The official launch of the SER Accessible Travel Advisory Panel took place at the Hilton Tower Bridge yesterday. As a member of this newly formed panel, Community Lines Team Manager and 1066 Line Officer Catherine Simmons attended and joined a diverse group with real life experience of travelling as passengers with a range of accessibility needs from across the SER region. With previous experience training  young people with accessibility barriers on accessing the railway independently, running Try a Train days out and as a frequent traveler on the network it’s hoped personal experience and those brought forward by communities along the 1066 Hastings to Tonbridge Line through the line steering group will drive positive changes at stations to make them more accessible to all.

The panel is led by former Paralympian and Access Consultant, Andy Barrow and the panel is made up of 15 members. For the launch event the panel were joined by Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris and David Wornham and colleagues from Southeastern.

Accessible Travel Advisory Panel Chair, Andy Barrow said:

“I’m passionate about people with any kind of impairment having full parity when using the rail network. I’ve been working closely with Southeastern to help their staff empathise with the day to day challenges that people can experience when travelling by train.

“Southeastern is making strides in how it responds to the needs of people with different access needs, but recognises that there’s more to do, and so when our findings are acted upon, the changes made will have a lasting and meaningful impact.”

Accessibility Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“I was delighted to attend Southeastern’s panel today and hear from such a wide variety of people with lived experience of accessibility issues.

“It’s vital that we continue to have these discussions as we make critical accessibility improvements across our transport network”.

Southeastern Passenger Services Director, David Wornham said:

“At Southeastern, our aim is to involve disabled people at an early stage of decision-making, and this panel is part of our ongoing commitment to make stations and trains across the network open to all.

“The panel will provide teams across Southeastern with informed opinions and guidance on upcoming projects as the members share their lived experiences, highlighting potential improvements or issues that may not otherwise have been considered.”

Lucy McAuliffe, Network Rail Southern region Stations Director, said:

“Making our stations open and accessible for all users is my priority. The introduction of SignLive, a sign language interpretation services for deaf passengers, RoomMate an audio guide in our accessible toilets for visually-impaired passengers, and the new Changing Places facility, an adapted bathroom for physically disabled passengers, underscores our commitment to making London Bridge station accessible to all. We still have more work to do, but working with our colleagues at Southeastern we know we can continue to make a huge difference to our passengers’ journeys.”

Member of the SER Accessible Travel Advisory Panel Launch Event