Students deliver ‘Access for All’ project on the Bentham Line

Students involved in Northern’s year in industry scheme have been praised for developing a series of accessibility improvements on the Bentham Line.

The 2021/22 cohort of ten students worked with the Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership (CRP), the fourth year in succession the CRP has supported the scheme. Across the year, the students are placed in a variety of departments within Northern, but the community rail project gives them the chance to come together and work as a team.

The students took the theme of ‘Access for All’ and focused on a series of accessibility improvements at stations, accompanied by a booklet and poster campaign. Elements of the project included:

  • A booklet giving general information about physical arrangements at stations and on trains on the Bentham Line, such as ramps or priority seating, and information on buying tickets;
  • Detailed accessibility information for each station on the Bentham Line from Heysham Port to Leeds, listing the facilities available to help people in planning their journeys, including those with mobility problems and hidden disabilities;
  • QR codes for each station, allowing rail users to link to a three-minute, 360° interactive video each station’s layout and facilities, available for download from the CRP website.

The booklet and posters were supported by a grant from Northern’s Seed Corn Fund, and the document is said to be the first line-specific accessibility guide to be produced, and a model that could be replicated elsewhere. It can be downloaded from the CRP website, and hard copies are also available at staffed stations on the route and by post from the CRP’s offices at Bentham Station.

The students also wanted to ensure that there would be some infrastructure improvements which although simple, could be of immediate and lasting benefit. With support from the CRP, new access signage at Bentham, Long Preston, and Shipley stations was commissioned and is now in place. A dropped kerb has been added at Steeton and Silsden Station to improve accessibility, and handrails have been added to platform steps at Bentham Station. Accessible car parking spaces are also being planned for several stations.

Claire Weir, from Northern, emphasised the importance of the students’ work, and the value that the community rail element of the programme provides.

She said: “The Bentham Line provides great opportunities where the students can work together and draw on the enthusiasm of Gerald Townson and Brian Haworth for a community-based railway. We are really proud of what they have achieved and hopefully they will be able to reflect on the creative value they have brought to the project as a team. I am sure this will stand them in good stead for their future careers.”

Gerald Townson, chairman of the CRP, offered his sincere thanks to the students for their enthusiasm, time, and determination, and said: “Community rail has acted as the ‘glue’ between the students throughout their time in the rail industry. This helped them to achieve a successful wide-ranging project together, to create a good team spirit, and to enjoy a rewarding experience.”

Brian Haworth, CRP officer, added: “The students worked well together and produced first-class results.”

The students themselves described the experience as a “great learning curve”, “a brilliant opportunity to give something to the community”, and “very rewarding to make a difference to people’s lives by creating something that makes transport more accessible to all.”

This year’s students were Jamie Ashton, Nicole Collingwood, Jake Coote, Matthew Foster, Sinan Gilroy, Laura Griffin, Nieve Kavanagh, Joshua Kennedy, Michael Longstaff, and Jack Whyles. They are studying in a range of universities across the north of England in diverse subjects such as geography, business management, and psychology.

For more information on the Bentham Line, visit the Leeds-Morecambe CRP website here.