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Rail boss walks blindfolded to raise awareness of first railway station guided path

Rail boss walks blindfolded to raise awareness of first railway station guided path

Europe’s busiest interchange station – Clapham Junction – has become the first station in the UK to be equipped with a guided path for blind or partially sighted passengers.  The new guided path will make it much easier for passengers who are blind or partially sighted to use the station footbridge, linking the new entrance from the Brighton Yard entrance to the platform stairs. The entire station now has step-free access delivering major improvements for over 40m passengers who use the station every year.

The tactile paving used on the guided path is a system of textured ground surface indicators installed on the tiling of the footbridge to help pedestrians who are blind or partially sighted to self-orientate and find their platform. Braille signs have also been added.

To mark the completion of this innovative project, Managing Director for the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance, Tim Shoveller, took on the challenge of being blindfolded to try the new guided walkway with the assistance of a guide dog.
He was helped along by members of the Guide Dog Mobility Team from London, who promote guide dog services and campaigns across the London area including Clapham Junction.
Tim Shoveller said: “This is the first time a UK station has been equipped with a guided path. It is a welcome improvement and will make a real difference to many of our passengers”.
Tim said that doing a blindfold walk has helped raise his awareness of the problems faced by partially sighted passengers, he added:  “I was keen to try out the blindfolded walk so I could understand how partially sighted people use our stations.
“It has helped to give me a real insight into understanding what it is like to move around our stations without vision. Taking part in this exercise has really helped me to focus on what issues we need to be looking at and how to keep improving in the future.”

John Welsman, Policy Business Partner at Guide Dogs responsible for Travel and Transport related issues said “This is a fantastic step towards making a complex station much more accessible for blind and partially sighted passengers. As a guide dog owner myself, I can now navigate the over bridge at the station with much more confidence, knowing that I can get to the right platform with the aid of the tactile and Braille signs at the top of each stairwell.

“Initiatives like this go a long way in supporting visually impaired people with their independent travel and I look forward to South West Trains implementation of measures like this at their other stations.”
This latest improvement complements the step free entrance opened in May 2011 and the new lifts to all platforms, making the station completely accessible to people with reduced mobility and much easier to negotiate for those with young children or heavy luggage.