In a UK-first, accessibility advisors at Brighton & Hove Buses and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) have worked together with adults with a learning disability to support them in making an integrated journey by both bus and train.

This is thought to be the first time that a bus operator and a rail operator have come together to offer a combined experience such as this, in partnership with an organisation like Grace Eyre.

Grace Eyre is a Brighton & Hove-based charity whose Travel Training programme transforms the lives of people with learning disabilities and autism by increasing their confidence to travel independently.

Accessibility managers Victoria Garcia (Brighton & Hove Buses) and Carl Martin (GTR) joined eight of the people supported by Grace Eyre on a Number 7 bus to Brighton Railway Station.

Along the way they acted out everyday scenarios such as how to deal with a missing bus pass and journey planning to give their guests the knowledge and confidence to travel independently.

At the station, Carl showed the eight, who are all local residents, how to check train times, buy a ticket and ask for assistance. They then boarded a train to Haywards Heath before returning by a specially laid-on ‘rail replacement bus’, to show the alternative transport used if rail services are disrupted.

Both GTR and Brighton & Hove Buses have their own well-established programmes to give people who may need assistance or who feel anxious about using public transport the confidence to travel independently, with Grace Eyre providing unique travel training via their Travel Buddy project. This latest initiative is thought to be the first time two companies have worked together to demonstrate how accessible, with the right support, it can be to make a single trip by both bus and train.

Carl Martin, Accessibility Lead at GTR, said: “At Govia Thameslink Railway, we’re on a journey of improvement to give everyone the confidence to travel with us. This ground-breaking collaboration between bus and train has the potential to transform lives for some of the people in our community by giving them the self-assurance to travel independently. We were delighted to be able to join forces with two organisations who share our commitment and values.”

Victoria Garcia, Accessibility Communities Manager at Brighton & Hove Buses, said: “Transport links are vital in providing everyone access to work, education, healthcare and social inclusion. Working with Grace Eyre in recent years, in support of their Travel Training programmes, have been hugely successful in increasing passenger confidence and independent living.

“This year, for the time ever, we have been able to consider the full end-to-end journey, by partnering with the team at GTR who share in our commitment to building confidence, improving public transport and changing lives in the community. Every passenger journey is different, and we are extremely proud that we can now address this as a result of this great partnership.”

Claire Hudson, Travel Buddy Manager for Grace Eyre said: “Grace Eyre’s Travel Buddy team is thrilled to be working with both GTR and Brighton & Hove Buses to help people with learning disabilities experience the freedom that independent travel can bring. Like GTR and Brighton & Hove Buses, we want more people to feel confident in using public transport so that they can be a part of and contribute to their communities and it’s brilliant to be working together to achieve this.”

Picture caption: Thumbs up to integrated journeys on public transport: Accessibility managers Victoria Garcia of Brighton & Hove Buses (kneeling, left) and Carl Martin of Govia Thameslink Railway (in wheelchair) joined Grace Eyre Travel Buddy Manager (Team Leader) Claire Hudson (kneeling next to Victoria) to help train a group of Sussex residents with learning disabilities how to travel independently

Group of people at railway station with trains in the background