A train was named “The Bentham Line – A Dementia-Friendly Railway” by Peter Wilkinson, MD of Passenger Services, at the Rail Group.
Fifty people were present including representatives from the Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership (LMCRP) responsible for the Bentham Line, the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) and various local dementia charities involved.
Steve Hopkinson, East Area Director for Northern, spoke about how great it was to see so many people involved in the project from the railway and beyond, which was a testimony to how important raising awareness of dementia is to people. #
He said: “50% of the population know or support someone with Dementia and two facts really resonate with me about what living with dementia really means: the stigma and fear which arises from a lack of understanding of the disease; and the impact on activities we take for granted such as buying a ticket, travelling by rail to see the sights of Yorkshire and beyond.
“Thanks to the passionate work that Gerald Townson and his colleagues at the LMCRP have done, supported by Richard Isaac, Community and Sustainability Manager and other colleagues at Northern with additional assistance from: Dementia Forward, Enhance the UK and the Dementia Friends imitative of the Alzheimer’s Society, as well as the DfT; that stigma and fear is being challenged and removed.
“The activities we take for granted are again becoming enjoyable for people associated with dementia.
“They can buy their tickets, travel by train through Yorkshire and enjoy a walk on the promenade at Morecambe”.
“Our staff and colleagues are becoming far more aware of dementia and how to embrace the challenges it can bring.
“They do this through the awareness sessions designed by Gerald and colleagues, and supported by Northern.
“This incredible project has raised awareness with our staff and customers and brought our communities closer together.
“This morning each and every one of you should be extremely proud of the work done and now let us continue that hard work.”
Guest of honour, Peter Wilkinson, said; “I am incredibly proud to be at this event.
“It highlights a significant project that helps make public transport accessible to many more people.”
He congratulated both Northern and the LMCRP for the work they had done in raising awareness of dementia amongst their staff, the travelling public and in communities along the line from Leeds to Morecambe. He felt it had the potential to be a world-leading project that could be a beacon to railways in other areas.
He said: “Work such as this should spur others on to open up public transport to be truly inclusive to those with hidden disabilities, such as dementia.
“Public transport is a means of joining communities together”.
As more people consider using public transport, in the light of environmental considerations, it is vital that all are able to benefit from such a service.
Peter said: “We often think of railways as just a mode of transport; a means to an end.
“Our railways are so much more than that; they are the lifeblood of our communities; and an important way to bring people together.
“Our communities are everything and the Bentham Line’s dementia-friendly project is a fine example reflecting this.”
Gerald Townson, Chair of the Bentham Line’s Community Rail Partnership, added his own welcome and thanked all who had contributed to the project, especially the members of the Dementia and Community Rail Project Team.
“He also expressed his gratitude to Northern for their understanding and support for the project over the past two years, adding a particular ‘thank you’ to their East Area team who had brought to fruition this special train naming.
Thanking Peter Wilkinson of the DfT, Gerald commented positively on the recently launched Community Rail Strategy and the Passenger Assistance Scheme has developed well over the past decade and, importantly, is now being reviewed. Gerald said; “it is vital to extend the reach of this scheme to include those living with hidden disabilities such as dementia. We need to give those people the confidence to travel for as long as they can and continue to enjoy life alongside others. The CRP has been working hard to raise awareness of dementia with frontline staff along the route to Morecambe to create a key supporting ingredient.”
The train, a newly re-furbished Class 150 unit, is one which can travel over all the wide-ranging Northern network so could be seen as far away as Carlisle, Newcastle, Lincoln, Nottingham, Chester, right across West Yorkshire, around Manchester and from the West Coast to the East coast.
The train will act as an ‘ambassador’ for the work of the Dementia and Community Rail project team over much of northern England.
It is the first time that this specific thoughtful design has been applied to a train using the “forget-me-not” symbol as used by the Bentham Line.
The symbol is appropriate as while an individual living with dementia may forget they are not forgotten by others who assist them and enable them to live as full a life as possible.
As well as the additional external display there are there are posters inside the train and dementia-friendly signage for the priority seating and the toilet.
After the name had been ceremonially revealed and photographs taken the group stepped aboard for a trip to Bentham, to look at how those living with dementia can contribute positively to their local community through public art projects.