Train operator Greater Anglia has launched an online virtual tour of Ipswich rail station. The tour is designed to help people with journey planning, giving passengers a clear picture of the station layout before they travel.
The initiative is especially useful for disabled people wanting to check how accessible their journey is. It can also help reduce anxiety for anyone unsure about how to get from the car park to the platforms.
Using the virtual station tour, people can find out how to get to all public areas of the station including the toilets, customer service desk, ticket office, platforms and anywhere else they might need to visit such as the car parks or drop-off areas.
Detailed 360-degree photography has captured all public spaces enabling anyone to navigate around the station virtually. Aerial photography and an interactive map show the location of all the customer facilities in relation to each other.
Members of Greater Anglia’s Accessibility Panel, a group of disabled customers who meet regularly with the train company, offered feedback during the tour’s development and have been supportive of the project.
The web-based online virtual tour offers autopilot or manual choices for navigation. An interactive map of the station layout features ‘hot spot’ links to specific areas at the station. There is also an aerial view showing the car park, cycle parking, bus stop and taxi rank / drop off location.
A drop-down menu allows direct navigation to key areas including tactile paving (the bumpy yellow surface paving at the edge of platforms), assisted travel meeting points, toilets and individual platforms.
The ‘autopilot’ tool gives users the option of selecting their destination location within the station and being automatically guided to it or, if preferred, through a series of clicks.
The technology was provided by The Virtual Tour company and the tours software has been designed to be accessible.
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 tours can be viewed at https://www.greateranglia.co.uk/travel-information/your-journey/virtual-tours on any device and the addition of more stations is planned in the future.
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.”
360-degree virtual tours are now available for 12 of Greater Anglia’s busiest stations – Bishop’s Stortford, Broxbourne, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Colchester, Harlow Town, Ingatestone, Ipswich, Norwich, Shenfield, Southend Victoria and Stansted Airport.