‘Welcome’ Aboard project to enhance rail travel for people with dementia among winners of government-funded competition
‘Welcome’ Aboard, a new service which aims to improve the rail travel experience for people living with dementia, is among the winners of an innovation competition, run by RSSB, the Rail Safety and Standards Board, as part of the Department for Transport’s work to improve accessibility for all passengers.
In this project, Go Upstream, a new training company focussing on travel and dementia, Scottish Assistive Tech Start-up Neatebox, and Open Change, experts in service design, will work with the Dementia Engagement & Empowerment Project (DEEP) network of people living with dementia and London North Eastern Railway.
‘Welcome’ Aboard is a project that uses an existing smartphone app that works for both passengers and staff, providing two-way communication and a ‘check-in’ feature that alerts staff to a passenger’s arrival at the station. ‘Welcome’ Aboard will combine the Welcome by Neatebox app with Go Upstream’s experiential training programme to ensure that staff are better equipped to meet the needs of people requesting assistance as well as delivering a more tailored, responsive and real-time assistance service. Importantly, people living with hidden disabilities are at the heart of this project – sharing their experiences and expertise in travelling, informing and shaping the design of a solution that truly responds to their needs and the needs of other passengers requiring assistance.
Nusrat Ghani, Transport Accessibility Minister, said: “I am determined to make sure that our railways are accessible to everyone, and that we remove any barriers faced by disabled people.
“That’s why earlier this year we launched the Inclusive Transport Strategy, the next step in achieving a genuinely inclusive transport network.
“Everyone deserves the right to travel independently and with confidence. Supporting innovative projects like ‘Welcome’ Aboard demonstrates our commitment to improving people’s journeys, and I look forward to seeing how this app will benefit passengers in the years to come.”
Andy Hyde, Director of Go Upstream said: “If we are to create truly inclusive travel services, we have to bring the expertise and experience of people living with conditions such as dementia into the design process from the very beginning. This project is a fantastic opportunity to do this, bringing LNER staff together with people with dementia to explore how Go Upstream’s training and service improvement process and Neatebox’s ‘Welcome’ app can be combined to enhance assisted rail travel.”
Rachael Litherland from Innovations in Dementia, hosts of the DEEP network, said: “People with dementia say just how important it is to continue to be able to get out and about, and enjoy their lives. It’s really exciting to be part of this project, making the most of technology to assist people on their journeys.”
Gavin Neate, CEO and Founder of Neatebox: “The Neatebox team are incredibly excited to be involved in developing this solution alongside such fantastic partners. We are keen to underline that we aim to not only support the disabled traveller but equally the customer service team member who often finds themselves in challenging situations potentially without all of the knowledge they need to give the very best assistance.”
Hazel White, Director of Open Change, said: “Making public transport inclusive for everyone is a great opportunity – and a challenge. We are delighted to be part of a team that includes those living with dementia, station staff, technologists, service designers and dementia specialists to co-design services that meet that challenge”.
After an initial research and development stage the ‘Welcome’ Aboard app will be trialled at a major UK station.
While the project will focus on people with dementia, ‘Welcome’ Aboard has the potential to benefit all customers who wish to use Passenger Assist since it can be tailored to a customer’s needs.