The rail operators’ innovative online virtual tour is aimed at increasing general confidence in travel and will be extremely useful for disabled customers who will be able to check ahead of travelling how accessible their journey will be.
The tour aims to provide customers with a clear view of the station ahead of travelling, reducing anxiety relating to how they will get from the car park to the platform to the airport.
The virtual station tour can also offer people a chance to find the location of useful station areas such as toilets, customer service desk, platforms and other places they may need to visit whilst at the station including car parks or drop off points which will make planning journeys ahead much easier.
360 Degree detailed photography has been used to build the map of the station which captures all public spaces allowing people to navigate virtually the places they might need to visit before making their way to the platform. Aerial photography alongside an interactive map has also been utilised to demonstrate the locations of all customer facilities in relation to each other.
Greater Anglia’s Accessibility Panel are a group of disabled customers who get together regularly with the rail operator have provided feedback throughout the development of the project and are in full support of the tour.
The online virtual tour is web-based and offers autopilot or manual choices when navigating the station, an interactive map also allows a full view of the entire station layout and features ‘hot-spot’ links to specific areas of the station.
The aerial view allows people to see the car park, cycle parking, bus stop and taxi rank/drop off location.
Important features on individual platforms can also be navigated directly using a drop-down menu to find items such as tactile paving which is the texture paving on the edge of platforms, assisted travel meeting points and toilets.
The ‘autopilot’ option provides users with the chance to choose their destination locations within the station allowing them to be guided automatically with a series of clicks.
The technology for the project has been provided by The Virtual Tour company with the tours software also being designed to be accessible.
Another great point is a spoken scene guide with closed captions which plays on the home page at the station entrance and provides an accessibility widget so that users can change to high contrast, large font size or audio transcribe. A future aim is to include British Sign Language videos which are part of Greater Anglia’s ongoing commitment to improving customer information.
To view the tours, please visit: https://www.greateranglia.co.uk/travel-information/your-journey/virtual-tours
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.”
Greater Anglia will be creating 360-degree virtual tours for ten of its busiest stations, with tours currently available for Norwich, Cambridge, Stansted Airport. Tours for Bishops Stortford, Broxbourne, Chelmsford, Ipswich, Shenfield and Southend Victoria will be available soon.