Press release -
UK’s largest rail network pledges better assistance for millions across the South East
- New Accessible Travel Policy sees disabled passengers help train colleagues across Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express, to create a more accessible railway
Customer service teams at Britain’s biggest rail franchise have pledged to 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.
Disabled people, the elderly and vulnerable, and others who need support will all benefit from an improved focus on their needs with Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express, says Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) as it unveils its pledge in a new Accessible Travel Policy.
GTR 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, an Accessibility Ambassador who works at London Bridge, 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.”
Southern Customer Services Director Chris Fowler said: “Customer service is at the heart of our railway and all train operators are on a real journey of improvement. We know how daunting it can be to travel when you need assistance. We want to create a more accessible and inclusive railway, where everyone has the confidence to travel no matter what their disability or need for assistance.”
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 already has many helpful tools and processes in place which passengers may not know about and is working across the rail industry to ensure a joined-up approach to improve accessible travel.
GTR’s newly launched policy further promises:
- Better accessibility training – GTR has pledged to retrain all 3,000 customer-facing colleagues by 31 July in courses refreshed by experts who are disabled themselves. 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 31 July, new staff at all levels throughout the company will begin receiving the same learning.
- Less time needed to book assistance from 1 April – Passengers are always welcome to turn up at a station unannounced but, for added confidence, the notice they’re asked to give to pre-book assistance, will be reduced from the day before (by 10pm), to six hours before travel from 1 April, and two hours before travel in April 2022.
- Better ‘Turn Up & Go’ service for 41 smaller stations – New 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 will begin once passenger bookings reach 50% of pre-Covid levels.
- Enhanced information – 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.
- Website improvements – GTR has also made more than 80 improvements on the Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express websites to make them easier for blind or visually impaired people to access and read.
- Clear signposting – New signs at 38 of GTR’s larger stations showing people where to find assisted travel information, such as ticketing and timetabling etc.
Three members of GTR’s Access Advisory Panel feature in this new staff training video (available for media use).
Read their case studies and download their pictures here:
- Wheelchair user Fiona Bower from Bexhill
- Blind passenger Yusuf Osman from Croydon
- Wheelchair user David Proud, from Peterborough
Panel member Croydon resident Yusuf Osman, who is blind and features in the staff training videos, said: “This new Accessible Travel Policy shows that GTR has been listening to what we have been saying on the Access Advisory Panel, involving us in the decision-making process and valuing what we have to say.
“The new policy is a pledge by GTR, a commitment to passengers who have difficulties travelling independently, to do everything they can to make it as painless and easy as possible, whether that’s someone elderly who needs a bit of help with the luggage or others with a wheelchair or someone with autism, a hidden disability.”
Notes to editors
- GTR is offering media access to disabled members of its Access Advisory Panel, to speak about their experience and how GTR’s initiative will impact their day-to-day lives.
- They feature on this training video which media have permission to use.
- GTR is also offering media access to two of its Accessibility Ambassadors who work on the network and champion excellent passenger assistance among colleagues.
- Read about Liz Mead, who works on Thameslink and Great Northern
- Read about Tom Easdown, who works at London Bridge for Southern and Thameslink
- The GTR Access Advisory Panel provides us with support and guidance in providing a network where everyone has the confidence to travel. The panel consists of volunteer passengers who share their travel experiences and give constructive feedback. The panel was brought together to represent the needs of all of our passengers, including:
- Passengers with visual/hearing impairments
- Passengers travelling with young children
- Elderly passengers requiring assistance when travelling
- Passengers with hidden disabilities
- Passengers with physical disabilities
- This important panel meets every two months to share their views and put practical ideas for improvements before our senior managers. Their recommendations will help to us to continue to enhance accessibility on our trains and at our stations.
- The Accessible Travel Policy can be downloaded from the Southern, Great Northern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express websites (Gatwick Express is temporarily suspended during the pandemic). The ATP has been approved by the Office of Rail and Road and forms part of GTR’s operating licence.
- A “Making Rail Accessible” passenger leaflet is available at all staffed stations or can be downloaded from the: Southern, Great Northern, Thameslinkand Gatwick Express websites.
- The stations where the mobile teams will operate are:
GTR monitors and evaluates its performance through a range of methods:
- Mystery shopping – with approximately 30 journeys per quarter, disabled people provide a scorecard and a video recording of staff’s interaction with them.
- Surveys and requests for feedback provided to every journey where assistance has been booked.
- Audits of an average of 150 stations and 380 train services each month.
- Analysis of results from the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS), the regular industry Wavelength studies and GTR’s own monthly Customer Satisfaction Study.
- Reviews by GTR’s Accessible Travel Programme Steering Group which has representatives from departments across Govia Thameslink Railway.
- The support of GTR’s Access Advisory Panel to support and challenge GTR in delivering accessible services.
Access for All Schemes
More and more stations are being made accessible using the Government’s ‘Access for All’ fund. In the past two years three stations have been made ‘step-free’: Selhurst, Coulsdon South and Crawley. A further 18 stations will be made step-free by 2024: Eridge, Finsbury Park, Palmers Green, Alexandra Palace, Biggleswade, Catford, Crowborough, East Grinstead, Hertford North, Leatherhead, Streatham, Tooting, South Croydon, Cricklewood, Luton, Mill Hill Broadway, Wivelsfield and Flitwick.
Additional £1.6m funding to improve access
GTR is also investing £1.6m in small scale interventions which make a real difference to disabled people, such as accessible toilets, ramps to station facilities, easier to access customer information points, wide ticket gates, tactile surfaces, and tactile maps.
For any further information please contact GTR Media Relations on:
firstname.lastname@example.org 0203 750 2031
And Spider PR on:
GTR@wearespider.com 0207 403 6900
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