Thameslink has given five young Bedfordshire people with learning difficulties the knowledge and confidence to travel by train, helping develop their independence.
Two Thameslink station managers from Bedford and Harpenden last week took the Central Bedfordshire College students and their carers on a trip from Luton Airport Parkway to St Pancras International.
They showed the youngsters – one of whom uses a wheelchair – how to find their way around a station, how to buy a ticket, how to use automatic ticket gates and to see what it’s like to travel on a train. Some had never travelled by train before.
Bedford station manager Joe Healy led the experience, helped at Luton Airport Parkway by its station manager Bernie Lee, who is also station manager of Harpenden.
They were helped by Taylor, who is one of the candidates on Thameslink’s Prince’s Trust ‘Get Into Railways’ programme, which helps young adults into employment.
During the ‘Try A Train’ journey to London, Joe ran a questions and answers session and on arrival gave the group a helpful tour of St Pancras and King’s Cross next door.
Joe has run dozens of similar ‘Try A Train’ events over four years and is a finalist in next week’s National RailStaff Awards in recognition of his work.
Joe said: “I really enjoy it; it’s just the satisfaction on their faces as they gain confidence. They were really excited. I was talking to one of the girls and said, ‘Would you travel on the trains again?’ because she wouldn’t before and she said yes, she would. She had some learning difficulties. It feels so great to hear that you’re making a real difference.”
Claire Andrews, college tutor, said: “I would like to thank Joe and his team at GTR so much for the generous and fantastic opportunity they have given my students. Living so close to our local train stations is great but young adults with disabilities and their families can find it very daunting and a scary prospect if they haven’t done it before.
“This experience has helped to build their confidence when using public transport and we will continue to work on the skills that they have learnt. Joe and his team were so accommodating, friendly and approachable – big thanks to them all.”