My Consultancy

My Consultancy

I do stuff that I really like/want to do and is socially useful. My daily rate varies depending on the client – huge corporate giants pay a lot more than tiny wee voluntary organisations (though not many corporate giants seem to want my services…).

I specialise in the following areas:

  • Community Rail and Engaging with Communities
  • Transport and Diversity
  • Rail and the Wider Policy Context
  • Rail and Devolution (England, Scotland, Wales)
  • Corporate Social Responsibility in the Transport Sector
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Linking rail, bus and other modes – with people in mind
  • Railway History and Heritage
  • New Developments in the Regional Rail Sector
  • Railways and Sustainable Development
  • Transport and Social Enterprise

My clients are a mixture of railway businesses, local authorities and third sector organisations. Recent clients have included Scottish Community Rail Partnerships, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cumbria County Council, ACoRP, Lancashire County Council, The Co-operative Party (with Aslef), National Express, TransPennine Express, Heart of Wales Line Forum, and Northern Rail.

Community Rail – Engaging with Communities

‘Community Rail’ is one of the great success stories of the UK rail industry over the last fifteen years. I initiated the concept in 1993, in New Futures for Rural Rail and was instrumental in setting up the Penistone Line Partnership in the same year, which I chaired until 2004. I helped establish many other community rail partnerships across the UK including groups on The Bittern Line (Norwich – Sheringham), West Lancashire, Esk Valley, Preston – Colne, Darlington – Bishop Auckland and Hope Valley. Recently I’ve been working with Yorkshire local authorities on a new CRP for the ‘Yorkshire Coalfields’ area.

The ‘community rail’ concept won Government approval in 2004 with the publication of the Community Rail Development Strategy, which is managed by the Department for Transport. A strong ‘community rail’ commitment is now often expected from franchise bidders by DfT.

Community Rail Partnerships bring together a diverse range of stakeholders along a local railway (or network of lines) with the common aim of promoting the railway and ensuring the railway meets the needs of diverse local communities. There are now over 60 CRPs across the UK, federated into the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) which I set up in 1997. I was General Manager of ACoRP until 2004 (see I’m a board member of ACoRP.

As well as line-based partnerships, I have been involved in promoting local ‘station partnerships’ which are entirely voluntary and bring a touch of TLC to stations – often with stunning results. There are other 80 in the North of England alone, and ACoRP’s recently republished ‘Station Adoption Toolkit’ gives numerous examples of good practice.

How I can help:

  • Advice on setting up and managing community rail partnerships
  • Advice on setting up and managing station partnerships
  • Problem solving with CRP
  • Building ‘community rail’ into franchise bids

Rail in its Wider Policy Context

One of my strengths is in locating rail in a wider policy context – social, economic and environmental. Cultural even! At ACoRP I developed strategies for local and regional rail which ultimately formed the Government’s Community Rail Development Strategy. At Northern I led on the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility work, developed its Cycling Strategy and laid the ground for the successful eco-station concept and cyclepoint. I have a particular interest in linking rail with culture and encouraged innovative arts projects at Northern. I have worked on innovative approaches to transport integration, studying examples in other parts of Europe and applying them to UK practice. I am co-ordinator of the Rail Reform Group, an informal network of rail professionals who want to see our railways managed and operated ‘for the common good’.

How I can help:

  • I’m particularly interested in working with public sector, not for profit and similar groups in developing rail and related policy areas.
  • I can assist with rail/transport elements of wider strategies for regeneration and social inclusion, sustainable tourism and transport integration

Stakeholder Management

The days when railway managers were able to ignore outside bodies are long since gone. But how the industry engages with the plethora of interest groups, local authorities, business organisations and campaigners varies widely. I have been a strong advocate of ‘active engagement’ in which stakeholder management is very much a two-way process involving listening and discussion rather than static ‘consultation’.

At Northern, I led the company’s work with stakeholders into new and exciting territory, with a much more open approach to stakeholder conferences, regular information exchanges and even an annual ‘stakeholder special train’ to attractive destinations.

This led to extremely high levels of stakeholder satisfaction, evidenced through independent satisfaction surveys.

How I can help:

  • Advice on how to make stakeholder meetings effective and fun
  • Innovative approaches to stakeholder involvement
  • How to widen your reach to the wider community

Railway History and Heritage

The number of books on ‘railway history’ is legion but most focus on the hardware – locomotives, carriages, or perhaps dates of parliamentary approvals. It can be awfully dry. But there can be a different approach to railway history and heritage by looking at the lives of people who worked and travelled on the railway.

I’m a respected social historian, with a PhD from University of Salford on Lancashire social and cultural history. My publishing business – Little Northern Books (see seprtate page) – has published five titles on aspects of Northern regional history since being set up in 2008. One of them, ‘Northern Rail Heritage’ is an outline of railway social history in the North of England, originally produced for Northern Rail staff.

I set up the Northern Rail Heritage Group, for Northern Rail employees interested in exploring their own history. During my time at Northern, I led the project to name a selection of trains after ‘Greater Northerners’ – ordinary people who made a huge difference to the North. These included Benny Rothman who led the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932; Driver John Axon GC; Councillor Bill Cameron; Gracie Fields; Barbara Castle MP and cricketing legend Fred Trueman.

How I can help

  • Advice on all aspects of railway history and heritage
  • Assistance in publishing projects
  • Assistance with railway employee history projects
  • Advice on Train Naming

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility is about businesses behaving in an ethical and responsible way, over and above any legal obligations. Yes, it is possible even in a free market capitalist society. But it involves serious commitment to communities served by the company and also to employees and suppliers, not window-dressing. It has social, economic and environmental foundations.It has been described as ‘the commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the local community and society at large’. (North West Economic Strategy 2006)

CSR affects everyone within the railway industry and should impact on every aspect of how we do business. It’s an exciting challenge which needs careful development through an inclusive approach. At Northern Rail I led the development of its CSR strategy and helped the company win the national Business in the Community Award for Rural Action, in 2007. The award was presented by The Prince of Wales and Al Gore.

How I can help:

  • Advice and support in creating a CSR Strategy
  • Providing links with organisations involved in promoting CSR
  • Advice on best practice in CSR
  • Getting employee support for CSR in your business

New Developments in the Regional Rail Sector
Stations; Services; Re-openings

Rail is now well and truly into a major phase of growth. It isn’t just High Speed Rail; it’s also about new stations, re-opened routes; enhanced services. Over the years I have helped set the agenda for rail development. The ground-breaking report on ‘Putting Beeching in Reverse’ (TR&IN 1998) showed that new routes and services made economic as well as environmental and social sense.

Stations are the railway’s shop window and gateway. I set up the ‘Central Stations’ project at ACoRP to turn disused station buildings into community facilities. It has been incredibly successful with over a dozen station buildings now providing important community facilities. Whilst at Northern I initiated the ‘Eco Station’ project, the first example of which is now open at Accrington, as well as Leeds Cyclepoint.

I am a strong supporter of ‘achievable’ re-openings, such as the Blyth and Tyne in Northumberland, Poulton-le-Fylde to Fleetwood and Skipton to Colne routes. I have encouraged heritage railways to look at the feasibility of running ‘community’ operations.

How I Can Help:

  • Advice and practical support for station development
  • Assistance with railway re-opening studies
  • Supporting heritage railways on new developments


For more information  give me a call on 07795 008691 or email me at

One reply on “My Consultancy”

Hello Doctor Paul,
I’ve just seen that applications for the Designated Community Rail Development Fund opened on 1 April and fancy getting hold of some of the £30K on offer. In your experience, what kind of projects make successful applicants??
We have had a few awards from our local CRP for improvements, but these run to £100s rather than the £1000s associated with the DCRDF.
Dave Carlisle, Chairman, Friends of Buxton Station