South Western Railway celebrates first year of Try the Train success

Thursday 04th July 2019
Parents trying the train as part fo the programme offered by South Western Railway
South Western Railway celebrates the first anniversary of its innovative Community Ambassador programme, which includes the popular Try the Train days.

Community Ambassadors are volunteers, they're SWR employees who go above and beyond their day jobs to share their time, experience and knowledge with members of the public. Since June 2018, 35 Ambassadors have hosted more than 25 'Try the Train' trips for a range of groups, including those with physical and learning disabilities, school-age children, new mothers and even trainee assistance dogs.

These trips help to build the confidence of people who traditionally have felt excluded from public transport. 
Children from Red Barn Primary School who described their Try the Train trip as the best ever | South Western Railway
Children from St Bartholomew's Church of England school celebrating one year anniversary of 'Try the Train' 

Over the last year,  'Try the Train' events have included:

1. Jimmy, a long-cane user who suffers from glaucoma, usually travels with the support of Gemma, a Habitation Specialist at Portsmouth City Council’s Inclusion Service. Jimmy saw the 'Try the Train' experience as an opportunity to become more independent and learn how to travel safely on his own to attend his regular eye appointments at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital by train.
Jimmy a long-cane user who suffers from glaucoma, usually travels with the support of Gemma on South Western Railway
Community Ambassadors Brian Reece and Andy Harrowell spent time with Jimmy and Gemma at Portsmouth Harbour station discussing how they could help make future journeys as easy and safe as possible. Brian and Andy provided an overview of his usual train's layout, including seat configuration, location of toilets as well as the services that could assist Jimmy as he travels such as on-board quiet zones and tactile buttons. They also demonstrated the different station facilities available to Jimmy that could assist him, for example the platform Help Points.

2. Children from Red Barn Primary School who described their Try the Train trip 'as the best ever' when they travelled with Community Ambassadors Ian Edwards, Ann McDermott, Jessykar Donald, Tarnia Rayment, and Rail Community Officer, Chris Campbell.
South Western Railway Community Abassadors and Rail Community Officers at Porchester Station
On the day, Ian greeted 30 children from ‘Year R’, before boarding the train at Portchester for Portsmouth Harbour station. Ian wore a luggage tag that said, 'Please look after Ian' and tasked ‘Year R’ with ensuring he was kept safe in homage to Paddington Bear.
Please look after Ian the station cat | South Western Railway
‘Year R’ were surprised with a special ramp to disembark the train upon their arrival at Portsmouth Harbour station. Following this, the Community Ambassadors taught the children how to use the station’s 'Help Point' button, ticket machines as well as how to ask for the correct ticket from ticket office staff. They also learnt to stand behind the yellow line on a station’s platform and where to go if, like Paddington Bear, they become lost!

3. Helping vulnerable parents from Homestart Buster, a charity which supports local families with friendship, advice and support, to gain experience and become more confident travelling with their young children and toddlers by train.
SWR's Community Ambassadors travelled with the group between Portsmouth and Southsea, and explained which station facilities and services are available to help them when they're travelling across the rail network. For many parents, this was the first time they had taken their child on a train.
Their feedback showed the experience was “really beneficial” and many were surprised at “how easy it was to use a pushchair on a train”. They also said it was a “really useful to find out about the assistance line” to notify the station ahead someone is travelling with a pushchair.

South Western Railway's Community Rail Manager, Andy Harrowell, said:
"We are delighted that the hard work and dedication of our teams of Ambassadors has made this programme such a success. Across the year we have been amazed by the number of groups we have been able to give their first train trip to, leaving each person with a smile on their face and improved knowledge about our services.

"To top the success of the last twelve months, the team's hard work has been recognised by the prestigious National Rail Awards as we've been shortlisted in the Customer Service Excellence category. Congratulations to all our Ambassadors and I look forward to another year of success."