Spirits were high as fifty guests gathered at Bentham station on Friday 25th May for the official launch of the Dementia and Community Rail Project lead by the Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership (the Bentham Line). The Partnership have been working hard over the past 18 months to create the first dementia-friendly railway line in Britain.
Guests, including senior representatives from Northern, the local train operator, the Department for Transport, Transport for the North and the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) boarded a special train complete with a commemorative headboard, forget-me-not signage and project posters, at Leeds mid-morning. The train picked up further guests en route at Shipley, Keighley and Skipton, including a group of people living with dementia and their supporters who had helped during the development of the project.
In addition to representatives from the rail industry there were individuals from various bodies working with the Partnership along the route including; the Alzheimer’s Society based in Shipley, Dementia-Friendly Keighley, Bentham and District Dementia-Friendly Community, Dementia Forward, the Forest of Bowland AONB, Friends of Bentham Station. Representatives from North Yorkshire County Council and Craven District Council attended too, as well as other local community-based railway groups.
On arrival at Bentham, the guests were warmly welcomed by Gerald Townson, Chairman of the Community Rail Partnership. Gerald highlighted the importance of the inclusivity aspects of the project and detailed the positive effects it is beginning to have on the rail industry, locally on the Bentham Line, regionally within Northern and nationally with other community rail lines and train operating companies.
The project focusses on four main areas of development: the raising staff, volunteer and passenger awareness of dementia, supporting journeys for those living with dementia and their carers, working to create dementia friendly stations and services; establishing a range of supporting activities, including dementia-friendly walks from stations on the Bentham Line.
Gerald also took the opportunity to thank all those who had so generously given their help and time to the project, creating firm foundations on which to develop the project further.
Kulvinder Bassi, Community Rail Team Leader at the Department for Transport, responded by praising the work of the Bentham Line Partnership and the positive leading approach it was giving to the railway with regard to social inclusion and caring for those with ‘hidden’ disabilities, in particular.