Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris and senior industry leaders are calling for the entire rail industry to come together in support of Rail Aid, a new fundraising initiative to support vulnerable children across the UK

Launched in direct response to the Covid-19 outbreak and dubbed ‘the railway’s answer to Children In Need’, Rail Aid will bring together everyone in the rail industry this November for fun and fundraising in support of Railway Children, the industry’s charity. Chair of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy CBE is one of eight senior ‘Rail Aid Ambassadors’ who are calling on companies to collectively fundraise for Railway Children under the Rail Aid banner: ‘I’m delighted to support Rail Aid and Railway Children. The charity’s vital work saves the lives of young people both in the UK and overseas. The Covid pandemic has hit the vulnerable hardest and it has never been more important to ensure people can get the help they need when they need it. Whether your thing is sponsored tiddly winks or dancing The Locomotion, I’d encourage everyone in the railway family to do it for Rail Aid this Autumn.’

Joining Sir Peter as Rail Aid ambassadors are:

  • Andy Byford, Commissioner, TfL
  • Lisa Coleman, Chief Executive Officer, Worldline UK&I
  • Susan Cooklin, Route Services Director, Network Rail
  • Dyan Crowther, Chief Executive Officer, HS1
  • Mary Grant, Chief Executive Officer, Porterbrook
  • Paul Plummer, Chief Executive Officer, RDG
  • Mark Thurston, Chief Executive Officer, HS2

Porterbrook were one of the first major players to step forward and their CEO Mary Grant has spoken out about why she’s happy to back the initiative.

She said: ‘Porterbrook has supported Railway Children over many years, not just through the Railway Ball but also through our headline sponsorship of the annual ‘Three Peaks Challenge by Rail’, which sadly had to be postponed this year.

‘I am really pleased that Porterbrook is able to support Rail Aid and that I can play my own part as an Ambassador for this very worthwhile initiative. By participating in Rail Aid we can all make a difference to a wonderful charity that really does transform lives.’

The rail industry is practically queuing up to join Rail Aid and raise critical funds for vulnerable children whose lives have been made even more difficult by the impact of Covid-19. Leading rail bodies that have already signed-up to support Rail Aid include: Network Rail, Transport for London, the Rail Delivery Group, the Rail Freight Group, the Rail Supply Group, the Railway Industry Association, the Rail Forum Midlands and a host of individual businesses committed to being exemplary corporate citizens of Britain’s railway. As we reach the end of a difficult year, no member of the rail family will want to miss out on the chance to raise funds and smiles at the same time.

What is Rail Aid for?

Every year thousands of children across the UK, India and East Africa run away or are forced to leave homes that have become unbearable through poverty, abuse, violence and neglect, and every day children and young people end up at UK railway stations with no one else to turn to. Railway Children have teamed up with the British Transport Police (BTP) to create a safety net for those children who need their help the most. In 2019, BTP dealt with around 9,000 incidents in and around stations across the UK where there was concern for a child’s safety.

The grave impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on vulnerable young people has made Railway Children’s work even more vital, whilst simultaneously torpedoing the charity’s 2020 fundraising programme. A number of major fundraising events have been cancelled this year including Railway Children’s biggest annual fundraiser, The Railway Ball. Ever inventive and resourceful, the rail family has united to launch this new fundraising concept that allows socially distanced support and incorporates a range of innovative virtual fundraising ideas. Best of all, it promises to be a whole lot of fun.

When is it happening?

Rail Aid is running from now until the end of November.  From Sunday 22 to 27 November, the week will be full of exciting online events, including a virtual quiz hosted by Sir Peter Hendy on the Wednesday evening, and a virtual bingo night. The week will culminate in a fun-packed live online Appeal Show on the Friday evening, showcasing the very best efforts and fundraising achievements.

The Rail Aid Ambassadors want to see everyone in the rail family getting involved. Teams and individuals are being encouraged to carry out and film their own fundraising ideas and activities and send them in to the Rail Aid team. There’s also a menu of fun-filled Rail Aid activities with something for everyone– whether it’s joining in yourself or voting for your peers.

Smooth Operators

Eight brave and sporting senior rail industry figures have volunteered for Smooth Operators, and one of them will undergo the excruciating experience of having their legs waxed on the beauty therapist’s table – and it will be filmed for the Appeal Show so you’ll get to see every minute. But which one? That’s up to everyone in the industry! A Rail Aid donation of £5 gets you a vote for the hirsute pins you want to see waxed smooth. And the contenders are … 

Andy Byford, Transport for London Commissioner
John Halsall, MD Southern Region, Network Rail
Sir Michael Holden, Former train operator and Network Rail Executive
Alex Hynes, MD Scotland’s Railway
Andrew Haines, Chief Executive Network Rail
David Statham, MD Southeastern
Alex Warner, Chair of the Grand Rail Collaboration
Christian Wolmar, Writer, broadcaster and rail columnist

Who do you want to see undergo this hair-raising experience? Make your donation and cast your vote! Voting closes on Friday 13 November.

The Locomotion Challenge

Fancy putting on your dancing shoes and doing a brand new dance, now? Then get your team together and choreograph and video your own routine to the famous song! Entries will be whittled down by a panel of judges, and then the finalists will be put to the public vote. Teams can participate together, with social distancing, or gather virtually to record their performances. There’s a Top Tips guide available on the Rail Aid website but be quick – the closing date to send in your entries for The Locomotion Challenge is 9th November. Join in at https://railaid.co.uk/fundraise-for-us/the-locomotion-challenge/

Keeping it more simple

If dancing isn’t your thing, there are alternative less exhibitive ways to get involved including Commit Your Commute. Thousands of people in the rail family have been working from home during the pandemic and you can donate the amount of your usual daily commute to Rail Aid. For more information about how to Commit Your Commute, go to https://railaid.co.uk/fundraise-for-us/commit-your-commute/

Need to get moving after working from the sofa all summer? For the thousands of us who love to exercise a little or a lot, there’s a team fitness challenge. Get On Track, a physical challenge where participants run, walk, cycle, swim or scoot and log their total kilometres with the aim of covering together the same number of kilometres as make up the railway network of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – a whopping 16,170! Simply convert the number of kilometres you cover into pounds and donate that amount. For more tips about how to Get On Track, take a look at https://railaid.co.uk/fundraise-for-us/get-on-track/

Fancy something more sedate?

If you prefer something a little less energetic, we will be running a railwayana auction selling a fascinating array of unique, collectable railway memorabilia which you can bid on from the comfort of your favourite armchair.  There will also be a Gala online auction with a great line-up of lots ranging from ‘money can’t buy’ experiences to special gifts in time for Christmas.

Rather do your own thing?

If you’d like to do something else to raise funds for Rail Aid, take a look at https://railaid.co.uk/fundraise-for-us

Who’s already signed up?

Lots of organisations have already committed to Rail Aid and shared their bright ideas for raising vital funds. Avanti, STM and GB Railfreight are rehearsing their Locomotion moves; BTP, HS2 and VolkerRail are supporting the Get On Track Challenge and Angel Trains have given themselves the goal of covering a huge ten per cent of the Get on Track distance; GB Railfreight, HS2 and BTP are Committing Their Commute; ScotRail are taking part in Smooth Operators and are brainstorming other fundraising ideas. Meanwhile, Granger Reis are planning a virtual cycle ride from Aberdeen to Penzance; Rail Forum Midlands are planning a ‘Mystery Guest’ Question of Sport activity; HS2 are busy organising and holding quizzes; BTP are donating auction prizes including a day of dog training; Southeastern are putting together a virtual choir; and Women in Rail members are organising a LipSync Battle which will raise money through text votes.

With so much of the rail industry already committed to joining Rail Aid this November, it’s an event that nobody wants to miss. Join in the fun by making sure your teams are signed up, and don’t forget to tell Rail Aid what you’re up to so you can be featured in Rail Aid week.

For more information about Rail Aid and how to get involved, go to www.railaid.co.uk