We understand that travelling at the moment and using passenger assistance can seem daunting. So we asked award-winning disability blogger Chloe Tear to travel with us and give you the lowdown on how it went.
As a partially sighted young woman with a physical disability, I’m heavily reliant on public transport to get around and, prior to the pandemic, I was a frequent train traveller. More often than not the longer train journeys allowed me time to write blog posts or get stuck into a good book. I never thought I’d say this, but after not being on a train for six months, I’ve really missed it.
However, I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of using passenger assistance post-lockdown was a daunting idea. Would it be safe for myself and the staff? How was it possible to be guided whist being two metres apart? What precautions have been put in place? Well, thanks to TransPennine Express I was able to take the journey from Leeds to Huddersfield to try it all out!
Finding the confidence to travel again
Despite initial worries, I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet Leeds train station was. All staff members were wearing PPE and social distancing measures were in place. The normal hustle and bustle seemed to be a lot more controlled.
To start my journey, I headed to the information desk and told them I had booked passenger assistance. I was then met by a member of staff who was wearing a face covering and was guided to my train. They explained the route I would be taking to get to my platform and some of the changes at the station. This simple explanation put me at ease, and I’ll be sharing these with you so you too can travel with confidence.
If you would like support in the station, you’ll need to book passenger assistance before you travel. This can be booked up until 10pm the night before your journey, or just 2 hours before if you’re traveling between two TransPennine Express managed stations. It can be booked over the phone, online, via text or by visiting your local station. All the information you need is on the dedicated Assisted Travel webpage.
Adjusting to the new normal
Yet, the journey was not without its challenges.
For example, Leeds train station now operates a one-way system, which is probably the case for many stations as it reduces crowds of people. I completely understand why this needs to be done, but as someone with reduced vision it was disorientating at times.
During my journey, I also noticed an increase in signage. This is vital in helping everyone throughout the station. However, if you have a visual impairment or experience sensory overload the new information might be a lot to take in or just be completely inaccessible to you.
Things to bear in mind:
It might be worth booking assistance the first time you travel, even if you wouldn’t normally
New routes can be longer, something to consider if you have reduced mobility
Amongst the changes, staff are still around to provide a helping hand and offer support. If you feel you might need some assistance due to being disabled or having a hidden impairment it might be worth looking at the Sunflower Lanyard. The lanyard symbolises a hidden disability and is recognised by all train companies. I don’t know about you but having to explain your condition multiple times a day can get a bit tiresome. Yet the lanyard gives you control over what information you want to disclose.
The verdict Will I be travelling by train again in the near future? I really hope so.
The train carriages were quiet, passengers were able to social distance and staff were wearing PPE. Due to this, I felt comfortable on my journey from Leeds to Huddersfield.
Additionally, it was really reassuring to hear the mention of medical exemptions for face coverings while in the station and on the train. In the guidance it clearly says that you don’t have to prove you are exempt. Yet in reality, I’ve heard about people being judged and questioned about this. Despite not being exempt myself, I imagine it is a major worry for those who are. The announcements clearly show that train companies are doing their upmost to support passengers who are medically exempt.
I fully appreciate how difficult it can be to travel as a disabled person and I believe that’s important to note regardless of any Coronavirus-related circumstances. However, now I have made a train journey and seen how the assistance is run, I want to grab this glimmer of normality.