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Blind passenger encourages others to use mobile assistance service at Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton railway stations





A blind villager from Melbourn is helping Thameslink and Great Northern to spread the word about a new service for disabled passengers and other customers who need assistance at Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton stations.

Diane Rose, 55, who works in the local Co-op, has been blind since 2013 when a genetic condition suddenly took her eyesight.

From left, Susan van de Ven and Sarah Grove of the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership, station manager Karen Chudovsky, mobile assistance tam member Keith Williamson and customer Diane Rose and her guide dog Zen. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway
From left, Susan van de Ven and Sarah Grove of the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership, station manager Karen Chudovsky, mobile assistance tam member Keith Williamson and customer Diane Rose and her guide dog Zen. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway

“It was very quick. All I thought, at first, was that I had a stye in my eye. My son developed it when he was 19 – the first family member in generations. Then my niece, Skye, who’s 24 and also lives in the village, lost her eyesight as well.

“Taking the train is very important because it helps me keep my independence. I use it to meet up with friends in London or the pub socials with the VIS (visually impaired society) in Cambridge, and I go to Ely to visit my son.

“I have my guide dog Zen (so named because she’s very calm!) but sometimes there’s a gap between the platform and the train and I’m never sure how big that is. Having someone to assist me makes all the difference.”

Mobile Assistance Team member Keith Williamson assists Diane Rose at Meldreth station
Mobile Assistance Team member Keith Williamson assists Diane Rose at Meldreth station

To support Diane and other disabled customers, Great Northern and Thameslink have launched a mobile assistance team based out of nearby Royston. Armed with a van and specialist training, they aim to reach the village stations of Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton within 20 minutes of a call, every day of the week, weekends included.

All but one of the platforms at the stations has step-free access, allowing the support team to provide ramps onto the trains for wheelchair users and customers with a mobility scooter.

They can also help other customers – whether it be an older person with luggage, someone who is visually impaired or parents with pushchairs.

Great Northern and Thameslink’s accessibility lead Carl Martin said: “We're constantly looking for ways to improve the level of service we give people who need assistance, to overcome the barriers that prevent independent travel on the railway.

Keith Williamson, from Royston, is one of the mobile assistance team members who supports disabled passengers at Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton stations. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway
Keith Williamson, from Royston, is one of the mobile assistance team members who supports disabled passengers at Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton stations. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway

“Our mobile assistance team could transform the lives of many of our customers. It will help us create a more accessible and inclusive railway, where everyone has the confidence to travel with us.

“We really want people to try out the service and let us know what they think about it through our customer contact centre.”

Susan van de Ven, chair of the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership, added: “Our community thrives on its transport links and it’s vital that everyone can use the railway. We’ve been working hard to improve accessibility and this initiative by Great Northern and Thameslink will make a genuine difference to our villagers.”

Customers request assistance when they arrive at the station, either by contacting the control centre from the station help point using the ‘emergency and assisted travel button’ or by calling freephone 0808 168 1238 or texting 07970 511077.

Press the emergency and assisted travel Help Point button at the station for assistance. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway
Press the emergency and assisted travel Help Point button at the station for assistance. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway

If passengers prefer, they can book the mobile assistance team further in advance by contacting the assisted travel team either online, via the Passenger Assistance app, or by calling 0800 138 1016.



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