And we’re off…

Making Connections involves thinking about the journeys we take, which are often made up of different parts. If we’re travelling somewhere, we frequently use more than one form of transport: a train to a different city, and then a bus. Or maybe a bus to the airport, and then a plane. Changing between these different forms of transport counts as part of the journey too but it’s often an overlooked one, one for which there isn’t much assistance or guidance provided.

With this project, we’re hoping to change that by working with disabled people and transport operator staff to look at what people need to navigate these connections more easily; which systems of support can be put in place and where these are particularly needed. We’re focussing on train and ferry connections, which constitute a lifeline service for people living on the Northern and Western Isles. Whether people are visiting friends and family, attending hospital appointments, or having a holiday, they rely on these connections to get them there and back.

Ensuring that there are good transport connections and links to the islands is crucial for those who live there, yet it is often not prioritised, making travel more difficult for people who don’t drive. From my personal experience, growing up on Orkney and often taking the boat south, the stress of having to try to pre-book a taxi to journey the two miles from the NorthLink ferry terminal to Thurso train station – after the dedicated bus connection was abolished – is a hassle for foot passengers in general, and particularly inconvenient for disabled people.

So – what can we do? Well, over the next two months we’re holding a series of workshops and journeys to find out. We’ll be looking at the connections from the train station in the centre of Aberdeen to the NorthLink ferry terminal which takes passengers north to Orkney and Shetland; the other will consider the rail and boat links at Ardrossan on the West Coast, where people travel to Arran. We’ll consider how to plan and measure the results of our journeys, and then carry them out, recording issues and experiences in order to find out the priorities for improving these connections.

Andy from Go Upstream explains his vision for the project:

“This project is a fantastic opportunity to bring service providers together with passengers with different disabilities to explore the reality of making connections - the spaces between services. We’ll not only discover the real issues that people face during connections but also look at some potential solutions.  If we are to create truly inclusive travel services, we need to look at every part of a journey and put the experience and expertise of disabled people at the centre of the design process. ‘Making Connections’ will help us to make this a reality.”

Our first important date is our upcoming workshop in Aberdeen on February 22. If you are disabled and would like to be a part of the workshop and journey, we’ve got some more information here.

Emma is a Research and Project Assistant Intern for Go Upstream. She can be found tweeting about current projects @UpstreamEmma, or contacted via