Travel companions who help people travel by train

May 15, 2024

People with visual impairment have been given more confidence to travel thanks to a new initiative from Transport for Wales.

Teams of Travel Companions have been deployed at key stations including Cardiff Central, Chester, Swansea, Newport and Shrewsbury to help people with additional needs feel more confident when travelling.

This month in Swansea, Guide Dogs Cymru members met with the Travel Companion team to understand how the new roles would work.

Ken Skates, the Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport, said:

“This fantastic initiative provides extra support to people with visual impairments. Just knowing that help is available can make all the difference.”

Andrea Gordon, External Affairs Manager for Guide Dogs Cymru, said:

“Public transport is crucial for people with sight loss to get out and live the way they want. Getting a guide dog can open up a whole new world of independent travel, but when it comes to train travel, the owner may need extra help to access the station and locate the train. They may also need help or advice during the journey. We hope the Travel Companion program will make train travel a better experience for them.”

At Swansea Railway Station, a new office has been created at the front of the station where customers can come and speak to the team and get advice on ticket booking, reservations, journey assistance and disruption information. The team is available every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

And while significant investment has been made in recent years to make all trains on the Wales and Borders routes fully accessible, only 13% of disabled rail users surveyed said they can use the train with confidence and ease.

Swansea Travel Companion Suzanne Churchouse said the new roles were “incredibly rewarding”.

She said: “We are all new to these roles so it has been great to learn together and find the best ways to help customers. It’s clear that every customer has their own individual needs and concerns when traveling, and for us, giving them the confidence to travel is incredibly rewarding.

“It was great to work with guide dog owners to understand what they need when planning a trip. Things like making sure there is enough space for their dog to sit next to them and in the right part of the train are crucial.”

All traveling companions have also completed a guide training course for sighted people with guide dogs. The visit was organized as part of TFW’s ‘Confident Traveller’ programme, which aims to support people who may not use the train as often or who may need extra support when travelling.

Led by the Community Rail team, the program works with community support groups to help people gain the experience, knowledge and confidence to travel by train.

For more information please contact [email protected]

You can book passenger assistance for your entire journey up to two hours before the start of your journey in the following ways:

Call our Assisted Travel team: 03330 050 501

Using our Next Generation SMS service 18001 03330 050 501 (for people with hearing and speech difficulties) Online: https://tfw.wales/info-for/passengers/accessible-travel/booking-assistance