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Great Northern Try a Train day hailed a success after boosting confidence of autism group

Press release   •   Jun 26, 2019 16:34 BST

Red2Green learners enjoyed a train trip to Shepreth Wildlife Park as part of Great Northern's Try a Train experience

Six people with autism now feel more confident about travelling by train after having taken part in Great Northern’s Try a Train experience.

Learners from the Red2Green charity, which helps people with learning disabilities and autism gain life skills, enjoyed a Try a Train day with Great Northern on Monday (24 June).

To start with, the Cambridge-based group were given a tour of Cambridge railway station by Great Northern staff. They were shown how to buy tickets, use the ticket gates and look out for information boards and signs. After learning about the station, they set off on a train to Shepreth for a visit to Shepreth Wildlife Park, where the highlights included meerkats, bats and tigers.

Learners were accompanied by Great Northern’s Stephen Shead-Nichols, who works in Letchworth ticket office, Community Rail Partnership Project Officer Sarah Grove, Red2Green tutor Sally Hulme, a Red2Green teaching assistant and a volunteer.

Sally said: “It was a great day. You could see a big difference in the learners’ confidence by the end of it. I was very impressed with the Try a Train scheme. A lot of our learners don’t drive and aren’t likely to drive, so they’re very reliant on public transport. The idea is that they’re all capable of travelling independently, but it was just about getting them confident to do that.”

Sally praised rail staff for putting her learners at ease and making the day “great fun.” She added: “One of the comments made before the trip was the fact you have to deal with officials sometimes. They would have seen Stephen as an official, so to meet him made them feel at ease about approaching someone at the station and asking for help.”

Following the success of the day, Sally is keen to take more learners on Try a Train days.

Great Northern’s Stephen said: “I really enjoyed accompanying the group to the wildlife park. I encouraged them to ask lots of questions and was delighted when they said they felt comfortable using our services. The day went even better than I could have hoped for and it was an absolute pleasure to work with Red2Green.”

Sarah, who covers the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton stations, said: “One of the things people with autism or people who are nervous do is look at the floor, but signs are head height or above, so we practised looking up. We also looked at safety features such as the white lines, yellow lines and tactile surfaces. Both train rides went smoothly. On the way back, we talked about how they were feeling, and everyone agreed they were feeling more confident about going on a train trip.”

Sarah added: “They were a very engaged group because they had been studying transport as a topic and that’s why this day was a really good tie in. They were really interested to get on an actual train.”

Great Northern’s Try a Train events provide an ideal opportunity for those who lack confidence travelling by train to visit our stations and to experience a train journey. They are aimed at those who have both hidden and physical disabilities.

Govia Thameslink Railway

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:

  • Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/Littlehampton/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London and Sevenoaks
  • Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
  • Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
  • Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria,,,