- New Accessible Travel Policy sees disabled passengers help train colleagues across Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express, to create a more accessible railway
Customer service teams at Britain's biggest rail franchise have pledged to make travelling by train easier for millions of people who need help and assistance when they return to the railway in the coming weeks and months.
Disabled people, the elderly and vulnerable, and others who need support will all benefit from an improved focus on their needs with Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express, says Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) as it unveils its pledge in a new Accessible Travel Policy.
GTR listened to the views of its Access Advisory Panel, stakeholder groups and employees to ensure it built on its work to date and challenged itself to do better when creating the policy. The panel is made up of disabled passengers who frequently travel with GTR and has been in place since 2015.
Additionally, Accessibility Ambassadors who champion excellent passenger assistance among colleagues are working across the network. Tom Easdown, an Accessibility Ambassador who works at London Bridge, explained: "Although the pandemic has put a stop to most things, the quieter times have allowed us to take a step back and look at what we can change and improve. I want travel to be fair for everyone."
Southern Customer Services Director Chris Fowler said: "Customer service is at the heart of our railway and all train operators are on a real journey of improvement. We know how daunting it can be to travel when you need assistance. We want to create a more accessible and inclusive railway, where everyone has the confidence to travel no matter what their disability or need for assistance."
Thameslink and Great Northern Customer Services Director Jenny Saunders added: "People come first on our railway. We know as an industry we can do better and we're determined to work even harder to empower disabled people and others in need of assistance by making our services easier to use and giving everyone the confidence to travel."
GTR already has many helpful tools and processes in place which passengers may not know about and is working across the rail industry to ensure a joined-up approach to improve accessible travel.
GTR's newly launched policy further promises:
- Better accessibility training - GTR has pledged to retrain all 3,000 customer-facing colleagues by 31 July in courses refreshed by experts who are disabled themselves. 2,000 have already been through most of the course, which is delivered by disabled people who have worked in the rail industry and use trains. From 31 July, new staff at all levels throughout the company will begin receiving the same learning.
- Less time needed to book assistance from 1 April - Passengers are always welcome to turn up at a station unannounced but, for added confidence, the notice they're asked to give to pre-book assistance, will be reduced from the day before (by 10pm), to six hours before travel from 1 April, and two hours before travel in April 2022.
- Better 'Turn Up & Go' service for 41 smaller stations - New mobile support teams will reach 41 unstaffed or partly-staffed stations within 20 minutes to give assistance to passengers who need a ramp to board the train - this trial will begin once passenger bookings reach 50% of pre-Covid levels.
- Enhanced information - Better detailed information about the accessibility of every GTR station on National Rail Enquiries and the websites of Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express.
- Website improvements - GTR has also made more than 80 improvements on the Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express websites to make them easier for blind or visually impaired people to access and read.
- Clear signposting - New signs at 38 of GTR's larger stations showing people where to find assisted travel information, such as ticketing and timetabling etc.
Three members of GTR's Access Advisory Panel feature in this new staff training video (available for media use).
Read their case studies and download their pictures here:
- Wheelchair user Fiona Bower from Bexhill
- Blind passenger Yusuf Osman from Croydon
- Wheelchair user David Proud, from Peterborough
Panel member Croydon resident Yusuf Osman, who is blind and features in the staff training videos, said: "This new Accessible Travel Policy shows that GTR has been listening to what we have been saying on the Access Advisory Panel, involving us in the decision-making process and valuing what we have to say.
"The new policy is a pledge by GTR, a commitment to passengers who have difficulties travelling independently, to do everything they can to make it as painless and easy as possible, whether that's someone elderly who needs a bit of help with the luggage or others with a wheelchair or someone with autism, a hidden disability."