Carl Martin GTR's new Accessibility Lead Image GTR

Recently disabled, Carl believes “access to transport is access to life”

Govia Thameslink Railway said that in recent years, its industry has been on a journey of improvement to ensure the railway becomes more accessible, ensuring that as many barriers as possible are removed and everyone can travel more independently.

The rail company’s new accessibility lead, Carl Martin said he is determined to encourage more people to use the assistance and support the railway has to offer.

Carl, 41, from Three Bridges in Sussex, was a surveyor when he lost the use of his legs in a motorcycle racing crash five years ago.

Now, he is spearheading a campaign to highlight the assistance already on offer to help remove the obstacles to travelling by rail, encouraging more people to travel by train more independently and with confidence.

Carl said:

“Lying in my hospital bed, I was thinking, how can I turn what has happened to me into something positive? – and that’s what I’ve done.

“This is the type of job I always dreamed of – where you come to work to make a positive impact to improve the lives of thousands of people. Now I have this impairment and use a wheelchair, I encounter all sorts of barriers in society that disable me, and I can appreciate the obstacles on the railway.

“We recognise we are on a journey of improvement and the team I now work with has done so much to make things better. With one in five people having some form of disability, I want to build on that to help people gain independence through our rail service by highlighting the assistance we have available to remove those obstacles.”

GTR said it recognises that it has a mission to improve the level of service it gives people who need assistance to overcome the barriers that prevent independent travel on the railway.

People who can make use of the service include older members of society who may find it harder to negotiate stations and trains and others with non-visible disabilities, such as autism and learning difficulties.

GTR added that it already has systems and processes in place such as staff who will give support and assistance at stations and deploy ramps on to the train, the ability to pre-book assistance if desired with a dedicated 24-hour freephone helpline, priority seat cards and better information to enable passengers to plan their journeys.

Its ‘journey of improvement’ initiatives build on this and were announced as part of a new accessible travel pledge in March. They include:

  • New accessibility training – GTR has retrained all 3,000 customer-facing colleagues in disability equality courses
  • Less time needed to book assistance – Passengers are always welcome to turn up at a station unannounced but, for added confidence, the notice they’re asked to give to pre-book assistance, has been reduced from the day before (by 10pm), to six hours before travel. In April 2022 this will reduce to two hours before travel
  • Additional Try A Train days – organised events to give people with learning difficulties the experience and confidence of buying tickets and catching trains
  • Better ‘Turn Up & Go’ service for 41 smaller stations – New mobile support teams will be trialled soon to reach 41 unstaffed or partly-staffed stations across the GTR network within 20 minutes to give assistance to passengers
  • New passenger assistance app – new National Rail app allows quick and easy requests assistance via smartphone without needing to contact a contact centre via phone or email
  • Enhanced information – Better detailed information about the accessibility of every GTR station on National Rail Enquiries and the websites of Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express
  • Website improvements – GTR has also made more than 80 improvements on its various websites to make them easier for blind or visually impaired people to access and read

GTR shapes its accessibility strategy by listening to the views of its Access Advisory Panel. This is is made up of disabled passengers who frequently travel with GTR and has been in place since 2015.

Update Step-free access Flitwick Station

Netwrok Rail has provided an update on the plans to introduce step-free access at Flitwick Station. The project includes the installation of lifts.

They added that the work remains on track to be completed by 2024. The work is being funded by the Department for Transport’s Access for All programme, which was announced in March 2020.

The work to deliver step free access is funded separately to Central Bedfordshire Council’s integrated transport hub.