UWE Bristol academic awarded funding for ground-breaking initiative to tackle loneliness by engaging young people with transport 

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Picture of a train at a station

Adapted from this Community Rail Network article  

Dr Miriam Ricci, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Transport & Society, UWE Bristol has received funding from the Department for Transport for a project that is designed to tackle loneliness among young people by engaging them with local railways and wider transport links.  

The ‘Engaging young people through community rail’ initiative is one of 12 projects being supported by the Department for Transport’s new Tackling Loneliness with Transport Fund. It will be led by Community Rail Network with UWE Bristol as a research partner and involve community rail partnerships and other youth and community partners running three pilot schemes in Bristol and Gloucester, Blackburn with Darwen, and Newcastle and County Durham. 

The ground-breaking work will develop and test a framework for community-based initiatives that bolster transport skills and confidence among 15-to-24-year-olds, increasing access to potentially life-changing opportunities, and promoting health, wellbeing, cohesion, and sustainable mobility. It will build on the growing work of the community rail movement, which engages communities across Britain with rail to deliver local benefits and support sustainable development. 

The project will involve young people from diverse backgrounds, including those commonly facing mobility barriers, seeking to open-up independent mobility and create a sense of connectedness. Rail-based excursions, travel skills and confidence-building, creative activities, and youth-led projects will create feelings of ownership towards rail and transport, raise aspirations, and build social links. 

Miriam commented: “Having led successful action research projects in partnership with the community rail sector in the past, I am delighted to be part of this exciting project aimed at improving young people’s lives. This project will take a Participatory Action Research approach, where each partner brings their unique knowledge and expertise to achieve the desired outcomes, through mutual learning and collaboration.  

The three pilots will enable us to produce new evidence on how community rail-based initiatives, co-designed with young people, youth organisations and community rail partners, can tackle loneliness and social isolation, while at the same time enhancing young people’s confidence and ability to travel sustainably. 

My role in particular will be to inform the participatory co-design approach using the latest academic evidence on the links between transport, loneliness and social inclusion, to facilitate the collaborative development and application of a monitoring and evaluation framework for the three pilots, and to help ensure that new evidence and lessons learnt from the project contribute to knowledge, practice and policy.” 

The Tackling Loneliness with Transport Fund, which will provide nearly £5million to the first 12 projects, was created to explore and develop innovative transport solutions to support groups who are the most at risk of loneliness across England, including people living in rural areas, the elderly, young people, or those with a physical and mental health condition. Research has shown that young people can experience the highest levels of loneliness of any age group, with nearly one in ten stating they feel lonely ‘often or always.’ 

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