Inspiration for campaigners

Campaigns need a lot of time and effort. This page aims to show how to make that hard work succesful.

Choose your campaign carefully; you may have a soft spot for reopening the branch line to the rural hamlet of Lower Deeping-in-the-Marsh, but if nothing has changed since the line was closed sixty years ago then you are unlikely to succeed. Kilbride Group, who set the ball rolling for the line to Tavistock to be reopened, consider that a population of 20,000 and significant new development are required to make reopening a branch line to an isolated town feasible. Campaigns need not be for line or station reopening; new lines and stations can be equally viable, and campaigns to improve services on existing lines may be more popular.

The aim of any campaign must be to inspire people to believe that they can make the campaign objective happen – not have to wait for the objective, or a worse alternative, to happen to them. Start by focussing on the need, not the solution. If you start with your own pet solution, you may miss some elements of the need and may come into conflict with other parties who have a different solution. Once you have clarity and agreement on the need with all stakeholders, the right solution will emerge.

Identify and make contact with all the potential stakeholders so that you can build relationships with them. Stakeholders may include local parish and district councillors, county councillors and officers, MPs, Local Enterprise Partnerships, TOCs, Network Rail, DfT and local business organisations. You may have to start at the bottom and work up; make contacts by attending for example open council meetings and workshops, TOC stakeholder meetings, and breakfast meetings run by business organisations. Use your contact with the stakeholders to explain the need and seek their views to refine the need.

Currently the overriding objectives for political stakeholders are stimulating economic growth and accommodating population growth through new housing. This translates into transport needs of access to employment and education, and connections between business centres. The outputs which the rail industry must deliver to meet these needs are capacity, reliability, journey time improvements and new journey opportunities. Think of outputs as the benefits that the solution will deliver. Network Rail will expect requirements to be placed on it in terms of outputs, to which it will respond with potential schemes (ie solutions) presented as options for stakeholders to fund; therefore our discussions with stakeholders must also be in terms of outputs (benefits), although we may express a preference for a particular solution.

Most rail development has been incremental in nature, whatever the size of the programme; for example East-West Rail has started with the Chiltern Rail Evergreen 3 project for services between Oxford and Marylebone. The next phase will be reinstatement between Bicester/Aylesbury and Bletchley, followed by electrification as part of the Electric Spine, and finally opening between Bedford and Cambridge, possibly via a new route. Airdrie-Bathgate began with reopening the Bathgate branch. It is therefore worth taking an incremental approach with your preferred solution, so that the first phase is affordable and achievable in a reasonable timescale.

In parallel with engaging stakeholders, your campaign must build public awareness of the need, using all the channels that are available. The internet gives instant access to people in their own homes and while travelling at no cost except your own time – use social media, for example Twitter and Facebook, to make contact with potential supporters, and ask them to register their support on the Railfuture website. Engage the local community by setting up a Railfuture stand at local events, where you can hand out leaflets and get people to register their support. Explain the need and the campaign on the Railfuture website. Collect supporters email addresses – then you can call on them when you need to get a particular point across to stakeholders, eg by asking them to respond to a consultation or write to their MP.

You will need both evidence of the need and popular support to convince stakeholders to take the campaign seriously. Evidence of growth in demand, travel patterns, and economic deprivation can be derived from official statistics published by the government, city and county councils and ORR, and can be supported by our own passenger surveys. Getting the campaign and the Railfuture name into the newspapers, radio and TV will help build popular support; make the news by issuing press releases for every campaign achievement and every related event.

Public support can help you achieve a specific goal in a campaign, for example getting local authority funding for a business case study, by setting up a petition, as the Wisbech reopening campaign has done. This required a lot of volunteer resource to set up a website, leaflet every household in the town and collect the responses, but the petition was signed by a significant percentage of the local population and achieved its goal.

The campaign must aim to build a partnership of stakeholders who support the campaign and will actively promote it. Campaigns don’t always go the way you expect: events, such as a government announcement or a stakeholder decision, can have a positive or negative impact. Be ready to change direction in response, to make the best of the new situation. Joining in partnership means that the campaign is not reliant on a single stakeholder who might back off in the event of opposition to the campaign; stakeholders will have the support of others in the partnership.

It should be clear that an effective campaign needs a team of committed people who can maintain each others’ motivation over the long time that it takes to deliver a rail development project. Use this acronym to inspire your campaign:

Incremental approach
News – make it
Socialise – engage local community
Internet – use social media
Evidence – show why

Good luck!

Rail User Express Rail Action