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Network Rail publishes autism friendly guide to travelling by train

Network Rail have recently published a guide to help autistic passengers feel more safe and confident as they travel by train.

The helpful online guide takes people through each stage of travelling including preparing for their journey, the sights and sounds they may hear at a busy station and advice on what to bring with them. The guide provides photographs of common signs, departure boards and uniformed staff to ask for help to help reassure and build confidence.

Susan Holden, Network Rail’s stations customer experience manager, said: “After conversations with the National Autistic Society it became clear that we could do more to help prepare autistic people for travelling by train. Stations can be noisy and busy places, and although our staff are very well trained to provide assistance, and to recognise when people may need extra help, we also realise that some people may be put off travelling as they simply don’t know what to expect.

“The idea of this guide is that it will take you through every step of a journey, with clear information, pictures and sounds, so you can familiarise yourself before you set off. We’ve had invaluable input from NAS, and we’re confident it should really help anyone who’s anxious or unsure about train travel.

“More and more people are returning to the railway as we emerge from the pandemic and we hope this guide is an extra step to helping all our passengers feel safe and comfortable.”

Lisa Myers, Head of Operations, Training, Consultancy and Conferences at the National Autistic Society, said: “We are really pleased to support Network Rail to develop this new autism friendly guide.

“Around one in 100 people are autistic and need to travel, like everyone else – whether that’s to school, to meet friends or to the shops. But crowds, loud announcements and sudden diversions can be really overwhelming, to the point that some autistic people find it hard to contemplate leaving the house at all.

“This guide could really help autistic passengers, by giving them the opportunity to prepare and know what to expect. But it’s also crucial that staff understand autism and how to support autistic passengers through autism-specific training. We’re pleased Network Rail has developed this guide and call on train providers to follow their lead to we can work towards making our railways more autism-friendly.”

The former Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “Our railways are not just a cornerstone of transport across the UK but part of our history and culture and it’s important that everyone feels able and confident when navigating them.

“This initiative is another huge step in the right direction to making our railways more user-friendly and will support the work in our upcoming National Accessibility Strategy – the first ever robust, joined-up, system-wide approach to accessibility – set out in our Williams Shapps plan for rail.”

The guide is available to download through the Network Rail website here.