Assisted train travel in the UK

Travelling by train can be quite daunting if you have accessibility needs, but fortunately there are plenty of services available to help you have a more comfortable and stress-free journey. By law, every train operating company is required to have provisions in place to make their trains accessible to all. 

In this article we discuss those provisions and the following ways in which you can book and access assisted train travel, including:

  • Passenger Assist
  • Turn Up as You Go
  • The Sunflower Scheme

Keep reading to find out more about what assistance is on offer on trains and in stations across the UK, and how to book it.

Passenger Assist

Passenger Assist is a service which connects you with a designated team of trained railway staff who will listen to your needs and put in place accessibility arrangements for your journey. 

The Passenger Assist team and members of staff will be available to:

  • meet you at your station at a convenient designated point
  • provide train station assistance including navigating stations
  • provide assistance on the train itself, including anything relating to non-visible impairments
  • help you on and off your train(s), including providing ramp access where required and helping you on to a connecting service
  • help you carry your baggage (up to 3 items as per the National Rail Conditions of Travel)
  • help you with your pets

How to book Passenger Assist

Created in collaboration with National Rail, our Passenger Assistance app is designed to make it easy and convenient for you to request assistance when you want to travel. It works for all train operating companies in Great Britain.

The app has been designed in consultation with disabled people and is suitable for screen-readers. Simply download the app and set up your profile. Once that’s complete, all you need to do is provide your travel details then station staff will see your request and arrange assistance for you, so your journey is as stress-free as possible.

The app is available both on the App Store and Google Play

Alternatively, you can book Passenger Assist services by calling for free on 0800 0223720 or texting 60083. If you use a textphone/minicom, please call 0845 6050 600. 

You can also book Passenger Assist directly through the train operating company you are travelling with. This can be done by contacting them via phone, or completing and submitting an online form.

Turn Up and Go

Train companies also support flexible travel plans, and provide last-minute assistance requests without pre-booking, in the form of Turn Up and Go.

It’s worth bearing in mind that on occasion, staffed train stations might be busy assisting other passengers or resolving urgent train-related issues. They therefore might not be able to assist you immediately, though they will when they can.

How to access Turn Up and Go 

To get assistance at UK railway stations via Turn Up and Go, you simply need to arrive at the station and request travel assistance, either from railway staff or at a Help Point. 

The Sunflower Scheme

The Sunflower Scheme is a train passenger assistance service for those with non-visible disabilities.

If you have a non-visible disability and wish to discreetly indicate to either railway staff or other passengers that you might require assistance on your train journey or take a bit more time getting on and off trains, then all you need to do is wear a sunflower lanyard. 

All train companies recognise the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, and railway staff are trained to keep an eye out for passengers travelling with sunflower lanyards or sunflower-marked possessions. You can purchase a lanyard here.

You aren’t required to wear a sunflower lanyard when travelling if you have a non-visible disability. Rather, the goal of the scheme is to instil confidence in travellers who may want or need assistance when travelling by train.

Wheelchairs and mobility scooters on trains

Most trains in the UK can accommodate wheelchairs with the following dimensions: 700mm x 1200mm (width x length). However, there are some older train models which are unable to accommodate wheelchairs that are wider than 550mm.

If you’re a wheelchair user, you may want to consider getting in touch with your train company or making arrangements to reserve a wheelchair space in advance. When you book assisted rail travel via the Passenger Assistance app, if you require a wheelchair space and they are available for reservation, the team processing your assistance request will make a reservation for you if your profile says that you are a wheelchair user. Alternatively you can add that you are a wheelchair user to the ‘other info’ box. If you’re travelling with others, remember that wheelchair spaces tend to come with companion seats which can be held for you. 

If you are accompanying a wheelchair user, blind or visually impaired traveller, then you both will be eligible for discounts on your train tickets. Please note, the discount applies to adult fares for Standard Class and First Class seats. 

As with wheelchairs, trains are able to accommodate mobility scooters with the dimensions: 700mm x 1200mm (width x length). The total weight must not exceed 300kg (though this guideline varies for Heathrow Express, Island Line). 

While most train providers allow mobility scooters on their trains, some providers require you to carry a permit or Scooter Pass for your safety, and the safety of other passengers.

UK Government Guidelines

As per UK government guidelines, National Rail train companies must provide train passenger assistance and support services for disabled people. They must also be able to tell you:

  • the support services and facilities they offer 
  • and how and where to get assistance, including if there are disruptions to your train journey

This is known as an Accessible Travel Policy (ATP), and you can request it from the train company you use or visit their website to download a copy. Each ATP will be available in alternative formats in small and large print. It will provide accessibility information, answer FAQs and list the provisions they have in place for assisted train travel.