New passenger assistance app trial will help disabled passengers in East Anglia travel more easily

Friday, 28 September 2018

Disabled people will be able to travel on trains more easily thanks to a new app, due to be launched nationally next year, that will transform the way that people can book assistance when they travel by train.

But people in East Anglia will benefit earlier as Greater Anglia plans to commence a trial at the end of the year to check that it meets their customers’ needs.

Greater Anglia’s Accessibilty Manager, Rebecca Richardson, said, “We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to use our trains and this app will be a big step forward in modernising the passenger assistance process.”

“The app will give people who need assistance extra confidence when travelling, along with reassurance that a member of staff will be looking after them.”

“We’re pleased to be leading the way with a trial of the new system to make sure it works well in a range of scenarios. The feedback we receive will be used to suggest improvements before the app is launched nationally.”

The app – called Passenger Assist - will allow the person needing assistance to use their smartphone to create a direct communication between them and railway staff.

Currently train companies ask customers to book through a number of channels including by phone or online, where customers provide contact details and specify the assistance they need every time.

Staff at stations then receive a printed list of booked assistance each morning, which means when plans change, for example if trains are delayed or the customer misses their booked train, there is no way to update the list and staff can sometimes end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. The new system will improve on these current issues.

The vast majority (85%) of customers are satisfied with passenger assistance according to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), but occasionally customers can become distressed and anxious when using the railway if things don’t go entirely to plan.

The new Passenger Assist app has been developed for the rail industry by technology company, Transreport and will tackle the problems by enabling:

  • customers to request, change and cancel assistance quickly, which can currently take up to 40 minutes over the phone or through a very long, online booking form
  • customers to create a user profile, upload a photo of themselves and specify their personal details, such as the type of assistance they need, so recurring bookings become quicker and easier
  • staff to receive live information, including key details about the customer and their journey, so they can provide a better service and accommodate short-notice requests in real-time
  • better staff communication, so staff can anticipate and deliver changes for planned assistance

The customer app will be rolled out in Autumn 2019, once a staff version of the app has been rolled out in April 2019.

It has been developed in collaboration with disability charities including Scope, RNIB, Disability Rights UK, Civil Service Pensioners’ Alliance, Blind Veterans UK and Anxiety UK, and includes accessible features, such as the ability to change colour themes, fonts and text sizes within the app.

Greater Anglia is appealing for rail travellers to help them test the app on journeys between Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Ipswich for 12 weeks from the end of the year. Anyone wishing to take part should contact [email protected]