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Disabled travellers promised better train journeys by Passenger Assistance app

An app developed by UK startup Transreport for the Rail Delivery Group aims to improve train travel for disabled passengers

UK startup Transreport has developed an app to improve train journeys for disabled people on behalf of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which oversees the running of the UK’s railways.

Called Passenger Assistance, the app promises to make it easier and quicker for disabled passengers to get assistance on the railways. Transreport said it was developed it in collaboration with disabled passengers and accessibility experts.

Jay Shen, founder and managing director of Transreport, said it was inspired by the social model of disability, which says people are disabled by the world around them, not by their impairment or difference.

“We want to use tech to remove the barriers that make life harder for people with impairments,” he said. “Passenger Assistance makes it much easier for disabled passengers to arrange assisted travel, giving them more control and independence.”

A company spokesperson added: "The social model helps us recognise barriers that make life harder for disabled people. Removing these barriers creates equality and offers disabled people more independence, choice and control." 

The company set up an Accessibility Panel in 2017 to ensure the app would meet real-world needs and achieve its goal of delivering assisted rail journeys.

Sarah Rennie, commercial disability and access consultant and a member of the Transreport Accessibility Panel, said: “The app has been designed to improve the customer experience of disabled passengers and to solve an issue which has been going on for too long. Disabled and older people have faced an extremely challenging time during the pandemic and, as things open up, we must continue to develop systems more inclusively. Passenger Assistance will help to build trust and confidence in rail travel for those with access needs, for when they feel comfortable to resume their journeys.”

“We want to make the railway more accessible to more people and this new app is a first step towards transforming the way disabled passengers request assistance, with greater control at their fingertips”
Jacqueline Starr, Rail Delivery Group

The app is said to allow disabled people to request assistance for their train journeys in one app for the first time, saving them the inconvenience of having to contact each train operator by phone or email before travelling.

A company spokesperson added: "Our technologies use a range of data sources across the complex service delivery of the UK rail system to provide a more seamless and automated way for passengers to arrange their own specific assistance needs."

Jacqueline Starr, chief executive of the RDG, added: “We want to make the railway more accessible to more people and this new app is a first step towards transforming the way disabled passengers request assistance, with greater control at their fingertips.”

The app, which was built by an in-house development team, allows people to request assistance before travelling. The app runs on iOS and Android smartphones, and users can set up a profile tailored to their needs. Profile created, they enter the travel information for each journey.

The request to book assistance is sent directly to the train operator, which can arrange assistance across the entire journey, even where journeys span multiple operators, and confirm the booking by email with a unique booking reference. Railway station and train staff have all the details they need to make the journey run smoothly.

“Our ambition is to use innovative technology to improve social and economic outcomes and to make people’s everyday lives easier, particularly the most vulnerable groups within our communities,” said Transreport’s Shen. “We’re already exploring how we can take this solution and apply it to other modes of transport, such as buses, coaches and air travel.”

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