A new app could help millions of disabled rail passengers across the UK by tracking them in real-time and notifying station staff when they need to get off.
The Passenger Assist app is designed to be particularly useful in the event of delays, a change of platform or if a person happens to miss their train. It enables users to create a profile and amend or cancel bookings, while also notifying staff of where they are throughout their journey.
It is currently being trialled by a select number of people via four rail companies and it’s hoped the app will be rolled out nationwide by autumn 2019.
Comedian Tanyalee Davis, who launched the ScooterGirl Campaign encouraging disabled people to share their transportation horror stories in the UK, tells HuffPost UK she is “very excited” about the app which “will be life-changing for disabled people”.
Davis has had a number of troublesome incidents on trains, including when she was en route to York for a gig and was left on a train as nobody came to offer her assistance.
Currently passengers with limited mobility have to book assistance and a print-out is given to them in the morning by station staff, the BBC reported.
However, the lack of communication between staff at the station of departure and the end destination has meant a number of people have been left on trains, which is not only an inconvenience for these passengers but can also be a very distressing experience.
Actress and disability campaigner Samantha Renke says she’s been left on trains numerous times, even after pre-booking assistance more than 24 hours in advance.
“It can be stressful and anxiety-inducing watching everyone around you leave the train and you sit in complete silence not knowing if someone will come,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“By this point even the emergency button is obsolete as the conductor has vacated too. I’ve had cleaners refuse to go and get help on my behalf as they say it’s not their responsibility.”
Renke lives and works in London and says being able to get around independently and on time to her appointments, auditions and social engagements is crucial.
“I’ve often felt like a burden to some staff members and this is completely unavoidable - hopefully an app such as this can finally break down barriers and open up better communication so travelling isn’t such a horrendous and complicated event.”
She does add, however, that it should have been implemented a long time ago: “Creating accessible travel really isn’t rocket science.”
Four rail companies - West Midlands Railway, London Northwestern Railway, Greater Anglia, and South Western Railway - are currently using trial versions of the app, which has been developed by Transreport.
Paralympian Anne Wafula-Strike tells HuffPost UK she hopes to trial the app soon. “I think every disabled person who travels by train will be wanting to see how this will work,” she says. “The station staff will have no excuse of not delivering on their part.”