When Bedford College staff and students celebrated their activities and achievements at their end of academic year event, Thameslink Station Manager Joe Healy was proud to be among the guests.
Joe has organised more than 15 Try a Train trips over the past three years, involving well over 100 students with learning needs or mobility difficulties. The aim is to help participants gain confidence in travelling independently by rail, which can ultimately provide more opportunities in their lives.
Speaking of the end of year celebrations, Joe, who manages Luton Airport Parkway and Harpenden stations, said: “It was a fantastic event. We have a great relationship with Bedford College. I cannot tell you how proud I am to meet these people and do Try a Train events with the students.”
So far this year, Joe has facilitated five Try a Train events with Bedford College students and one so far with Central Bedfordshire College. He has helped at least 55 students feel more confident when it comes to finding their way around railway stations and getting on to trains.
Tutor Karen Fulford, of Bedford College, said: “It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with Thameslink staff, who are always so friendly and professional. Try a Train days have given our students a huge confidence boost and we look forward to taking part in many more of these events in the future.”
Following a recent trip to London St Pancras, one Bedford College student commented: “Everyone was really friendly, and we had a really good day out. It was nice to travel first class too!”
Bedford College support staff, who accompanied the students on the trip, praised the Try a Train scheme. They said: “It gave our students a whole insight into train travel and the experience was very inclusive. It was a very positive experience to help develop independent skills. The students were encouraged to come out of their comfort zones and be independent.”
GTR’s Accessibility Manager Antony Merlyn said: "The Try a Train initiative helps build confidence in using public transport independently. It also helps us to fully understand the wide range of needs our passengers may have, so that we can provide the best accessibility support at stations and on the trains."
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