Devon winners-3

Community heroes from Devon have GWR train named in their honour

Village champion Preston de Mendonça and inspirational street performer Jeremy Doyle unveiled their own train as Great Western Railway celebrated their community heroics.

Preston, from Cornwood in the South Hams, and Jeremy, from Totnes, were chosen as BBC Make a Difference Superstars for selflessly helping others at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Preston inspired those around him in the village, promoting initiatives to build community cohesion, reduce isolation and support struggling families.  

Jeremy rallied to the aid of residents in Totnes, carrying out various repairs, teaching DIY skills, fixing IT issues and putting on a series of street concerts.

The pair were selected as BBC Make a Difference Superstars by judges following a link-up between the BBC and GWR to celebrate those people going above and beyond to help others in their communities.

Now their names feature at either end of Intercity Express Train 802018 as GWR continues to honour BBC Make a Difference Superstars from nine regions across the network.

South West Devon MP Gary Streeter said:

“Preston’s community spirit was an example to many and typified the way that our communities pulled together through unprecedented times. I am delighted that his selfless public service has been recognised by GWR.”

Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall said:

“I am very pleased that Jeremy’s selfless efforts during the pandemic have been recognised and that there will be a lasting reminder of his contribution to the community. This honour is very well deserved and reflects the gratitude of the residents of Totnes.”

Great Western Railway Regional Station Manager West Mark Chorley said:

“Preston and Jeremy went to incredible lengths to support their communities and we’re thrilled to add their names to the side of an Intercity Express Train.  

“The GWR has a long and proud history of naming trains after Great Westerners – past and present heroes from across our network – and it’s a real treat to add these two community stalwarts to that list.

“It was a privilege to partner with the BBC Make a Difference campaign and the stories which featured on BBC local radio were truly overwhelming.”

Head of Audio and Digital for BBC England Chris Burns said: 

“We have been amazed by the response of many listeners to our Make a Difference campaign on Local BBC Radio, as listeners have been helping each other out throughout the pandemic. 

“It has been humbling to learn about the kind-hearted efforts of so many in our communities and Preston and Jeremy are great examples to the rest of us. Congratulations to them and to the team at BBC Radio Devon.”

Preston de Mendonca Edit


Preston helped to set up a group of volunteers to keep the village shop open when the owner had to shield during the lockdowns. It meant the shop survived and was key to food supplies for many in the village. The shop is now thriving as people realise how important it is to the community.

He also helped set up a Good Neighbour Group to make sure no-one fell through the gaps of lockdown if their usual support networks failed. It has since morphed into a dispersed, informal, rapid, community communication network, helping to bring villagers closer together.

Justin Reece nominated Preston for the award and said:

“Preston has been a brilliant leader in Cornwood. When lockdown struck he was a key organiser in setting up a Good Neighbours scheme, kept the village shop going as much as restrictions allowed and kept up distribution of gifted food to those who depended on it.

“Utterly self-effacing and modest, Preston would not wish to take credit for any of this, but without his quiet determination, tenacity and stealthy ability to get other people to volunteer much of this would not have happened.”

Jeremy Doyle Edit


Jeremy proved to be a community champion in Totnes, organising a support group to assist with shopping, carrying out a series of DIY jobs including showing neighbours how to make their own wooden benches, fixing a neighbour’s car, helping with IT issues and even feeding a young person’s rabbit.

But his biggest impact was arranging and playing in three socially-distanced concerts in his street, arranging for the concerts to go out live on Facebook for others to enjoy. 

Neighbour Mick Rusling nominated him for the award and said:

“Jeremy has always been extremely helpful but since the outbreak of the pandemic he’s been truly inspirational. He organised a support group in our street and two neighbouring streets to help each other with shopping, in particular supporting those who were high risk and unable to venture out.

“He gave out plants, showed people how to construct wooden benches, loaned tools, rewired my light, fixed a neighbour’s dinghy, drove people to hospital appointments… the list goes on.

“But perhaps his most inspirational thing was arranging, playing and singing at three socially-distanced concerts, which was a real lift for people, especially those living alone with limited social contact.”

Notes to editors

First Greater Western Limited, trading as “Great Western Railway” (GWR), operates trains across the Great Western franchise area, which includes South Wales, the West Country, the Cotswolds, across southern England and into London. GWR provides high speed, commuter, regional and branch line train services, and before the covid-19 pandemic helped over 100 million passengers reach their destinations every year. GWR was recently awarded an extension to its direct award franchise (called DA3), which shall run up to 31 March 2023 with an option to extend for a further year. 

Find out more here: 

GWR has been providing rail services throughout the pandemic and has worked to ensure that these are as safe as possible, including enhanced cleaning regimes. This work continues as it starts to welcome more people back to the railway.

The train operator has also provided extra staff at key stations to offer help and guidance.

Travelling by train is low risk as carriages are well ventilated with air regularly refreshed either by air-conditioning systems, or by doors and windows being opened.

GWR’s enhanced cleaning regime includes:

  • A 24% increase in cleaning hours every week since March 2020
  • Sanitising (fogging) of 1,120 vehicles every 4 weeks
  • Carrying out 2,150 on board surface tests (ATP) every four weeks, to ensure the effectiveness of our cleaning
  • 272 train cleaning processes reviewed, and many adapted
  • Hand sanitising facilities at key stations across its network.

Contact Information

John Carter

Media and Communications Manager

Great Western Railway

0845 410 4444

07715 040424