New virtual reality technology is being developed for Northern Railway to better support ensuring accessible travel in the region’s stations and trains.
A new virtual reality simulation of trains, stations and staff across the rail network aims to allow passengers to explore their journey and the assistance they require in advance, without leaving their home. Users will be able to experience trains, stations and interact with station and on-board staff in a realistic simulated environment on their own phones or computer screens, or using a VR headset for a fully immersive experience.
The simulation has been designed to help disabled passengers, and anyone who is anxious about travelling for any reason, to build confidence and familiarity before travelling by playing one of a range of characters with different accessibility needs and journey scenarios. A prototype of the software is now undergoing user testing by volunteers from Northern Accessibility User Group (NAUG) and Community Rail Lancashire.
Mark Powles Commercial and Customer Director, at Northern said:
“Our customers are the heart of everything we do, and we are dedicated to making Northern’s services accessible to everyone, and to having a positive impact for the north.
“This technology is the first of its kind and has been developed alongside the independent Northern Accessibility User Group (NAUG) and supported by Northern, to empower people to use public transport – no matter their circumstances.”
The project has been developed by Chrome Angel Solutions and Totem Learning, with support from Angel Trains, Community Rail Lancashire and Northern. Funding to develop a demonstration application was secured via a Department for Transport’s Accessibility Transport Research and Innovation Grant.
Mark Robinson of Chrome Angel Solutions, who is leading the project added:
It’s fantastic to be working with such an enthusiastic group of users, staff and the incredibly creative team at Totem Learning to bring this amazing idea to life. We are very grateful and excited to have the opportunity to demonstrate the huge potential of this technology to support people travelling”.
Richard Watts, Chair, Community Rail Lancashire said:
“For over ten years Community Rail Lancashire has supported people to access train travel but working in partnership with leaders in digital technology has been a first for us. The Serious Game that has been developed will form an integral part of our educational outreach and will, we are sure, help many thousands of people to travel more confidently on our railways.”