Talking benches will welcome back passengers at Essex rail stations

A project to install ‘talking benches’ at rail stations in Essex will offer people information about the local area as they wait for trains.

The innovative benches have been installed at Alresford, Braintree and Manningtree, with Manningtree the first station in the country to receive one.

The talking benches feature a button which, when pressed, tells the story of the area and will provide interest to those waiting for trains – but is also aimed at tackling social isolation and loneliness by helping to provide a place for people to connect and chat.

The project has been funded by the Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership and Community Rail Network who have worked with Greater Anglia’s Asset Management Team who carried out the installations.

Jayne Summer, Rail Engagement Manager at the Community Rail Partnership said, “We hope these new benches get people talking and bring people together now that restrictions are starting to ease. The benches not only provide useful information but are also intended to help tackle loneliness by providing somewhere to sit and chat.”

Greater Anglia’s Community and Customer Engagement Manager, Alan Neville, said, “This is a wonderful project which will play its part in attracting people back to rail after Covid by providing useful information on days out by train and what there is to see and do locally, helping to boost tourism as part of the green recovery.”

Current Government advice is to minimise journeys, plan ahead and travel at less busy times.

Greater Anglia continues to ensure that rail travel is safe for staff and passengers with an enhanced cleaning regime, on stations and trains, concentrating on high-touch areas such as push buttons, grab rails and door handles. 

The train operator has also introduced a wide range of measures to make it easier for customers to maintain social distancing at stations and on trains – including floor markings, one-way systems, new signs and queuing systems.

It is mandatory for customers to wear a face covering when using public transport, to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. Children under the age of 11 and people with a disability or illness which means they cannot wear a face covering are exempt from wearing them. 

Header photo: Greater Anglia and the Essex and South Suffolk CRP team with the bench at Braintree.
Photo above :Steven Brown, part of Greater Anglia’s Customer Service Team at Manningtree station, with the talking bench. Credit Greater Anglia.

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