Press release -
Disabled practitioners help GTR station and train staff give better assistance on railway
Govia Thameslink Railway has trained almost 3,000 customer-facing colleagues from Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express in ways to improve the service they give disabled and older passengers on the railway.
The disability equality courses were delivered by experts who are disabled themselves and use trains frequently. Sessions explored the barriers customers face, how to offer assistance and how to communicate effectively. This gave station and train customer service staff a unique insight into the challenges disabled customers face.
Ralph Lallau, 24, from Islington, found his accessibility training “eye opening” and has been putting it to good use with Great Northern, assisting passengers at Finsbury Park in London where many trains were terminating during recent engineering work.
He said: “The training was great. I didn’t know anybody who was disabled so, having a trainer who was themselves disabled, meant it was my first time looking at a situation from their perspective – it gave me real empathy. I take my cue from the customer; I never try to assume anything because only they know what they need.”
Senesie Koroma at London Bridge said: "My aim is to get you where you are going as easily as possible."
Ramla Abshir-Slevin at East Croydon said: “I found it really helpful to speak to and be trained by people who are disabled and actually travel by train."
Sarah Rennie, who is a wheelchair user (pictured below), owns the company which delivers the courses GTR has developed and is renowned nationally for her expertise.
Sarah said: “It’s been really positive. The staff are very enthusiastic, ready to learn and get involved. It’s something they’ve been hungry for.
“It’s very apparent in the sessions that everything staff have been told about disabled customers hasn’t come from disabled people, which isn’t great. We share experiences with staff, ‘This happened, this is how I felt. How would you have done it differently?’ This is a step change. We’re really getting involved in changing those practices. All credit to GTR for bringing in disabled trainers.”
Chief Operating Officer Steve White said: “We made a commitment in March to give everyone the ability to travel with us independently and with confidence. This huge training programme is a vital part of our journey of improvement.
“The number of people travelling with us and needing assistance has fallen by almost 90% on our trains. Obviously, that’s down to the pandemic but the fall-off is much greater in this group of customers. That’s why we’ve been busy in lockdown, investing in disabled trainers to make a real difference as we strive to improve our service. We’re ready for you when you want to come back.”
Now that GTR has trained all its available station and train customer service colleagues the company is pressing ahead with giving the same training to everyone else who works here, at all levels of management including the Boardroom.
Notes to editors
Customer-facing staff are also receiving additional training in putting down ramps from trains to platforms, pushing wheelchair users, and guiding a blind or partially-sighted person
Office of Rail and Road statistics, released on 1 July (click here for report) show there were 88% fewer passenger bookings and assists made in 2020-21 compared with 2019-20.
For more information, contact the press office on 0203 750 2031.
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 (currently suspended during the pandemic)