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Throughout the past 12 months and beyond, we have been working closely with Kent Community Rail Partnership, who are a group that promote improvements and usage of SwaleRail, Medway Valley Line and the Kent Downs Line (the latter which Ashford International is a part of). For many of our PSA (Personal Social Achievement) / Employability students, going to a railway station and getting on a train is not a familiar concept. To help answer their queries about travelling by train, and to get them to see what it was like, Kent CRP organised a trip up to Maidstone East for our students.
At Ashford International, we were greeted by Matthew Fraser, Southeastern’s Community Relations Manager as well as Therese Hammond, who is part of Kent CRP. Our students were given a guide to how to look for their train using a departure board, before being taken up to the platform they needed. Whilst waiting, Therese spoke to the students about the work that Kent CRP do in the area and the community, as well as what students thought about train travel.
Students got on the train and rode to Maidstone East, which was around 30 minutes in total. On the journey, Therese spoke about the work that she and the rest of the group has done on the Kent Downs line, including cafe meetings and pointing out the maintenance work at Charing station (which we helped with last year!) Students were also told about the nationwide 'See It. Say It. Sorted.' scheme, in which people can tell a member of train staff or call or text the British Transport Police if they see anything suspicious. They were each given a card with the contact details for this (Call 0800 40 50 40, or text on 61016.) as well as a free Kent Community Rail Partnership pen for coming out and trying the train.
Once at Maidstone East, students got to see first-hand the work that station staff do, such as train signalling, and making station announcements over the tannoy. Two students even got to try this for themselves, with Pharrell and Jamie both telling passengers about upcoming trains and where they were stopping.
After a walk around the station and a quick look at how Southeastern are promoting green transport, with added cycle racks and bike schemes, we got back on the train to Ashford. It was an exciting day for our students, who got to try something new as well as seeing how they could make a difference in our community. These groups are currently planning to help out with Charing station later this summer!