South Western Railway invests £1.5 million in projects by local communities

Wednesday 06th September 2023
Group of children in front of steam engine on Isle of Wight
  • South Western Railway’s Customers and Communities Improvement Fund will support 58 local projects across Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Surrey and Wiltshire
  • Projects ranging from a primary school competition in Staines to improvements at Feniton and Salisbury stations have been submitted by charities, community groups and 15 local authorities
  • Match funding will take the total investment to £3 million

SOUTH Western Railway (SWR) has announced a £1.5 million investment in 58 local community projects across its network, from Vauxhall in London to Exeter in Devon.

Projects that benefit local communities by improving their surroundings, as well as their residents’ quality of life, are just some of those awarded funding from SWR’s Customers and Communities Improvement Fund (CCIF) round for 2023/24.

The wide range of projects will be funded by a wide range of grants. In Wokingham, SWR has awarded £1,350 to Wokingham In Need - a charity dedicated to helping homeless and vulnerable people - for early years play and learn sessions.

At the other end of the scale, SWR has awarded £76,759 to the University of Portsmouth for the UK’s first ‘skills garden’, an interactive outdoor space that can be used by the whole of the local community.

Included in the 58 projects - 15 of which are run by local authorities in Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and Wiltshire – are:

  • The purchase of wet wheelchairs for Dolphins Swim Club in Woking, to provide more swimming opportunities for people with learning and physical needs. SWR is contributing £3,633.76 in funding.
  • Active Vision, a 12-month project which will allow Guide Dogs to support 30 vision impaired people living across the SWR network, helping them to get out of their homes and re-engage with the local community. SWR is contributing £25,605 in funding.
  • Improving facilities at Smallbrook Junction on the Isle of Wight, for passengers connecting between the Island Line and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, including Customer Information Screens and power and lighting using solar power and biodiesel. SWR is contributing £46,000.

Dolphin's Swim Club, Guide Dogs and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway comment on their funding in the video below.

In total, 58 schemes have been awarded CCIF funding, and when combined with the additional match funding that 35 of the projects have also confirmed, a little over £3 million is set to be invested in these important community projects.

The latest round brings the total number of projects supported by CCIF to more than 100 and SWR has now given more than £7 million in grants across three rounds of funding. Successful projects last year included Shawford station’s Platform One Café and station forecourt improvements at Weymouth.

Peter Williams, SWR’s Customer and Commercial Director said:

“At South Western Railway we are always looking for ways to support the local communities our network serves, and the Customer and Communities Improvement Fund plays a vital role in this by funding schemes that will provide very real benefits for people in towns and villages across our network.

“We’re delighted to help bring these projects to life and we look forward to seeing them completed and flourishing.”

Clare Watson, Head of My Sighted Guide Improvement at Guide Dogs, said:

“We are delighted to receive the funding from South Western Railway; this will enable us to support people living with sight loss along the South Western Railway route to access their community.

“Alongside that, we will be offering South Western Railway employees Sighted Guide Training. Working collaboratively together we help create a more inclusive society for people with vision impairments”.  

Chris Sexton, Freedom Leisure’s Healthy Communities Manager for the Woking Area added:

“As one of the UK’s leading not-for-profit leisure trusts, Freedom Leisure is committed to delivering a first class leisure service to the community - improving lives through leisure.

"We are delighted to receive funding from South Western Railway’s Customer and Community Improvement Fund. The funds will enable the purchase of “wet chairs” at Woking Pool in the Park for the Dolphins Swim Group and will provide easier access to water activities for those in the local community with mental and physical impairments. We are extremely grateful to South Western Railway for funding these chairs.”

Steve Backhouse, General Manager of Isle of Wight Steam Railway, said:

“We’re delighted to receive support from South Western Railway’s Customer and Communities Improvement Fund, which will really benefit passengers connecting between our two railways at Smallbrook Junction.

“Creating a station powered by green energy, and encouraging visitors to arrive by public transport, will also play a useful role in improving our environmental sustainability.”

For more information on SWR’s CCIF programme, click here.
Additional information:
SWR’s CCIF budget is provided by the Department for Transport.

Across its extensive network, SWR is investing in:

  • 19 projects in Hampshire worth more than £500,000
  • 9 projects in Surrey worth more than £160,000
  • 9 projects in Greater London worth more than £330,000
  • 8 projects on the Isle of Wight worth almost £140,000
  • 6 projects in Berkshire worth almost £100,000
  • 4 projects in Devon worth more than £95,000
  • 1 project each in Dorset and Wiltshire, worth £75,000 and £34,500 respectively
  • A network-wide project worth around £35,000

Projects were awarded funding based on criteria including:

  • Addressing community or social need/demonstration of benefits
  • Deliverability against costs and timescales
  • Match funding
  • Alignment with FirstGroup’s charitable giving policy
  • Links to the railway

The complete list of projects awarded funding can be found here