Kent Community Rail Partnership approached Ashford College to see if they would like to be part of their plans for Community Rail Week with the theme of Give the Train a Try, which was a national week of activity to promote the benefits of rail travel among all age groups and to help re-introduce people to trains following the pandemic.
On Thursday, May 26, a group of 17 students took a ride from Ashford International station to Maidstone East accompanied by staff members who gathered learners’ views on a range of topics.
Topics included rail safety, accessibility, barriers to travel, and sustainability, with the teens encouraged to be completely honest.
Before returning from Maidstone East, the groups got the chance to make announcements over the station’s tannoy system as well as having an interesting safety workshop with Sanchez Virginie, Southeastern’s, Travel Safe, Travel Smart Manager.
Upon the train’s return to Ashford, visitors and students alike were treated to hearty ploughman’s lunches made by the College’s Catering department.
One of the guests was Jools Townsend, the Chief Executive of the nationwide Community Rail Network.
Following the delicious lunch, she said: “We know there are plenty of people who don’t use trains or haven’t for a long time, and we think it’s important that we familiarise them with the train network and get their views on what would make them use rail more.
“A really important reason for encouraging people to use the trains is sustainability - tackling the climate emergency through increased use of public transport - and it’s been brilliant hearing the students’ views on this.
“A massive thank you to everyone at Ashford College for welcoming me and my colleagues to Ashford today. We’ve really enjoyed talking with you, we’ve heard your suggestions and we’ll definitely be feeding them back to create potential change.”
Matthew Fraser, Southeastern’s Community Relations Manager, added: “Days like these are very important. These young people are the future commuters and leisure travellers and getting their views on what we provide is vital for the growth of the railways.
“To see really good engagement and views as we did today, and is really helpful for us to know how our service can benefit young people better.”
Susan Bonett, Principal of Ashford College, said: “We were overjoyed to be asked to get involved with the ‘Give the Train a Try’ event, and I’m glad our students were able to provide some valuable insights.
“Hosting the Southeastern and Community Rail Partnership teams was of great benefit to our learners and a lovely opportunity to show them the great work we do here at the College.”