Leading figures in the railway industry have lined up to heap praise on the work of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships in promoting and supporting rural and local railways.

At a House of Commons meeting, one guest joked that "ACoRP has achieved the impossible in bringing everyone in the industry together, saying the same thing!"

Over 100 MPs, peers and senior rail industry figures attended the reception organised by ACoRP on 7 June. Transport minister Kim Howells shared a platform with Strategic Rail Authority chairman Richard Bowker.

Kim Howells applauded ACoRP’s success in supporting small-scale projects which can bring real benefits to local communities: improved disabled access, better information, bus links and community involvement. He hinted that supporters of community railways ‘will be pleasantly surprised’ by the outcome of the current Government Rail Review.

Richard Bowker commended the work of ACoRP and its 40-plus member organisations for being both practical and visionary. He was delighted to "champion" the work of ACoRP, and consultation on the SRA’s community-rail development strategy had shown the depth of interest and support for getting more out of our local railways.

Pam Warhurst, acting chair of the Countryside Agency, applauded ACoRP’s grassroots focus and the work of its members in promoting social inclusion in rural communities.

"You’re doing a cracking job. Keep it up!" was Pam’s message.

Anthony Smith, national director of the Rail Passengers Council, said people in rural areas should applaud the work of ACoRP and its members in putting rural rail on the agenda, and helping to ensure that talk of run-down or even closure was met with well thought-through arguments.

Dyan Crowther of Arriva Trains Northern said "Arriva supports ACoRP and its work because it makes commercial sense to do so".

ACoRP chairman Peter Roberts said that the event demonstrated the stature which ACoRP and its members have achieved with Government and the railway industry. Kim Howells’ speech was recognition of the good work that has been done.

"We must be doing something right to have so many leading figures in the industry and Government backing us," he said.

ACoRP general manger Paul Salveson had a cautionary message.

"Let’s make sure that with any changes which come as a result of the Rail Review we keep the positive momentum which has been built up for community-rail partnerships and the ‘community railways’ approach. We’ve come a long way in the last five years – let’s keep the partnership train moving at express speed!"

Information from the Association of Community-Rail Partnerships, Brian Jackson Centre, New North Parade, Huddersfield HD1 5JP Phone: 01484 549737 Fax: 01484 544234 mobile: 07971 884241 Email: paul at thecarriage.freeserve.co.uk