UK train operating company South Western Railway (SWR) has joined with Hampshire County Council (HCC) to support ‘Travel with Confidence’ – a project to help those travelling with non-visible disabilities.

The project, which is organised by Hampshire Community Rail Partnership (CRP), aims to provide information for people who have non-visible disabilities such as autism, anxiety, or phobias, which can make travelling on public transport a difficult experience.

The first phase of the project, funded by HCC Adult Services, was completed by the CRP with the publication of a booklet of resources called ‘Help is at Hand’ after extensive consultation with local disability groups.

The project’s second phase is now underway, supported by SWR.

This sees Hampshire CRP and other groups working with local charity Winchester Go LD, to help people with non-visible disabilities to travel with confidence. They will also be helping learning disability groups with individual travel planning resources, followed by visits to stations and rail journeys together.

“Train travel can be particularly difficult for people with learning disabilities,” said Betty Chadwick, Winchester Go LD CEO.

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“Stations tend to be busy places; people in a hurry, lots of noise, fast-moving information screens, and general hustle and bustle provide a challenging and chaotic environment for those who find it difficult to process information. For people with a learning disability train stations can be extremely stressful.”

SWR has previously supported with a ‘try the train’ trip, where community ambassadors help reassure and educate those who have not travelled by train before, or those who have limited experience on the railway, to help them see that it can be an accessible mode of transport that everyone can feel comfortable using.

“SWR is always looking for ways to improve access to railway travel and so we were delighted to support Hampshire CRP’s project,” said Paula Aldridge, SWR’s community rail manager.

“We want all our customers to feel confident and comfortable on our services and we hope these resources and the work that Winchester Go LD are doing will make their future journeys on public transport easier.”

SWR is also trialling new AI technology that translates live journey information into British Sign Language, which is displayed through a friendly figure on digital totem screens at Waterloo Station in London.