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Northern helps develop UK’s first autism-friendly railway line

Joining forces with Community Rail Lancashire and the National Autistic Society, Northern has developed the UK’s first autism-friendly railway line.

The project launched earlier this week on the Todmorden Curve line, which runs between Accrington, Burnley Manchester Road and Manchester Victoria.

There are around 700,000 autistic children and adults in the UK, as well as three million family members who support and assist them. Often those with autism can struggle in public places like stations and on trains, and can be anxious about unexpected changes which can occur with delays.

Carolyn Watson, community and sustainability director at Northern, spoke at the launch, saying: ““Improving the journey experience of our customers is one of our top priorities and we recognise that, for some people, using the railway is not always straightforward.

“We want to make our trains – and our wider network – as accessible as possible, and are delighted to be able to support this fantastic project. Our colleagues jumped at the chance to get involved and we are absolutely committed to making the UK’s first autism-friendly line a success that can be replicated elsewhere.”

Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain, project manager with Community Rail Lancashire, added: “Unexpected changes when taking public transport can be overwhelming; 79% of autistic people tell the National Autistic Society they feel socially isolated, and for some, the fear of unexpected changes could mean not even leaving the house.

“By giving these young people and their families the chance to experience public transport in a positive and guided context, we can give them confidence for future use.”

As part of the programme, the National Autistic Society are now training Northern staff on the line about how best they can support autistic customers and other with hidden needs, ensuring they too receive the best possible experience on their journeys.

More information on the project can be found on the Community Rail Lancashire website here.


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