RUG Awards

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RUG Awards 2024: the closing date for nominations - Easter Saturday, this year on 30th March 2024, has now passed. This year there are seven nominations across four of the six award categories from four of our 14 branches – North East, North West, Scotland, and West Midlands. Framed certificates will be presented to the winners of Awards and Commendations, and the coveted Judges' Special Award, on Saturday 13 July 2024, after lunch following the national Annual General Meeting to be held in Edinburgh.
Note: the award for Best RUG Campaigner is open to non-members as well as members of Railfuture alike, and must not be confused with the separate Railfuture Member of the Year - previously Railfuture Campaigner of the Year - which as the name implies is exclusive to Railfuture members only. This year's closing date for those nominations will be Monday 1st July 2024.

RUG Awards 2023: last year's RUG Awards presentations happened in July. Eight groups across five of Railfuture's branches submitted 13 nominations in five of the six award categories; five of the eight groups were believed to be participating in the awards for the first time. In this ninth year of the RUG Awards, the winner of the first award presented was the 100th recipient of an award or commendation since their inception! See further details in 2023 below - and Railfuture in the news 17th July-17th August for resulting media coverage.

Railfuture's annual Awards for Rail User Groups, inaugurated in 2012, aim to recognise and reward local volunteers who come together and work tirelessly to improve their local railway - its stations and services - on behalf of their passengers, efforts which all-too-often would otherwise pass unheralded. Newsletters, websites, campaigns, campaigners, new groups, and use of social media - all are in the field for the 'shy and retiring' to be bold and have a go at celebrating success; and yes, self-nomination (except for Best individual RUG Campaigner, for Railfuture members only) is allowed!

The volunteers may be modest but that cannot be said of their achievements. After their eighth year in 2022, the RUG Awards have so far celebrated over 50 RUGs (including station Friends and a Community Rail Partnership), 15 individual campaigners, a Railfuture branch, a winning entry from among a group of Northumberland schools, and in 2018 even a couple of heritage operations.

From the home of 'Brief Encounter' and the Lake District's Windermere branch line to Kent and East Sussex's East Coastway / MarshLink, and from Severnside to Yorkshire, Railfuture rewarded them and others in the 2018 Awards, and many others in previous years as can be seen via the links below.

From friends of stations with one train a week in one direction only, to those valued by volumes of commuters - 'all stations great and small' - Railfuture has recognised and rewarded them, and others. Up to the pause in 2018 after seven successive years, a total of 72 Awards and Commendations had been given, shared between 42 groups, 10 individuals, and one government programme. Yes, from that you can deduce that 19 groups won more than once!

Learn more about all the award-winners and their achievements by clicking on links further down this page.

Click on a year: 2023 / 2022 / 2021 / 2020 / 2019 / 2018 / 2017 / 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012


Awards and Commendations for the five categories in which nominations were received – for best website (the newly-named Adrian Shooter award), newsletter (the Paul Abell award), social media, campaign, and campaigner (the Clara Zilahi award) – were assessed by this year's judging panel of four Railfuture Vice-Presidents, under the ever-watchful eye of awards presenter Hon. President Christian Wolmar. He presented framed certificates to the winners of Awards and Commendations on Saturday 15 July 2023, after lunch following the national Annual General Meeting held in central London. The leading Award-winners then made individual presentations about their work.

For 2023, 10 Awards and 4 Commendations were presented.

Judges' Special Award

Gold Awards (7)
Silver Award
Bronze Award
  • Best Campaign: the ACE Rail campaign, hosted by the Tarka Rail Association. See photo (see Best Social Media above for his presentation).
Commendations (4)
Now view the complete set of all the afternoon's presentations here. For the three videos at slides 66-68 see slide 66, slide 67 and slide 68.


A key date for diaries was Saturday 16 July - presentation of the RUG Awards by Railfuture's Honorary President Christian Wolmar at the national AGM near Bristol Parkway station. Come the day however, he was not well enough to travel and be in others' company and so joined remotely while Vice-President Stewart Palmer presented the framed certificates.

17 Awards plus 10 Commendations were presented after the formal business of the national AGM at Bristol on Saturday 16 July 2022.

Judges' Special Award

Gold Awards
Silver Awards
  • Best Newsletter, the Paul Abell Award: Felixstowe Travel Watch. See website.
  • Best Website: jointly to Skipton & East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership - see photo of SELRAP's Iain Hodgen - and South East Northumberland Rail User Group.
  • Best Campaign: jointly to Fen Line Users Association (see photo of FLUA's Mark Collins) and South East Northumberland Rail User Group (see photo of award, and for Best Campaigner - below - on display in Morpeth station).
  • Best Campaigner, the Clara Zilahi Award: jointly to Andy Shackleton of Skipton & East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership and Dennis Fancett (see photo and Modern Railways article) of South East Northumberland Rail User Group.
Bronze Awards
  • Best Website: jointly to Melksham Transport User Group and Friends of Reddish South Station. See photo of MTUG's Graham Ellis and photo of FoRSS's Kim Burrows.
  • Best Campaign: Friends of Reddish South Station. See photo of FoRSS's Kim Burrows.
  • Best Newsletter: jointly to Huddersfield Penistone Sheffield Rail Users Association and Tarka Rail Association. See photo of TRA's Andy Hedges.
  • Best New Group: Lewes Rail Users Group. See photo of LRUG's Vic Ient and Dr. Janet Baah.
  • Best Social Media: jointly to Witney Oxford Transport Group and Friends of Reddish South Station. See photo of FoRSS's Kim Burrows.
  • Best Website: Magor & Undy Walkway Station. See photo of M&UWS's Laurence Hando.
  • Best Campaign: jointly to Witney Oxford Transport Group and Magor & Undy Walkway Station. See photo of M&UWS's Laurence Hando.
  • Best Campaigner: jointly to Graham Ellis of Melksham Transport User Group and Stephen Waring of Halifax & District Rail Action Group. See photo of Graham Ellis.
In his Informed Sources e-preview for the August 2022 issue of Modern Railways, the magazine's Industry and Technology Editor Roger Ford, aka 'Captain Deltic', said in his blog: "As an Honorary Vice-President of Railfuture, I get the chance to help judge the annual awards. This also includes researching some of the nominations and providing recommendations to my fellow members of the judging panel. As ever, this annual task provided a welcome change from my usual activities. Talking to people about their local campaigns, ranging from restoring services to reopening lines, what impressed me was the professionalism local groups develop when it comes to obtaining support from a wider range of ‘stakeholders’ than I expected. As ever, the judging itself was both fun and enlightening. In particular, this year there was an extensive discussion on campaigners’ use of the various forms of social media."

Watch the afternoon session (1:23:00) here and view the PowerPoint slides here.

By the 2022 closing date for nominations, Easter Saturday, and carrying forward those received by the previous March 2020 closing date before the pandemic disrupted the programme, 36 nominations across all six award categories had been received from 15 groups together with 7 for individual campaigners, across 11 of Railfuture's branches and including all three nations of Great Britain. The judging panel of seven Vice-Presidents deliberated on their preferences for Award-winners, coincidentally on the 85th anniversary of 'Coronation ' 6220 setting a new speed record of 114mph!
Pic by Ian Brown CBE of Alan Williams, Stewart Palmer, organiser Roger Blake, Roger Ford, Chris Green
Left to right: Alan Williams, Stewart Palmer, organiser Roger Blake, Roger Ford, Chris Green (in conversation with Adrian Shooter CBE); apologies for absence received from Chris Irwin. Awards presenter Hon. President Christian Wolmar was also in attendance. Photo by Ian Brown CBE.

Railfuture part-funded a plaque in memory of Vice-President and RUG Awards judging panel member Paul Abell at Ashburys station, dedicated on 16th November 2022 by the Friends of Glossop station; he had passed away in late-October 2021.

Railfuture deeply regrets the passing on 13th December 2022 of Vice President Adrian Shooter CBE, a loyal and devoted member of the RUG Awards judging panel since its inception in the year of his election to this honorary role.


Vice-President and RUG Awards panel judge Paul Abell passed away suddenly and unexpectedly towards the end of October 2021. Since becoming a Vice-President in 2015 Paul put great efforts into his role as a member of the Judging Panel in 2016, 2017, and in 2018 as the most recent Awards. He will be very much missed as the Awards are revived for nominations, judging and then presentations at the July 2022 AGM.

Our next national AGM has been confirmed for Saturday 16 July 2022. The venue will be the same centre which hosted our most recent national conference, in September 2019, a few minutes' walk from Bristol Parkway station. That is currently the target for the next presentation of the unique RUG Awards, by Railfuture.
As it had remained uncertain (as of mid-May 2021) when and to what extent pandemic restrictions would finally be lifted, it remained equally uncertain when the RUG Awards process could resume; it was extremely unlikely and in the end proved impossible to proceed in time for the July 2021 AGM.
Wherever possible updates will be posted here and also in our monthly Rail User Express.


The next Railfuture RUG Awards had been planned to be presented in Birmingham on Saturday 27 June 2020, in the afternoon following our next national AGM. As that AGM had to be cancelled so too were the RUG Award presentations, and the visits to nominees by Vice-Presidents in preparation for their judging panel originally planned for early-June 2020.
The nominations received by the closing date of 1st March 2020 came in for all six award categories, from across all three nations of Britain, and from 9 of our 14 branches. Next steps, in view of the next national AGM now being in the required May-July period in 2021, are likely to be a rolling-forward of the RUG Awards process. Already-submitted nominations will remain valid, and can be supplemented; new nominations will also be welcomed.


What, no Awards this year? Correct. Changes to Railfuture's programme of national events include a review of the Awards timetable and the possibility that the next RUG Awards will be presented at the 2020 Annual General Meeting. More news here, and in Railwatch and Rail User Express, as and when known.

In July 2019 the Cotswold Line Promotion Group honoured its founder Oliver Lovell, in whose memory Railfuture's Best New Group Award has been named since his death in 2013, in association with Great Western Railway.

Easter present for the Lakes line from award-winning private heritage operator! Just before the bank holiday weekend Network Rail announced that West Coast Railways would again run a free shuttle service between Oxenholme and Windermere, during essential engineering work on the adjoining West Coast Main Line. See details.

The year had begun with presentation of a 2018 Award in Carnforth Lancashire, home of West Coast Railways now and 'Brief Encounter' almost 75 years ago. Read more here and here.


The year ended with one of last year's winners, Hadley Wood RUG gaining publicity in RAIL magazine through an article by Railfuture's Hon. President Christian Wolmar for their successful Treegate campaign, challenging Network Rail's approach to lineside vegetation and resulting in the DfT's Varley Review. Read the article here, read the Varley Review here, and read about the 28th November event at Hadley Wood here.

This year's awards nominations again came from across the country, from within our branches for the North West, Yorkshire, Severnside, Thames Valley, and London & South East. Winners were announced and presentations made by Vice-President Stewart Palmer at our annual national autumn conference in Reading, themed as "Rail driving growth in the Thames Valley", on Saturday 10 November.

Yorkshire branch host two of this year's Gold Award winners - the Huddersfield Penistone Sheffield Rail Users Association for Best Newsletter, and the branch's co-Vice-Chair Graham Collett for the Clara Zilahi Award for Best Campaigner.

Severnside branch also host a couple of Gold Award winners - the Great Western Coffee Shop for Best Website, and the South East Wales West of England Business Link (SEWWEB) for the Oliver Lovell Award for Best New Group.

London and South East regional branch saw the Gold Award for Best Campaign go to the Hastings and Rother Rail Users Alliance for the innovative 'Eastbourne Overlap' May 2018 timetable.

The Judges' Special Award was also a double this year, celebrating the growing collaboration between mainline and heritage operations. In conference host Thames Valley branch's area the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway were awarded for completion of their heritage service extension into a new cross-platform interchange at Chiltern Railways' Princes Risborough mainline station, and in the North West the West Coast Railways Company for their early-summer 'Lakelander' service on the Windermere branch after Northern had temporarily withdrawn.

Read the press release announcing this year's seven winners.

View or download the PowerPoint slides presented at the 2018 awards ceremony in Reading.

2018 had begun with 2017 Best Newsletter Gold Award winner Friends of the Far North Line being congratulated in a motion to the Scottish Parliament! See extract from FoFNL January 2018 newsletter.


This year 18 nominations were received from 11 Rail User Groups across eight of our 14 branches - and each branch area had at least one winner of a framed certificate! The Judging Panel of seven Railfuture Vice-Presidents had visited most of the entrants, an innovation in the judging not achieved in previous years. The presentations were made by our Honorary President Christian Wolmar at our annual national autumn conference, this year themed The Dynamic Triangle and held in Leicester on Saturday 4 November.

In his monthly 'Informed Sources' e-Preview on 23 October 2017 our Vice-President Roger Ford has said "Honorary Vice-President of Railfuture is not exactly an onerous role. My main contribution is to sit on the judging panel for the annual awards, which gives me a useful insight into the grass roots railway.
This year, the VPs were asked to go out and visit an entry on the ground. As Hadley Wood is just down the line I popped over to meet the local group organiser who showed me round the station. This was a real eye-opener and may well provide material for this column (in Modern Railways).
Thursday is the judging for the Railfuture awards. This is a convivial occasion, although the judging is taken very seriously. It will be interesting to hear how the other VPs got on with their visits."

Then in his 20 November 2017 'Informed Sources' e-Preview he said "As usual, the meeting of the judging panel for the Railfuture awards was a lively occasion, with some very high quality entries to assess. We are an eclectic bunch, but it was interesting how quickly agreement was reached."

Railfuture Scotland saw Friends of the Far North Line and Devon & Cornwall the Tarka Rail Association each win a 'Best Newsletter' Gold Award for their magazines. The former was reviewed by Stewart Stevenson MSP and the latter were visited by Stewart Palmer.

The 'Best Website' Gold Award went to Stourbridge Line User Group in the West Midlands, visited by Paul Abell. Chris Green visited Thames Valley's Marlow-Maidenhead Passengers' Association who were awarded Silver, and a Commendation went to South East Northumberland Rail User Group in the North East branch area.

Chinley & Buxworth Transport Group on the Hope Valley line in the North West, also visited by Paul Abell, won the Oliver Lovell Award for Best New Group, while Hadley Wood Rail User Group, in Michael Portillo's former Parliamentary constituency and once home to Sir Nigel Gresley, received a Commendation.

The Gold Award for Best Campaign went to the Melksham Rail User Group on the Trans-Wilts line, visited by Stewart Palmer. Hadley Wood RUG, visited by Roger Ford, picked up the Silver Award, while Chesham & District Transport Users' Group, visited by Ian Brown CBE, and Chinley & Buxworth Transport Group each received a Commendation. It was notable that all of the last three have focused on step-free access campaigns.

The Clara Zilahi Award for Best Campaigner in 2017 has been awarded to Francesca Caine, founder and Chair of the Hadley Wood RUG.

This year's Judges' Special Award has been given to The New Stations Fund, for enabling 10 stations to be added to the national network and bring access to rail services closer to local communities.

Read the press release announcing the winners.

View or download the PowerPoint slides presented at the 2017 awards ceremony in Leicester.

Queen's Birthday Honour in 2017 for RUG Award winner
Congratulations to Brian Dunsby on his OBE "For services to Business and the community in Harrogate." Brian won the Clara Zilahi Award for Best Campaigner in Railfuture's annual Awards for Rail Users' Groups in 2015. He also collected the Award for Best Campaign on behalf of the Harrogate Line Supporters' Group.
Brian was until recently the Chief Executive of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, and is Director of Yorkshire Business Market Ltd.


Last year 13 Rail User Groups were in the running for awards in six categories. 17 individual entries were received, coming from groups spread across six of our branch areas. The nominations are judged by an expert panel of our Vice-Presidents, one of whom Roger Ford said in his 'Informed Sources' e-magazine: "November starts with one of the year’s most enjoyable meetings. As an honorary Vice-President of Railfuture I get to join the judging panel for the annual awards. For someone who spends too much time writing about high level policy in these difficult times, it is a refreshing change to help celebrate the successes at the grass roots." Vice-President Stewart Palmer then stood in for Honorary President Christian Wolmar to make the RUG Award presentations at our autumn conference titled "Heart of the railway - how West Midlands will lead the way to the future" held in Birmingham on Saturday 12 November.

From the North West seven RUGs and station Friends threw their proverbial hats into the ring: Copeland RUG, Lancaster and Skipton RUG, Furness Line Action Group, North Cheshire RUG, Friends of Reddish South Station, Friends of St. Anne's Stations, and Friends of Rose Hill Station. The North East had an entry from the South East Northumberland RUG, while Yorkshire saw an entry from Huddersfield Penistone Sheffield RUA. Away from The North, Wales had an entry from the Magor and Undy Station Action Group, Wessex had an entry from the Salisbury to Exeter RUG, while London and South East had entries from the Association of Public Transport Users (Thameslink North) and Cambridge Heath and London Fields RUG.

Now read the Press Release announcing the winners.

View or download the PowerPoint slides presented at the 2016 awards ceremony in Birmingham.


This year the request for nominations was brought forward to allow more time for our Vice-Presidents who made up the judging panel to have a chance to visit entrants and learn about them and their activities in more detail. Vice-President Roger Ford of Modern Railways' Informed Sources said "Joining my fellow Vice-presidents on the judging panel for the Railfuture annual awards is always an enjoyable meeting and provides an insight into the grass roots railway."

Unlike most other awards, Railfuture has no short-list - the judging panel sees every submission, so the playing-field is completely level. Some previous winners have been smart entrants by going for more than one award category! Recognition comes even from just entering, never mind winning.

Ten Rail User Groups were in the running for this year's awards, presented by our President Christian Wolmar at Railfuture's autumn conference in Bristol on Saturday 7 November. Twenty individual entries were received in all six categories, coming from groups spread across five of our branch areas.

Lakes Line RUG and Ribble Valley RUG were entries from the North-West, while Yorkshire saw entries from Friends of the Settle and Carlise Line and Harrogate Line Supporters Group. Further south, Marlow-Maidenhead Passengers' Association entered from the Thames Valley, and in the London and South East branch area entries came from Abbey Flyer Users' Group and for Dartford Rail Travellers' Association. Saltford Station Campaign, Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways, and TransWilts Community Rail Partnership entered from Severnside, which was the host organising branch for our November conference titled "Rail Resurgence in the West of England".

The categories entered were for the Best Newsletter, Website, Campaign, Campaigner, New Group, and Social Media. The judging panel of Railfuture Vice-Presidents also chose to make their own Judges' Special Award. Nominations are made and winners selected according to the latest RUG Awards Rules.

See news article on 2015 winners.

Read the Press Release.

View or download the PowerPoint slides presented at the 2015 awards ceremony in Bristol.


See news article on 2014 Winners.
Read the Press Release.

View or download the PowerPoint slides presented at the 2014 awards ceremony in London.


See news article on 2013 Winners.

View or download the Official Notice of the award winners.

View or download the PowerPoint slides presented at the 2013 awards ceremony in Oxford.


See news article on 2012 Winners.

View or download the Press Release.

View or download the PowerPoint slides presented at the inaugural 2012 awards ceremony in Birmingham.