"By utilising Alexa in this way, Virgin Trains recognises the importance of disabled people as being a key part of rail industry business."
Virgin Trains has furthered its association with Amazon’s Alexa service to make trains more accessible for passengers with disabilities and mobility issues: a voice-activated feature that enables assistance to be booked at stations. The operator announced in May 2018 that it had teamed up with the shopping giant’s Alexa units to enable customers to book tickets without having to log on to an app or website. Using JourneyCare, it is possible to request help using basic commands that will prove especially useful to those with visual impairment or mobility issues.
Now live, the new system circumvents the previous process that required passengers to complete an online form or book using Virgin Trains’ call centre number. One participant who helped with the testing of the new Amazon-Virgin system, Chris Tomson, who is disabled, said it makes the booking process much easier.
“Using JourneyCare is a fantastic asset. It does a great job of combining the two processes and comes in handy if I have any pain in my arms and I am unable to use a computer, phone or tablet to book my journey,” said Tomson [pictured], who has Osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. The new system retains information that has been previously submitted, meaning that users won’t have to enter fresh details for new journeys.
Stephen Brookes, Rail Sector Champion for the Minister for Disabled People, said that Virgin Trains’ (@VirginTrains) assistance booking system wasn’t just good news for the disabled but other travellers as well. “By utilising Alexa (@amazonecho) in this way, Virgin Trains recognises the importance of disabled people as being a key part of rail industry business. But it doesn't mean that those who cannot access or use new technology will miss out, as the staff involved in phone booking will be more freed up to help those who need more help or time in booking their journey,” said Brookes.
SmartRail World has covered systems before which have been developed with the express purpose of making booking and travelling easier for those with disabilities and degenerative diseases. The UK government introduced an app late last year to aid those with dementia on the rail networks, Welcome Aboard, which was developed with the Rail Safety and Standards Board and incorporates a two-way communication system between passengers to alert staff to a passenger's arrival at the station. The UK’s transport accessibility minister, Nusrat Ghani, heralded the app and said it demonstrated the government’s ongoing commitment to improving people’s journeys.
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