train_mainRAIL commuters with disabilities and learning difficulties are to get safer and more comfortable journeys, thanks to a ‘blue card’ scheme from First TransPennine Express.

In what is a first for the UK transport industry, FTPE have partnered with the Blue Assist charity to make the going easier for disabled passengers.

Originating in Belgium in 2008, the scheme is widely used on public transport and in shops on the continent.

Users can collect blue assistance cards from stations served by FTPE and on board trains and write on their specific needs before presenting the card to staff.

The Association of Train Operators (ATOC), the representing body for rail providers, found that only one per cent of those needing assistance actually ask for it.

Last year an estimated that 70 million journeys were made by passengers in need of assistance.

Tracy Holah, area operations manager at the Mencap charity, who helped to set up the scheme, said: “What we take for granted is a massive step for people who need this support.

“I think once more train staff understand the importance of the cards and the difference it makes to people they may want to help more.”

Barbara Dewar from Blue Assist added: “By being the first operator to take the scheme on board and make their staff more aware of the multitude of special requirements we are confident that FTPE will lead the rail industry in becoming more accessible and journeys less stressful for those with hidden disabilities.

“The Blue Assist card can be used in all walks of life. Being able to use it on trains and at rail stations across the north of England and into Scotland is a significant step forward and one we whole heartedly welcome.”

In addition to the cards, users can download the Blue Assist App for smart phones and tablets and type their requirements on screen. The App is free and available for both iphone and Android users.

Destinations served by First TransPennine Express include Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Northallerton, Thirsk, York, Malton, Scarborough, Hull, Selby, Leeds, Huddersfield, Cleethorpes, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Meadowhall, Doncaster, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Carlisle, Barrow in Furness, Blackpool, Lancaster, Preston, Bolton, Manchester, Manchester Airport, Warrington and Liverpool.