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Diversity House

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Project Overview

Many of us take booking tickets online and using apps for granted. We can often easily find the best prices and at what time of day is best to travel. However, imagine if you don’t speak English as your first language, then this can become a barrier. Our project with Diversity House was designed to help us understand the barriers to travelling by train if you can’t easily speak the language. What challenges do they face on a daily basis?

We contacted Diversity House an organisation about 100 metres from Sittingbourne Station to help. Diversity House is a charity that provides community and prison based services for diverse communities across Kent.

The charity aims to promote community integration, re-integration, social inclusion and cohesion within the Swale and Kent communities. 

“It is our belief that individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, religion and beliefs, sexuality, sexual orientation, social class, and other social factors, should be treated with dignity, respect and adequate opportunities to access services within the community.” (Diversity House Website)

After speaking to Christine Locke – the Chief Executive of Diversity House, it became very clear that there are vulnerable groups who are unable to access the same opportunities and remain isolated in their community. One of the barriers to this is not being able to speak the language and as a result lack self confidence in leaving their own house. 

A plan was organised to help train a group of adults, who lacked the confidence to travel anywhere, to help plan a local journey and encourage them to visit a new destination.

The chosen group meet regularly on a Friday to attend English lessons. The group were taught some key vocabulary and phrases  that would be helpful when travelling by train prior to our trip.

Travel Training Trip to Rochester 2022

On Friday 1st July a group of adults from Diversity House, mainly those who spoke English as a Second Language, were invited to join Kent CRP for some travel training and to take part in a trip to Rochester. A short train journey from Sittingbourne Station.

The project began by training the group on how to use the National Rail App. If they could use this effectively, they could then use it to help plan their journey and show the ticket office where they would like to go and which type of ticket they required. Alternatively, they could book using the app in advance.
By learning to use the app, it would provide them with the following information:
  • to identify the cheapest ticket prices and the best time to travel
  • know which platform the train departed from
  • if they needed to make any changes
  • which stations the train stopped at on route
  • the cost of tickets if they had a rail card to make frequent journeys.
During the initial presentation, the carriage for accessible travel was identified, so those with a walking frame, pushchair etc… knew the best place to board the train. The different type of rail cards were also explained.

The second stage was to give the group a tour of their local station. Matt Fraser from Southeastern explained how they could use the ticket machine, information point and ticket office to help buy tickets or find out additional information.

In Rochester

On arriving in Rochester, the group had the opportunity to practice their English and order a meal at a local restaurant. One of the life skills, Diversity House is trying to encourage is that they order their own food for themselves. The meal was followed by a walk along the high street before visiting the grounds of the historic castle and cathedral in Rochester.
The group then used their app to identify the next train to Sittingbourne.
Vytautus who has lived in the United Kingdom for the last 12 years commented
“I used the train a lot when I lived in Lithuania, but it was only one line, up and down. I now feel much more happier travelling by train in the UK. I have only ever used a train here once before, I would now like to take my wife and children to London for the day.”

Thank you to Southeastern for funding the train travel and Diversity House for their support in helping us to understand some of the barriers our communities may experience when travelling by rail.