Everyone needs a helping hand at the moment so we have been reshaping our existing programmes so we can continue to support our charities and partners with the help they need now.
With the overnight change in routine causing potential anxiety and stress for some of our autism partners we worked on several initiatives to create interesting videos to keep these groups engaged with trains and stations. Projects included ‘Tea with a train driver’; a Q&A style video answering questions from adults and young people from six autistic support partners across our network. We partnered with Aldingbourne Trust, Autism Bedfordshire, Autism Crawley, Embrace, The Avenue and Ivel Valley School.
The project was suggested by Great Northern driver of 13 years Mark Tripp, also a Health & Safety Rep for ASLEF, as a way for team members who are shielding to engage with the groups.
Mark, a dad from Biggleswade said: "I'm a trustee of the national charity, Max Appeal, and we were already doing similar things by holding events to connect people on Zoom, and thought this would be a good idea to offer some stability and routine to service users of the charity.
"We knew of families who were really struggling as they had mainly teenagers who used to spend a lot of time on the railway. As part of the condition, routine can be incredibly important and many are really missing this part of their lives.
"Some of the schools and groups we've worked with were really excited by this idea, so I'm looking forward to hearing their positive feedback."
We’ve also extended our GTR family to support our local areas where we can help. This recently meant donating over 50 abandoned bikes to NHS workers in Luton, Bedfordshire and Sussex to help them get to work. This has only been possible through working with local partners – Luton Borough Council, West Sussex County Council, Horsham District Council and Handlebars.
Fiona Sayers, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner with Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, received one of the bicycles. Fiona said: “I use it nearly every day and I love it! I have already felt the health benefits. Instead of driving my car to work in Worthing, or the shops, etc, I will now use my bicycle to get around.”
We have also worked with our community rail partners to mark 75th anniversary of VE Day on 7 May, as all face-to-face events were cancelled. Working with Bedford – St Albans CRP, we partnered with The Femmes – a 1940’s style girl group - and we held an online VE Day themed singalong concert that was freely available to all local community groups and Thameslink customers.
We are continuing to listen to our communities about what help they need and looking at ways we can support them.