully supportive of Northern Rail and its Community Ambassadors. We really feel this could make a huge difference in our communities.”
Northern’s Community Ambassadors are Zainib Ahmed who works in Rochdale, Sultana Jamil in Blackburn, Zahid Ahmed in Brierfield and Simon Abbott in Farnworth.
The Community Ambassadors will visit local community centres, faith centres and local gathering places to engage with members of the local area as well as accompanying them on accessibility trips to show them how to use their local rail services and how it can benefit them.
The Northern Community Ambassadors scheme is run in conjunction with the Department for Transport, Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) and East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership.