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Southeast Communities Rail Partnership celebrate success of ‘Try a Train’ project

Southeast Communities Rail Partnership (SCRP), in partnership with Optalis Supported Employment Team and Great Western Railway, has celebrated the success of the joint ‘Try a Train’ programme at a special event at Maidenhead Station.

Earlier this year, SCRP embarked on a new partnership project with social care organisation Optalis and their Ability Travel team, to develop a ‘Try a Train’ programme aimed at increasing rail confidence for people with learning disabilities. Optalis offer specialist employment support, job coaching, work experience and support to help people with learning disabilities and people with Autism to find and keep voluntary or paid work.

The free ‘Try a Train’ programme has supported 69 people with disabilities and additional needs as they learn how to travel by train, become familiar with assistance available on board and learn about local stations and facilities.

The special event to commemorate the new partnership between SCRP, Optalis and GWR and raise awareness of the ‘Try a Train’ project was held at Maidenhead Station on 17 October. Local MP and former Prime Minister the Rt Hon Theresa May was the guest of honour, who joined attendees in celebrating the work the project has done in supporting people with additional support needs to discover freedom and greater independence through train travel. Representatives from Optalis Community Lives were also in attendance, to share information and insight into the lives of people with learning disabilities with other rail users.

During the event Optalis’ Ability Travel team announced their ambition to continue working closely with community rail by adopting Maidenhead Station through SCRP’s ‘Adopt a Station’ scheme.

Donna Morgans, Head of Supported Employment at Optalis, explained: “The ‘Try a Train’ project aims to show people about the benefits and adjustments available with rail travel. We offer support and advice to find ways to make rail travel more accessible. Using public transport not only gives people more freedom and is better for the environment, but it can also help those looking for work by bringing more opportunities within reach.

“We look forward to our continued partnership opening up more opportunities to allow us to share our expertise and resources to help inform and implement ways to make the station accessible for all to navigate their way around in a safe and secure way.”

Tom Pierpoint, GWR Business Development Director, said: “We were really pleased to help fund this project as part of the support we give to Community Rail Partnerships across the Great Western Railway. ‘Try a Train’ is a fantastic programme which has helped to give people of all ages the confidence to travel safely and independently on our network.”

Find out more about Southeast Communities Rail Partnership and their work across community rail on their website here.