Fifty people were present including representatives from the Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership (LMCRP) responsible for the Bentham Line, the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) and various local charities involved, including Dementia Friendly Keighley, Dementia Friends, the Bay Dementia Hub and Bentham & District Dementia Friendly Community who all provide support for those living with dementia and their carers. Importantly, several individuals living with dementia, who have been involved in the project, were also able to be present along with their supporters.
Steve Hopkinson, East Area Director for Northern, in welcoming the guests to the ceremony, spoke about how great it was to see so many people involved in the project from the railway and beyond, which was a testimony to how important raising awareness of dementia is to people. He added: “50% of the population know or support someone with Dementia and two facts really resonate with me about what living with dementia really means: the stigma and fear which arises from a lack of understanding of the disease; and the impact on activities we take for granted such as buying a ticket, travelling by rail to see the sights of Yorkshire and beyond.”
Steve continued: “Thanks to the passionate work that Gerald Townson and his colleagues at the LMCRP have done, supported by Richard Isaac, Community and Sustainability Manager and other colleagues at Northern with additional assistance from: Dementia Forward, Enhance the UK and the Dementia Friends imitative of the Alzheimer’s Society, as well as the DfT; that stigma and fear is being challenged and removed. The activities we take for granted are again becoming enjoyable for people associated with dementia. They can buy their tickets, travel by train through Yorkshire and enjoy a walk on the promenade at Morecambe”.
“Our staff and colleagues are becoming far more aware of dementia and how to embrace the challenges it can bring. They do this through the awareness sessions designed by Gerald and colleagues, and supported by Northern. This incredible project has raised awareness with our staff and customers and brought our communities closer together. This morning each and every one of you should be extremely proud of the work done and now let us continue that hard work.”
Responding to the warm welcome, the guest of honour, Peter Wilkinson, said: “I am incredibly proud to be at this event. It highlights a significant project that helps make public transport accessible to many more people.” He congratulated both Northern and the LMCRP for the work they had done in raising awareness of dementia amongst their staff, the travelling public and in communities along the line from Leeds to Morecambe. He felt it had the potential to be a world-leading project that could be a beacon to railways in other areas. He added; “Work such as this should spur others on to open up public transport to be truly inclusive to those with hidden disabilities, such as dementia. Public transport is a means of joining communities together”. As more people consider using public transport, in the light of environmental considerations, it is vital that all are able to benefit from such a service.