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Access Advisory Panel

Our volunteer Access Advisory Panel works to improve Thameslink services for passengers with accessibility needs.

The panel’s role

Our Access Advisory Panel provides us with support and guidance in providing a network where everyone has the confidence to travel. The panel consists of volunteer passengers who share their travel experiences and give constructive feedback.

The Panel was brought together to represent the needs of all our passengers, including:

  • Passengers with visual/hearing impairments
  • Passengers travelling with young children
  • Elderly passengers requiring assistance when travelling
  • Passengers with hidden disabilities
  • Passengers with physical disabilities

This important Panel meets every two months to share their views and put practical ideas for improvements before our senior managers. Their recommendations help to us to continue to enhance accessibility on our trains and at our stations.

We’re committed to making our services safe and comfortable for everyone. Visit our Assisted Travel page to learn more about the other ways we’re improving accessibility across our network.

When we are recruiting members, openings are advertised on our network through a variety of audible and visual formats, with further details provided on this page. For further information, please contact our Assisted Travel Team.

Current panel members

Fiona
My name is Fiona and I live in Bexhill. I am a wheelchair user with a Canine Partner and we are frequent rail travellers. I love the freedom of travelling by train and seeing the South Downs by train is one of my favourite views. My main journey is between Bexhill and Gatwick Airport. As a regular rail and air passenger, I am passionate about improving accessibility on our rail network.
Jonathon

I live in Coulsdon and am a wheelchair user; my typical daily commute is from Coulsdon South to Victoria and then from Victoria to Coulsdon Town. I also use the train regularly to travel to London Bridge, Blackfriars and St Pancras, the last of which is usually used as a transit point before travelling onto Durham, Newcastle and York.

I applied to join the Panel as I was becoming increasingly frustrated with Southern following a number of incidents, and I though the best way to change that for me and other travellers with specific access needs was working with Southern, and now Thameslink. Since joining the panel there has been a definite improvement, including step-free access onto the train at the central London Thameslink stations, better customer service and a far greater understanding of how best to address the access requirements of those traveling by train. It’s not perfect, and there’s still more to do, and things do occasionally still go wrong, but those incidents are less frequent and quickly remedied, and I am sure that it is in no small part due to the support that Southern and GTR have provided, and their active listening and acting on the feedback from the panel.

Mark
Hello, I’m Mark. I live in Brighton and commute to London daily, either via Southern / Gatwick Express to Victoria or Thameslink via Farrington, depending on what I have planned. I applied to join the AAP to represent those of us who, like me, have hidden disabilities and because I believe if you want any kind of issue to be improved then you should also be prepared to get involved and try to be part of the solution. I am very proud of the work that the AAP does and, through it, have gained a much better understanding of the genuine challenges facing the train companies - but also how hard many of its employees are trying to make things better for us all - the AAP being a great example. It might not always look, or feel, like that is the case but by volunteering you gain both an understanding, and a voice, and I recommend it to anyone who as an interest.
Yusuf
I have travelled independently since 1995 and therefore have a great deal of experience of making use of many forms of public transport. As a blind traveller I have experienced barriers to my independence some of which have been reduced over time. I am a firm believer in participation in order to help improve things further. I have a PhD in Ottoman history and enjoy reading, cooking, walking, following Manchester United and the English Cricket Team.
Antony
picture of AntonyI have lived with long term pain for over 30 years and have a number of long term health conditions. I work in healthcare research and as a pain champion raising awareness of the impact and prevalence of long term pain. I live in Uckfield and also has a love of classic cars. I use a power chair part time when away from home and also have a hearing impairment.
Dave
picture of DavidMy name is Dave. I’m registered blind with a deteriorating eye sight condition and have little useful vision nowadays (light perception on a good day). I have worked in the disability sector for over 25 years and have a rounded understanding and knowledge of the sector with particular expertise in IT/Access Technology, Employment skills and Vision Impairment Awareness training. I currently work for Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) as Engagement Manager South East and travel on the train network regularly as part of my work.
Fiona P
picture of Fiona

I’m Fiona

As a wheelchair user with CP, I am unable to drive a car or cycle a bike, so the railway is all the more important in helping me to get from A to B freely and independently. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say, that the railway can – depending on the type of journey – really shut off or open up the world around me!

I won’t sugar coat my experiences prior to joining the panel: the majority were unmitigated disasters – frustrating waits for ramps during train journeys were the bane of my life and travelling was becoming a tedious – and sometimes genuinely upsetting – chore. They were frankly, disabling rather than enabling.

So, when the opportunity to become a member of the Access Advisory Panel arose, I metaphorically jumped at the chance to get involved.

It is a really special forum insofar as it strives to do two things that are incredibly close to my heart: not only does it give disability more visibility, but it also centralises the lived experiences of passengers and people with disabilities. By that, I mean that the insights of people with disabilities are collaboratively utilised so as to eradicate existing issues as well as to negate potential ones in future – we become proactive participants in the problem-solving process, and I take immense pride in my AAP involvement for this very reason.

Can I say that all future rail travel will be perfect for people like me? Definitely not - it would be naïvely unrealistic of me to even attempt to do so! What I can however say, with the highest degree of certainly, is that the route to a resolution will be highly constructive and completely pluralistic, thanks to the platform that the AAP proffers.

What’s more, through the AAP one can really see that the focus goes beyond tokenistic resolution towards sustained solutions and genuine improvement and inclusivity. I’m a firm believer that true accessibility for everyone can only ever really be achieved by adding lots of different voices to the discussion surrounding it.

I’m beyond grateful to the AAP for helping me learn about other disabilities, as well as teaching more about my own!

Genevieve
picture of GenevieveI am 47yrs old and live in New Addington with my husband and my son. I work part-time at Asda supermarket and am a full-time pharmacy student at Brighton University. I had polio when I was three and used a mobility scooter for 15yrs.
Josh

picture of JoshMy name is Josh, and I live in Worthing.

I enjoy travelling by rail throughout the Southern region.

I would like to build on the help Southern is already providing to make rail travel easier and more appealing for people with disabilities, particularly those with less visible challenges and anxiety issues

Rob
picture of RobMy name is Rob and I live in Riddlesdown. I have a visual impairment so, not being able to drive, I rely heavily on public transport. I travel by train both for work and for leisure, my usual journey being between Riddlesdown and London Victoria. I travel independently, but often have issues with accessing the information displayed at stations or finding my way around a new location easily. I also work as a teacher, so am keen to see how the AAP can support students with learning difficulties access the rail network more easily, for example through the ‘Try A Train’ scheme. I am a firm believer in getting involved and putting forward ideas in order to ensure things get better. It has been a real pleasure getting to work as part of the AAP over the last few years to see the work that is going on to improve accessibility across the network.

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