Mobile support teams planned to improve accessibility at Sandy and Arlesey railway stations

The teams are part of a new Accessible Travel Policy from Govia Thameslink Railway

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 4:54 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st April 2021, 9:54 am

New mobile support teams are set to serve Sandy and Arlesey railway stations as part of a new initiative by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to make travelling easier.

GTR has unveiled a new Accessible Travel Policy, which it says will help 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.

As part of this promise, the company has said its 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 is will begin once passenger bookings reach 50 per cent of pre-Covid levels.

Liz Mead, accessibility champion at nearby Stevenage station.

GTR says it 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, one of the ambassadors, 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.”

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’s has further pledged to retrain all 3,000 customer-facing colleagues by July 31 in courses refreshed by experts who are disabled themselves. So far, 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 July 31, new staff at all levels throughout the company will begin receiving the same learning.

From April 1 it has reduced the notice passengers are asked to give to pre-book assistance from the day before to six hours before travel. In April 2022 this will be further reduced to two hours before travel.

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 is also planned, along with more than 80 improvements already implemented to make them easier for blind or visually impaired people to access and read.

And there will be new signs at 38 of GTR’s larger stations showing people where to find assisted travel information, such as ticketing and timetabling etc.