International Day of Persons with Disabilities - Chris
by Chris Jeffery, Accessibility Co-ordinator, TransPennine Express
I’m Chris, and I’m the Accessibility Co-ordinator at train company TransPennine Express (TPE). I’ve been a railway enthusiast for as long as I can remember, and as I’m registered blind I was keen to work in a position where I could combine my knowledge of trains with my lived experience as a disabled person to make the railway even more accessible for all.
I joined TPE after working as a Manager in a Contact Centre where Passenger Assist bookings were made. I am particularly passionate about the Passenger Assist service, which supports those who need extra help to travel by train, as I’ve used it myself many times.
I know that for some, this service is what makes the difference between being able to travel and having to stay at home so, it’s important that we get it right as an industry. Part of my role now is to look at ways the Passenger Assist service can be improved, and I do this by collaborating with colleagues at other operators and the Rail Delivery Group.
I’m also really interested in how we can make the railways more accessible to people who want to travel independently, and what new facilities we can provide to help everyone.
The second part of my role is managing projects which improve the accessibility of our stations and trains. I’m proud that TPE recently opened its first Changing Places toilet at Manchester Airport station, and we have a second one opening soon in Dewsbury.
We are currently working on several improvements to help people with visual impairments navigate around our stations independently. And we are also working to bring a number of improvements to help people with hearing improvements access our services more easily.
I think railway accessibility has improved considerably over the last ten years, but we still have a lot of work to do. My ambition for the industry is more collaborative working to ensure that we’re providing a consistent experience for customers no matter which company they’re travelling with. We’re making a great start on this as I speak!
My final message to rail customers with disabilities would be to get involved. By sharing what works and what doesn’t work for you, you can help shape the railways of the future.
Some operators, including TPE, have Facebook groups where you can share your ideas and opinions. Many also have Passenger Panels you could join, and you can of course always email, write to or call your local operator with your ideas. They all have someone responsible for accessibility, and they all share my passion for delivering a railway which is accessible for everyone.