It is well known that Community Rail Lancashire’s ‘Rail Confidence Programme’ supports a wide range of people to access rail travel with more confidence and independence every year.
In 2021, despite the Covid restrictions, we delivered a small pilot project that enabled people who use British Sign Language as their main form of communication to take part in this programme.
We are thrilled to have now been granted Northern Seed Corn funding to develop this further. In the early part of 2022, we will not only deliver further BSL interpreted rail experience trips but also undertake some research to have a better understanding of the challenges that BSL users experience. This research will enable us to support this demographic more effectively and, we hope, see an increase in the number of BSL users who become independent rail passengers.
With the impact of the pandemic on rail travel rail companies are understandably focussing on encouraging passengers to ‘get back on track’. More specific to our territory, Northern Rail is imploring “the people of the North!” to “Go Do Your Thing”. This project will, in a small way, help some of those who need a little extra support to do just that. The Deaf community is close-knit and by empowering a small number of BSL users who are respected in their communities, we can reasonably expect that a ‘ripple effect’ (through word-of-mouth and organic peer-supported journeys) will result in a larger number of people becoming (more) confident rail passengers.
Our specific BSL-supported railway confidence trips will be from Preston Station as we have started to build links with Deaf Link Workers in the area who are keen to support this work. Each trip will be planned with Deaf community group members and be led by Katie Douglas, CRL’s Special Educational Needs Officer.