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UK: Inspiring the next generation will be a key focus for a year-long programme of events being planned to mark the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway on September 27 1825.

That event is described as ‘the birth of passenger train travel’, as Locomotion No 1 hauled a train carrying more than 400 people riding in wagons. Fare-paying passengers had been carried on the horse-dawn Oystermouth Railway near Swansea since 1807, and regular passenger services on the S&D were also horse drawn; the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway operated the first regular locomotive-hauled passenger service in 1830.

The Railways 200 project is being led by the Great British Railways Transition Team, which says the aim of the programme is to be ‘more than just a celebration of the past’. The team is looking to create a ‘genuine legacy’ by offering opportunities for young people to learn about the wide variety of careers the modern rail industry has to offer.

Plans are being developed with the National Railway Museum and Porterbrook for an exhibition train which will travel around the rail network showing young people and their families the opportunities presented by careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Railway 200 team is inviting the rail industry and its partners to consider how they might play their part by opening facilities to the public or through community outreach. Railway 200 is also working with partners from outside the rail sector to highlight the influence of railways on culture, art and society.

Railway 200 will provide toolkits, a strong national brand, website, and a social media presence, with corporate partnership packages and sponsorship opportunities available.

‘The world changed forever in 1825 and the 200th anniversary of this first passenger train journey is an historic opportunity to reset the public’s relationship with rail’, said Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill, Chair of Railway 200 and Network Rail, when plans were unveiled on September 27.

‘It is our chance to present the railway as a forward thinking, digital, industry and as an attractive career option for young people and for people from many different backgrounds.

‘For Railway 200 to reach its full potential, we must harness the knowledge and efforts of the whole industry, so I hope you will join us in creating a programme of celebrations which will recognise this great British achievement, the first public passenger train in the world, while inspiring a new generation to take our innovative railway far into the future.’

  • Railway 200 is being led by the Great British Railways Transition Team and supported Community Rail Network, Heritage Railway Association, HS2 Ltd, National Railway Museum, National Skills Academy for Rail, Network Rail, Rail Delivery Group, Rail Freight Group, Rail Forum, Partners, Railway Industry Association, S&DR200, Transport Focus, UK Rail Research & Innovation Network and Young Rail Professionals.