SLCs inform ‘Try a Train’ event

Sight Loss Councils (SLC) are working with Govia Thameslink Railway to shape and pilot an event specifically designed to encourage blind and partially sighted (BPS) people to ’Try a Train’. This initiative aims to increase BPS people’s confidence in using trains, enabling them to travel independently.

Members of London and South West London SLCs attended the pilot event designed for BPS people at three major stations in London. There are plans to roll this out at other locations this later this year.

During the trial event, a team of station supervisors and managers met the group as they took the train between King’s Cross, Finsbury Park and St Pancras. These stations were chosen because they are particularly busy which can make them difficult to navigate.

The supervisors showed the group the full range of facilities and assistance on hand, designed to give everyone the confidence to travel independently.

This included where to find staff, toilets and lifts. They highlighted that if someone ever needs reassurance on a platform, there’s a help point to put them in touch with someone who will keep an eye on them with CCTV.

Mary Cox, South West London SLC member, disembarking a train with her guide dog, as a member of staff looks on.

SLC member, Mary, disembarking a train with her guide dog

On the trains, SLC members found out about onboard facilities. This includes accessible toilets, and features including how to get in touch with the driver using the passenger communication alarm.

At Finsbury Park they discovered how to navigate the station. This included using new lifts and onward travel links with bus and Tube.

During the trial, SLC members were able to provide valuable feedback on how the experience can be further adapted for BPS travellers.

Feedback from the trial

Harry Meade, South West London SLC member, said:

“I do feel that other blind and partially sighted people would find a tour like this illuminating and useful. This is especially true for those who are less confident travellers.

“Navigating a busy station has always been a problem for me so I would always seek the assistance that is on offer.”

Harry Meade, South West London SLC member, standing in front of a help point at the station. He is holding his long cane.

Harry, SLC member, using a help point at the station

Lucy Williams, Senior Engagement Manager for South England, added:

“Sight Loss Councils across England are prioritising making transport accessible because blind and partially sighted people have told us being able to travel independently and safely matters to them the most.

“We are pleased to be working with Govia Thameslink Railway to help shape an event specifically for blind and partially sighted people, and their commitment to increasing accessibility and confidence to travel.

“Our members definitely found the event useful and feel it would benefit others.”

Antony Merlyn, Accessibility Manager at Govia Thameslink Railway, said:

“The core purpose of these trips is to encourage independent travel and to help overcome any potential barriers. We will always tailor the event around what the groups want to explore. This was a good trip; I felt it made a real difference and we are very happy to host more of them.”

Sight Loss Councils will also work with GTR to trial similar events across the South East later this Spring.

Vicky and Emmanuel, SLC members, are stood with their backs to the camera, whilst reading a sign to the underground. Vicky is touching the sign with her fingers as she reads it.

SLC members, Vicky and Emmanuel, looking at signage at the station

Make Transport Accessible

We want to build a world where blind and partially sighted people have full access to the public transport they need. Our work focusses on raising awareness and demanding change at both local and national levels. We do this by working with local authorities, central government and transport operators.

Learn more about our work to #MakeTransportAccessible.

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Publication date: 03 January 2024

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