Specialist school gets ultimate railway experience

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Budding railway enthusiasts from a specialist school for autism in Lancashire became station assistants and signallers for the day at Manchester Piccadilly station.

On Wednesday 24 January, eight students from Hillside Specialist School and College, near Preston, got a behind the scenes tour at the major North West station.

The group visited the station’s Assisted Travel Lounge, station control room and the Manchester Piccadilly signal box.

The Assisted Travel Lounge is a quiet and welcoming waiting area for passengers with additional mobility and sensory needs that has a dedicated team on hand to help.

In the station control room, the pupils saw how important public information announcements are made, and where the safety of 100,000 passengers a day is monitored 24/7.

The students got a taste for railway signalling at Manchester Piccadilly signal box. Using Network Rail’s training simulator, the pupils learnt how to safely control the movement of trains, just like the signallers at the station, who manage trains from the East Midlands, North Wales, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria.

The pupils inside Manchester Piccadilly signal box.

Anthony Scott, shift station manager at Manchester Piccadilly, said: “It was privilege to welcome Hillside School to Manchester Piccadilly station to learn how the railway works.

“It was clear the pupils from Hillside School have a passion for the railway, with one of them so knowledgeable our signallers tried to sign him up for the nightshift!

“We want everyone to not only feel welcome travelling on the railway, but to also consider the diverse roles on offer by visiting our www.networkrail.co.uk/careers page.”

Emma Pettitt, assistant head at Hillside Specialist School and College, said: “A few of our pupils have taken an interest in working in the rail industry. This was the perfect opportunity for the pupils to get an insight into some different career options.

“We all had a fantastic time, and the staff were friendly and accommodating throughout.”

Hillside Specialist School and College is based in Longridge, Lancashire. The school specialises in communication and interaction for pupils with autism aged between three and 19 years old. Their next railway trip is a learning day with Network Rail’s maintenance team in Preston.

Image credit: Network Rail

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