Ashford College Travel Training

Students, tutors and Therese make their way through Ashford International station.

On Thursday 25th April we joined five special education needs (SEN) students and their tutors from Ashford College for a travel training visit to Maidstone East.


During our introduction we established that the students were infrequent rail users and unfamiliar with stations environments. We then explained the various display screens and how to use them to see which trains go where, at what time and from which platform. We showed the students where to buy tickets and how to access assistance if required.


After making our way through the station and up to the platforms we used the displays to check that we were on the right platform for our train. We explained the purpose of the yellow line near the platform edge and the importance of always keeping off of the tracks. When the train arrived we allowed people to get off before we boarded.


We quickly made ourselves comfortable for the journey. As we traveled along the line Therese explained various station projects taking place, notably the window boxes at Charing station which will soon be replanted by other Ashford College students, and the creation of a community hub and cafe in the once derelict ticket office at Hollingbourne.

On arrival at Maidstone East station we were greeted by friendly Southeastern staff and shown behind the scenes to see how trains travel along the network. Two students were encouraged to make public announcements over the station’s tannoy system. 

We were fortunate to have arrive at the perfect time to witness a train split. In a train split a multiple carriage unit is divided into two separate sets of carriages, each of which can be driven independently. A 12 coach train had returned from the busy morning peak service and was being split into 8 car and 4 car units. Matt Fraser, Customer Relations Manager for Southeastern talked us through the various safety protocols that are completed before the split takes place, we then watched the split occur

Whilst waiting for our return journey we noticed that the display boards were indicating a delay due to a landslip. The length of delay grew from 5 minutes to 10, then simply to delayed. We seized this as an educational opportunity and asked for information on Southeastern’s X (Twitter) feed (@Se_Railway). We were soon reassured that delays were minor, resulting from a speed restriction on the line towards Maidstone East. The train to take us back to Ashford International arrived soon after and progressed at its usual speed for the remainder of our journey.


The students said that they had enjoyed their day and the session had helped them to become more familiar with their local station and see how friendly and helpful the staff are, building their confidence to make their own rail journeys.