GTR seeks help from disabled practitioners to educate rail staff
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has trained almost 3,000 client-focused colleagues from its rail line services, in order to improve the service given to disabled and older commuters.
Credit: Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR)
Colleagues from the Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express rail lines underwent disability equality courses, which were delivered by experts who are both disabled themselves and frequent train users. The sessions explored the barriers passengers face, how rail staff can offer assistance and how they can communicate effectively with customers. This coaching allowed both station and train customer service staff a unique insight into the challenges disabled commuters face.
Chief Operating Officer, Steve White said: “We made a commitment in March 2021 to give everyone the ability to travel with us independently and with confidence. This huge training programme is a vital part of our journey of improvement.
“The number of people travelling with us and needing assistance has fallen by almost 90 per cent on our trains. Obviously, that’s down to the COVID-19 pandemic but the fall-off is much greater in this group of customers. That is why we’ve been busy in lockdown, investing in disabled trainers to make a real difference as we strive to improve our service.”
Ralph Lallau at Islington, found the accessibility training course an “eye opening” experience, as well as helpful when assisting passengers at Finsbury Park in London during the King’s Cross improvement at the start of 2021.
“The training was great. I didn’t know anybody who was disabled so, having a trainer who was themselves disabled, meant it was my first time looking at a situation from their perspective – it gave me real empathy. I take my cue from the customer; I never try to assume anything because only they know what they need,” Ralph added.
“My aim is to get you where you are going as easily as possible,” commented Senesie Koroma, rail employee at London Bridge.
Ramla Abshir-Slevin, Station Manager at East Croydon said: “I found it really helpful to speak to and be trained by people who are disabled and travel by train.”
Sarah Rennie, who is a wheelchair user herself, owns the company which delivers the courses GTR has developed and is renowned nationally for her expertise.
“It’s been really positive. The staff are very enthusiastic, ready to learn and get involved. It’s something they’ve been hungry for,” said Sarah. “It’s very apparent in the sessions that everything staff have been told about disabled customers hasn’t come from disabled people, which isn’t great. We share experiences with staff, ‘This happened, this is how I felt. How would you have done it differently?’ This is a step change. We’re really getting involved in changing those practices. All credit to GTR for bringing in disabled trainers.”
With all of the GTR customer-facing staff members up-to-date with their necessary training, the company is pressing ahead with coaching for all other colleagues, at various levels of management including the Boardroom.