A TEAM of volunteers who help railway passengers in their spare time have clinched a national award.
Members of Grand Central’s station ambassadors scheme give up their Sundays to help travellers heading to and from Hartlepool train station.
With the station unmanned on Sundays, they pass on details of delays, timetable changes and engineering work.
The scheme, which was the first of its kind nationwide, has proved so successful that it has been extended to Eaglescliffe.
Its growth has also been recognised at this year’s Community Rail Awards by finishing second in the event’s passengers matter section.
Three members of the team travelled from town to Swindon to receive their award.
Hartlepool Ambassadors co-ordinator Martin Green said: “I was proud that the team got this award.
“The team has received positive feedback from many passengers and I congratulate all of them for their commitment and contribution.”
Volunteer Vic Branfoot, who attended the ceremony with fellow ambassadors Ada Shears and Jamie Scully, added: “We felt how it might have been to win a silver medal at the Olympics.
“To come second in a national event is a tremendous achievement for the team yet it was also a case of being so near yet so far.
“More importantly to bring good news about a Hartlepool project to a national audience was really good.”
The ceremony marked a happy end to a difficult week for Grand Central staff and volunteers.
It had started with the funeral of former Grand Central managing director Tom Clift, one of the masterminds behind the return of London trains to Hartlepool five years ago, following his death last month.
The company’s general manager, Sean English, who was also at the ceremony, praised the ambassadors for their work and added: “The ambassador scheme was Tom’s brainchild.
“It is so sad that he couldn’t have been with us at Swindon.”
The ambassadors were beaten to first place in the awards, which are run by the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, by Southern rail company’s Eyewitness campaign .
Eyewitness enables staff and passengers to report details of low-level vandalism and damage before such problems escalate.
The ambassadors scheme was started two years ago by members of the Friends of Hartlepool and Seaton station groups.
It has proved so popular that it now has a waiting list of prospective members.