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First Capital Connect’s Community Engagement Programme Providing More Than Just A Rail Service To Local Communities
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As a major transport operator we recognise how important it is to provide more than just a rail service and actually play a central role in the communities we serve. Over the past year we have involved local members of our communities to assist us in improving our station and neighbouring environments, and have urged them to approach us when they feel we can help with local campaigns or organisations.
Activity includes station gardening days, restoring stations to old heritage themes, providing free travel to people going on job interviews, and launching an anti-child bullying poster campaign.
Our station environment improvements have had tremendous support from local communities as they have joined our staff on community gardening days.
With our free travel to job interviews incentive we have assisted 400 people in the past year. We also provide one month’s free travel to those successful in getting a job and we provided 51 of these season tickets.
Our anti-child bullying poster campaign received a huge response from the national media when it was launched with several people contacting me to say how touched they were at raising awareness of incidents on public transport.
We are the first train operating company in the country to offer travel assistance for the unemployed. We recognise that unemployment is a growing concern for the UK and we wanted to play our part in reducing those figures in the communities we serve.
Another innovative feature was the introduction of wormeries on our station gardens. These use earthworms to turn waste left at our stations into a liquid fertiliser, which our staff uses to maintain the station plants. This was reported on widely by the BBC.[/one_half_last]
As this is an on-going programme we are frequently looking at what works, what doesn’t, and how we will change things in the future.
One lesson we have learnt is to not underestimate the take up of any engagement scheme. We have received overwhelming demand for our charity support incentives, which have proven difficult to administrate. This has led to a restriction in the number of schemes we can support in one region of our rail network.
The same is true for our gardening days. We have had to restrict the number of participants for each session.
These initiatives have greatly improved our image to both the public and the press. They now comment that we go beyond just proving our basic service.
We have also received some fantastic political support for our initiatives. The Secretary of State for Health launched our anti-child bullying poster campaign and applauded us for our dedication in championing child welfare. Members of Parliament have widely publicised our job interview passes to their constituents and openly praise us for this scheme in public meetings.[/one_half_last]
Stakeholder and Community Engagement Manager
Paul has managed First Capital Connect’s stakeholder relations brief since 2010, engaging with MPs, councillors and rail users across the south-east of England. In 2012, he created a new Community Engagement strategy for the company, working with local charities and voluntary groups to provide support and opportunities. Highlights including working with Red Balloon – an anti-bullying charity which provides support for young people – and creating a World War One memorial poppy garden at a Cambridgeshire station. Paul previously worked at the House of Commons and for a City PR firm.