Northern Rail has announced six projects that will enable more people to access its services after receiving funding from the company’s £250k accessibility innovation fund.
The successful projects, described as “game-changing” by the company, were chosen by the Northern Accessibility User Group (NAUG) from a round of bids by various organisations such as the Signapse Project and the Cumbrian Coast Line Community Rail Partnership, which will create digital display panels and leaflets to promote active and accessible travel.
Chair of the NAUG Mark Wilson said: “What has been so impressive is the enthusiasm and commitment around schemes that help encourage older and disabled people to try the train for the first time or to return to rail travel.
“When added to an inspiring focus on supporting those with less visible and sensory disabilities, we have a cracking set of awards that will continue to build passenger confidence.”
Projects that will receive funding include South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority’s accessibility hub loaning mobility scooters and wheelchairs to aid elderly and disabled customers taking the train at Meadowhall in Sheffield, as well as Community Rail Cumbria’s soulful days out project to encourage older communities to take days out on the train.
The Community Rail Lancashire ‘Adventures for All’ scheme to engage autistic passengers using interactive activities is designed to encourage rail confidence and will also receive a portion of the funding.
Other projects selected by the judging panel include innovative, technology-focussed ideas such as the Signapse Project trial which uses AI to offer BSL interpretations of customer announcements at Manchester Victoria, as well as the Chrome Angel Solutions VR simulation which is used to train staff on how to deal with customers and provide good assistance to those who need it.
The Signapse BSL information trail at the Manchester Victoria station follows a similar initiative in the city’s Picadilly station, which has been rolling out across the country since it was first launched at London Euston in 2021.
Mark Powles, Northern’s commercial and customer director, highlighted the company’s dedication to making its services accessible. He said: “The fund is part of our wider project to transform our network and encourage people to use public transport – no matter their circumstances.”
Northern recently won a Rail Business Award for the development of an accessible travel simulation app.
Northern is not the only rail company looking to improve accessibility on railway lines in the UK however, with Heathrow Express recently partnering with the London Titans wheelchair basketball team to launch an accessibility charter.