Sector - Sustainability

Department for Transport launch £1M competition to boost rail tourism

A new £1M competition has been launched aimed at heritage and community railways.

The Department for Transport has today (1 March 2016) launched a competition to encourage more visitors to travel by rail to see hidden gems across the UK.

The competition which is aimed particularly at heritage railways and community rail partnerships, will offer grants to rail operators for innovative ideas and trials. It hopes to encourage more tourists and make it easier to explore the UK by rail.

The competition is expected to generate around 20 winners, with grants ranging from £25,000 to £75,000 to develop their ideas.

Projects could include improving the connectivity of heritage and community rail, improved disability access, special ticketing offers and better cycle facilities at stations.

One key objective of the competition is to encourage more tourists to travel to destinations beyond the capital, where the vast majority of heritage railways and community railways are located. Currently, around 10 million people a year visit a heritage railway, with the sector contributing an estimated £250M to the UK economy.

Community rail lines account for around 40 million journeys per year. They are often rural based and many support the tourism industry of these areas.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “We have a fantastic railway network that allows visitors to see the best of Britain’s tourist destinations. This is a great opportunity for heritage railways and community rail partnerships to further improve that tourist experience.

“I look forward to seeing what innovative ideas are put forward through the competition.”

Tourism and Heritage Minister David Evennett said: “We want more tourists to experience the best of Britain beyond the capital and help boost local economies across the country. Heritage railways are a huge draw for tourists and this competition will encourage more visitors to see some of the hidden gems the country has to offer.”

The competition comes as part of the government’s 5 point plan to boost tourism across the UK.