Adopt a station

Our Adopt a Station programme is one of the most popular ways that people volunteer with us.

Adopt a Station volunteer with station platform flower bedStations play an important role in communities and are often the first thing people see when they arrive in a town.

More than 260 ScotRail stations across the country are now part of the programme, which has gone from strength to strength since it launched in 2005.

We want to maintain a good environment for people using and working in our stations, and our adopters help us to do just that. Successful adoptions across Scotland include a wide range of uses, including garden displays, charity bookshops, art galleries and model railway clubs.

We are pleased to see communities eager to engage with their local train stations and are also proud of the role that Adopt a Station is playing in helping people become more active and healthy.

Station adoption takes many forms including gardening and other tasks, but most importantly, station adoption is growing and transforming the way communities can interact with their local station.

Traditionally, stations were famous for their gardens created by station staff to greet the passing traveller. Since 2005, our highly regarded station adopters have been creating horticultural gems across the network, including fence mounted baskets barrel-train planters and flowerbeds up and down the network and even a wedding garden’ at Gretna Green.

Our stations are as unique as our adopters.

Adopt a Station volunteers at workThrough adopting your local station you are able to showcase your community, giving it an appearance in which the community can take pride in. Station adoption does not only improve initial impressions of your community, but it can have many additional benefits.

Station adoption appeals to a range of individuals, businesses and community groups:

  • Business on or near the station benefit from improved local surroundings and the chance to raise their profile within their community
  • People anxious to improve their town’s standing at Britain in Bloom may want to improve first impressions since the judges often arrive by train
  • Community groups like Rotary Clubs, Community Rail Partnerships or charities such as those providing mental health services might want to raise their profile, or showcase their services while promoting interaction with members of the travelling public
  • Schools wishing to create horticulture lessons for their students
  • People who have a particular interest in horticulture enjoy taking part too

If you’re thinking of taking on additional volunteers make good use of the local avenues available to you. Consider notices in community centres, libraries and hubs. Talk to the local rotary club. If you’re a business consider displaying posters and using your website if you have one.

Remember - each new member will need a safety briefing and safety equipment.

If you are on a Community Rail Partnership (CRP) line of route why not attend their meetings to share how you’re helping to enhance the local community and ask them to give you space on their website to entice new members.

If your station is on a line that now has its own Community Rail Partnership we’ll let you know and we recommend you get in touch to see how it can work with you to help celebrate your station and what you’re achieving for it.

1. Register interest

If you are interested in adopting a station(s) the first thing you need to do is register interest.

Email: [email protected]

Provide: your name, contact details, station you are interested in and whether you are part of a group or applying as an individual.

We will send you a form to complete.

2. Meet with the local station manager

We will arrange a meeting between you and the Station Manager who will work with you to tailor your plans for the station. At this point you will also be provided with safety information and an introduction to the Station Team Manager.

3. Submit annual planting plan

Taking into account discussions with the Station Manager we will provide you with a budget ready for you to complete your annual planting plan.

4. Planting commences

Once plans are agreed, we’ll organise for any planters to be secured to the platform and after that it’s over to you!

5. Claiming expenses

All receipts should be sent to:

Adopt a Station
Ground Floor, 151 St Vincent Street
Glasgow G2 5NW

Details of how to claim back expenses are outlined in the Financial procedures section below.

We want to ensure your volunteering with us is enjoyable, rewarding and most importantly, safe. The local Station Team Manager will make arrangements with you to provide a safety briefing, outlining safe operating procedures and what to do in an emergency.

We take our volunteers’ safety very seriously and have created these guidelines to ensure you’re able to get the most out of the experience.

Every time you’re at a station, you must sign in. This can be done at the booking office or if you’re volunteering at an unstaffed station, by using the Help Point. Your Station Team Manager will show you what to do during the station briefing.

At the safety briefing you’ll be issued with a high visibility vest which must be worn when carrying out your station adoption duties. If you lose your vest, please let John Yellowlees know so we can order a replacement (contact details below). Don’t be tempted to carry on volunteering without one – no vest means no volunteering at the station.

More rail routes are being electrified to make journeys faster, greener and more reliable. The electrified overhead lines powering the railway carry electricity 100 times greater than in the home so being aware of the potential hazards is essential. In addition to the electrical lines there are other factors that could impact on your ability to volunteer safely:

  1. Where the line is electrified, you or any tools and equipment being used must not come within 3 metres of the overhead wires.
  2. You should not place tools or equipment within 2.5 metres of the platform edge.
  3. Hard hats must be worn when working under structures less than 2 metres in height.
  4. Safety glasses or goggles are needed when working above head height and if risk of splashing exists.
  5. Safety footwear and gloves should be worn at all times.
  6. Hoses or pressure washers must not be used, and water should be carried in an appropriate container with any spillages cleaned up immediately.

Please take away all rubbish with you at the end of each session, no debris should be left on the platform.

Don’t forget, ScotRail’s Facilities Department may be able help so let us know if any of your plans involve work using ladders, powered equipment, chemicals or work on slopes. We have a team of trained professionals who can take the strain off you so you can concentrate on doing what you love – the gardening.

Whilst at our stations you’ll be working in partnership with the station staff who have the responsibility to ensure that our stations are working effectively and that customers (as well as volunteers) are safe. You may from time to time be given instructions from station staff and we would appreciate your cooperation and assistance.

Under no circumstance should volunteers be under the influence of alcohol or drugs whilst carrying out their station adoption duties.

If your plans involve minors or people with special needs, you must provide a comprehensive method statement detailing the control measures which will ensure their safety and supervision. A number of our stations are maintained by school groups and mental health charities so if you need any advice please let us know and we’ll put you in touch with an experienced station adopter group.

If you or one of your group has an accident while on our premises, please report this to a member of staff. If you are working at an unstaffed station please use the help point on the station platform and give us as much information as possible. The information you provide will be kept in confidence but will help us ensure a safer environment for everyone.

We are very keen to support your planting plans and we want to help you create your designs. For your safety and that of our passengers, we ask that should you wish to plant any flowerbeds (involving digging in the station grounds), you run this past a member of the station adoption team before you begin. We can then make sure that the ground is suitable for planting. This is explained more in the safety brief that you will receive before your planting begins.

Remember, you and your volunteers should have no reason to go on the track or venture beyond the platform-end.

  • Be prepared to give your name and the reason why you’re there
  • Ensure that you don’t create anything that can cause an obstruction
  • Observe basic safety rules when using hand tools; e.g. rakes and forks are standing up when not in use, secateurs are left in a locked position
  • Comply with instructions on vehicle parking
  • Stop your work if requested by a railway official
  • Report any accidents to ScotRail immediately

It is important that you read and adhere to the guidelines for your own safety and the safety of customers and staff. If you have any questions regarding the above briefings, do get in touch with the station adoption team.

Ensure that the correct permission is sought from ScotRail before undertaking any work at a station.

Start with your annual planting plan – what space is available and what will thrive in that particular environment? Suppliers can advise on plants which are friendly to species such as bees and butterflies which may need our help if they are to continue playing their part in sustaining the ecosystems that make our world go round.

Remember that today’s sapling will be tomorrow’s tree! Don’t plant species that may grow out of hand and get in the way of the station’s operation.

There is no need to think just flowering plants – ornamental vegetables be attractive too, and there could be the possibility of inviting passengers to pick their own herbs. Sometimes for difficult-to-water places such as under canopies you can get silk or other artificial flowers that look just like the real thing – only do remember that summer lookalikes will look a bit odd in the depths of winter!

Your initial meeting with the Station Manager will give you an idea about practicalities such as water supply, how many planters that station environment can accommodate (and how many you feel able to look after) as well as the most appropriate location. Some stations have flowerbeds which you may be able to revitalise, fence-mounted baskets are eye-catching and work well to add colour.

Consider the ongoing maintenance required and how much time you realistically have available. We encourage you to chat it through with the Station Manager and our advice is don’t be afraid about starting small, you can always add more later.

Either you or we can procure planters, but to comply with railway legislation we must take responsibility for bolting them to the platform. Please include all details in your proposal.

Tips from David W. McAllister, Secretary, Tain Task Force

Over 70 volunteers make up Tain Task Force – the group is responsible for brightening up Tain station since the early 2000s.

  • Log what you do – record what is successful and what is not
  • Don’t be over ambitious – a small well prepared display is better than disorganised flowers everywhere
  • Learn from other people – go for a trip on the train and look at has been achieved at other stations

We are always looking for new ways to make it easy for customers and volunteers to submit feedback that will help make our railway even more safe, comfortable and attractive.

We have launched a ‘Snapp It’ app that you can use to report any faults directly to our Facilities helpdesk. The app keeps you up to date with what we are doing to address any issues raised. You might also see instances of good work or exceptional customer services from our staff, and we would encourage you to use the app to let us know.

The app can be used to give feedback about many areas of our business, including maintenance, cleanliness, presentation, ticket buying, customer information, safety and security. Remember to download it before your first volunteering experience so you can get started straight away.

Find out more and download Snapp It

Don’t worry if the app is not for you, there are other ways to provide feedback. For example:

  • If the matter is urgent use the platform Help Point to speak to staff at our Customer Services Centre
  • If you spot weeds or litter on or near the line, please call the Network Rail National Help Line on 03457 114141
  • If you think a crime is being committed, call the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 but don’t intervene
    If you witness a non-emergency incident you can now text the British Transport Police on 61016. You may wish to consider saving the BTP text service number to your phone. To find out more about this service visit: www.btp.police.uk

The gardening is your pride and joy, and we want people to know that it’s your achievement so we’ll be keen to display a notice on the planters proudly stating your group or business name.

We hope that praise from customers and staff will be rewarding in itself, giving members of your team a sense of pride in their achievement and boosting your community in the eyes of visitors.

But there’s more to it than that – your hard work will be rewarded through the ScotRail Deal – our way of saying thank you.

Find out more about the ScotRail Deal here

Also, as a station adopter you’ll be invited to periodic events where you can meet like minded individuals to share your ideas and successes and we’ll provide useful hints and tips on relevant subjects such as biodiversity.

Involve the local media to celebrate your successes – this can help you receive recognition and raise your profile to attract other volunteers. We can help draft press releases for your local paper but don’t forget to include your local radio in your plans too.

Station adoption is fun and one of the easiest ways to show people is through social media. If you have social media accounts, use them, and where we can we’ll help share your stories too.

Take pictures and share your successes or milestones with ACoRP’s Train-On-Line email newsletter – contact [email protected]

Remember to respect our staff and customers – let our staff know and, if they’re in shot, ask customers for their agreement before taking any pictures.

As part of your annual planting plan you’ll be asked to submit an estimate of how much you expect to spend on plants and materials.

Adopters are encouraged to travel by rail using tickets provided from the ScotRail Deal. Adopters should usually pay any other expenses not covered such as meals, other travel etc.

Your plans should be available to review by September where we’ll agree a budget so that you can plan ahead to cover the following April to March.

How to claim

All we need to process a claim is your name, contact details, and station adopted as well as receipts or invoices.

You can send hard copies through the post to:

Adopt a Station
151 St Vincent Street
Glasgow G2 5NW

Or you can scan your receipts and email [email protected] to request payment – whichever is easiest for you.

We don’t want you to be out of pocket for too long so please try to post or email requests to us within 30 days of purchase.

Our financial year ends 31st March so to keep everything in order we’ll ask you to submit all outstanding receipts by 15th April for the previous year spend.

ACoRP – the Association of Community Rail Partnerships – is the national federation of voluntary station groups. You do not have to be a member of ACoRP to be involved with station adoption, however, by joining ACoRP you’ll receive:

  • Access to a national network of station friends and community rail groups
  • Regular information
  • Copies of specialist toolkits
  • Invitations to conferences and seminars
  • Access to a range of funding sources

To find out more visit www.acorp.uk.com

"Railway stations are gateways into a community; they’re also showcases for the railway operator, so it’s in everybody’s interest to have an attractive and welcoming place that people feel comfortable visiting.

Station adoption is also a great way of meeting other people and developing a sense of community ownership of a local resource and there’s already a great tradition of station adoption in Scotland. Obviously, there are rules to be followed, for your own safety as well as others; conversely, there are certain things you should be able to expect from the train operator and these guidelines create that agreement between station adopters and ScotRail.

As the representative body for community rail and station adoption groups throughout the British Isles, ACoRP is there to help provide advice, guidance and support. The ACoRP website provides much of the information you may need and the ‘Community Rail Café’ chatroom gives you an opportunity to discuss issues and matters of interest with your colleagues. ‘Train on Line’, the monthly e-magazine, will keep you up to date on what’s happening elsewhere and ACoRP run occasional seminars to keep you up to speed.

Your first contact should always be ScotRail but ACoRP is also there to give you a broader perspective of the whole community rail sector."

Neil Buxton, Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP)

Dumfries Station has a tradition of presenting the town’s best face to the passing traveller, and station adopter Louis Wall of the South West Rail Adopters’ Group is aware that he is building on a proud legacy of community recognition. Fortunately its spacious surroundings allow a variety of approaches, which include collaboration with Incredible Edibles on picking your own vegetables. There’s a bluebell wood, and trees have been professionally pollarded to protect their shape.

The presence of the River of Life Church as a tenant on the station has prompted development of a biblical garden, and an autistic arts charity has brightened the waiting room.

Louis says “Our proudest moment came recently when a wedding photographer engaged to record a reception at the Station Hotel brought the happy couple across so that they might be taken in the surroundings of the station garden.”

Whitecraigs station flowersPeter McKinley in 2008 contacted ScotRail with a passion for planting after hearing about our Station Adoption programme and since then he has been the Station Adopter of Whitecraigs. Peter has been involved in many aspects of station adoption ranging from planting plants to arranging 13 framed photographs of past and present images of the station which are showcased in the waiting room.

Through Peter’s hard work over the years, Whitecraigs station has 15 hanging baskets, nearly 40 planters and two garden areas at the station. Peter’s dedication was recognised when Whitecraigs won both a Platinum and Gold tidy station award from Keep Scotland Beautiful.

What does Peter most enjoy about Station Adoption?

“Being in the fresh air, being able to do different projects at the station whenever I want, the very positive support from ScotRail and the feedback from passengers”

What advice would Peter give to new Station Adopters?

“Set realistic targets and do a little bit of each year – do not try and do everything at once and concentrate on quality”

Adopt a Station volunteer Sonia CameronArriving in Mallaig 22 years ago after working in England for BR’s station catering arm, Sonia Cameron found herself deadheading while waiting for trains so was soon drawn to station adoption.

Now at Mallaig alone she has 16 hanging baskets with an automatic watering system, seven large whisky-cask planters, two wooden barrel-trains and a side-garden.

Along with eight whisky casks and a double headed wooden train at Arisaig, Sonia also gardens at Morar where the old station building is leased by Westword. This is a community newspaper which Sonia writes a regular column for, so naturally there’s a lot of gardening in there too!

Her column has a following of readers who send her seeds and cuttings, and she produces an annual leaflet writing up Mallaig’s attractions for the tourist. The community newspaper has also been short listed for this years Highland & Islands Community Newspaper of the year!

Sonia says “I love the life I live, and I live the life I love!”

Widely respected in the adopter network, she won the Outstanding Voluntary Contribution category in this year’s Community Rail Awards.

In-Work Enterprises Ltd are an established ground maintenance, landscaping and horticultural social enterprise based in Greenock. Their aim is that people with mental health issues and long term unemployment will experience a positive impact on their lives by being part of their team.

In-Work Enterprises Ltd became involved in April 2010 by adopting Greenock Central and Gourock stations and since then has now adopted 24 stations including Yoker depot. There are over 20 trainees working through In-Work Enterprises Ltd who take part in the growing, planting out and maintenance of the seasonal bedding used within the displays at the stations.

Allan Maliska, In-Work Limited project manager, said: “Our trainees value the programme greatly and get great job satisfaction from growing the plants from seeds, improving their knowledge and skill set. Trainees enjoy looking at the final product, and take pride in the compliments that they have received from members of the public, showing appreciation for brightening up the platform areas.”

Pitlochry in Bloom planterSally Spaven came to station adoption through Pitlochry in Bloom which she chaired for a decade, and really found her feet during our 150th anniversary celebrations for the Highland Main Line back in 2013.

A rare surviving fountain was exquisitely painted, a beautiful new mural by Breadalbane Academy brightened the northbound waiting room and a range of no less than 30 posters graced the fencing. The Railway Heritage Trust funded reproduction Victorian lanterns for the footbridge. The usual planters and hanging baskets were also joined by a locally-built barrel train and historic photos were put on display.

Sally’s efforts were recognised in both a Community Rail Award and a National Railway Heritage Award, and now she has gone on to chair the new Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership, bringing together communities along the route to promote awareness of their attractions and the benefits that rail travel provides.

Sally says “When we had a familiarisation tour of each others’ stations there was quite a lot of mumbling as we got to Pitlochry and I had to point out that it had taken 15 years to get it looking like it does now.”

The station had no landscaping, flowers etc for many years and with the G8 Summit at Gleneagles approaching in 2005 it was decided to improve its presentation.

Several trials of plants have been used over the years, the first being bedding plants which were decimated by rabbit population. The introduction of heathers and conifers came about to give all year round colour and they were not so appealing to the rabbits. The work was carried out by the Gardens team from the Gleneagles Hotel. Thereafter the maintenance of the flower beds has been carried out by myself.

2014 saw a total refurbishment of Gleneagles Station for the Ryder Cup whereby the flower beds were re-designed and planting again was carried out by the Gardens team at Gleneagles. I have maintained the flowerbeds, with some kind assistance, since.

As a business there are certain things we need to make sure of.

We need to know that you're safe, we need to be able to contact you, pay expenses and log how many hours have been volunteered. However, we don’t want you to spend too much time completing paperwork so the only forms you'll be asked to fill in are:

  • Volunteer Hours Log
  • Contact Details Form
  • Annual Planting Plan

Download forms

You'll receive copies of these forms when you sign up and of course we're happy to answer any questions you have. If you need extra copies, just get in touch: [email protected]