The East Lancashire Railway has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
The East Lancashire Railway is a 12 mile long heritage railway that runs from Heywood in the east to Rawtenstall in the north, passing through Bury, Summerseat, Ramsbottom and Irwell Vale. The railway is operated using a range of preserved steam and diesel locomotives to haul vintage train services through the scenic Irwell Valley. The railway is the third most popular paid visitor attraction in Greater Manchester and welcomes over 160,000 visitors each year.
The railway is run by the East Lancashire Light Railway Company and staffed by members of the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society. Both the Company and the Society are voluntary organisations, which together make up the East Lancashire Railway.
Peter Duncan, former Chairman of the East Lancashire Railway, attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace on 24th May 2016, where he met the Queen and other winners of this year’s award.
The East Lancashire Railway is one of 193 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of awards given to groups this year is slightly higher than last year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to tackle community challenges.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work in their communities. The awards were created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and winners are announced each year on 2 June – the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.
Award winners this year range from a War Memorial Community Trust, providing social facilities for the benefit of the community in Clwyd, Wales, to a club enhancing the community by developing individuals through athletics, in Ayrshire and Arran, Scotland.
The East Lancashire Railway will receive the award from the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester later this summer.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Committee Chair, former broadcast journalist Sir Martyn Lewis said:
“I warmly congratulate all of the inspirational voluntary groups who have been rewarded for their community work with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. The judging panel for this year’s awards were struck by the quality and breadth of all the successful groups.
The thousands of volunteers who give up spare time to help others in their community and to help solve problems demonstrate the very best of democracy in action.”
Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, said:
“I would like to congratulate all groups who received this year’s Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, in recognition of their fantastic achievements. The huge amount of work and commitment these organisations put into their local communities is surpassed only by the passion and motivation of the individuals who volunteer. I hope these groups continue to inspire others to get involved and make a positive impact so that we can continue to build a more compassionate society.”
East Lancashire Railway Chairman, Mike Kelly, said:
“As a predominantly volunteer run organisation, the award acknowledges the hard work and dedication of our 700 volunteers that help run the railway on a day-to-day basis and is something that we will all treasure for a long time to come. As chairman of the railway I am immensely proud of what our volunteer team has accomplished over the past 30 years, from the initial steps to preserving the line to running one of the North West’s most successful tourist attractions, without their passion and commitment we would not have the railway that we have today.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our wonderful volunteers and let them know just how much they are appreciated.”