Greater Anglia has launched an online virtual tour of Norwich rail station designed to support journey planning, give customers a clearer picture of the station before they travel, and reduce anxiety about how they get from the car park to the station platforms.
The online virtual tour starts by showing the entrance to Norwich rail station, from there, people can find out how to get to all public areas of the station including the toilets, customer service desk, platforms, and anywhere else they might need to visit at the station such as car parks or drop off areas, making it easier for them to plan their journey in advance.
During the development of the project, members of Greater Anglia’s Accessibility Panel, a group of disabled customers who meet regularly with the train company, offered their feedback.
Detailed 360-degree photography was used to map the station and capture all public spaces. People can navigate virtually, even visiting the toilet or the waiting room before going to the platform. Aerial photography and an interactive map have also been used to show the location of all the customer facilities in relation to each other.
Key features such as tactile paving, assisted travel meeting points, toilets, and individual platforms can also be navigated to directly through a drop-down menu system.
A spoken scene guide with closed captions plays on the home page at the station entrance and it features an accessibility widget that enables the user to change to high contrast, large font size or audio transcribe. Future developments will look at incorporating British Sign Language videos as part of Greater Anglia’s commitment to improving customer information.
The company is creating 360-degree virtual, tours which can be viewed on any device, for ten of its busiest stations, with more stations is planned for the future. Cambridge was the first to go live in December 2021, with Bishops Stortford, Broxbourne, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Shenfield, Southend Victoria and Stansted Airport to follow. Virtual tours of Norwich and Cambridge can be viewed here.
Greater Anglia’s Accessibility Manager, Rebecca Richardson, said, “The idea was to create a tool for customers to assist them with their journey planning and reduce the anxiety about whether the station would create any accessibility barriers. We want to give people who may not have travelled by rail for a while or maybe not at all, to do so with confidence.
“We are committed to making rail more accessible and providing quality information to enable more informed journey planning.
Neil Henderson, Managing Director of Virtual Tour Experts, said, “We’ve really enjoyed working on this project to create a number of industry firsts. The world of VR is developing fast but until now that development has not given due consideration to online accessibility.
“This tour is the World’s first to incorporate an accessibility widget, guided tours, subtitled scene guides and there is much more to come. The user-first attitude of the team at Greater Anglia provided the perfect base for development and will ensure the platform continues to evolve.”