How virtual train station tours can relieve the nerves of passengers

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UK-based company Virtual Tours Experts have partnered with train operator Greater Anglia on a virtual tour of Stansted Airport railway station, giving passengers the chance to experience the station before visiting.

The virtual tour can be particularly useful for disabled customers to check how accessible their ride is. Greater Anglia’s Accessibility Panel is a group of disabled customers who meet regularly with the company to share feedback on the project. Members have shared their support for the virtual tour idea throughout.

Stansted Airport Train Station has step-free access, accessible ticket machines, accessible ticket offices and a ramp for train access. Some new vehicles also serve the station, and these trains have retractable steps, allowing passengers with wheelchairs and scooters to board without a ramp.

While trained staff are also available to assist customers with access needs, the virtual tour further enhances journey planning for passengers arriving at the station.

Exploring the station from afar

A spokesman for Greater Anglia says: “The tour has been designed to help with travel planning, to give customers a clearer picture of the station before travel and to reduce anxiety about getting from the car park to the platform to the airport.”

The web-based online virtual tour offers passengers autopilot or manual choices when navigating through the station. Users can select a location within the station that they want to view and be taken there automatically, or they can click through the route themselves manually.

There is an interactive map that allows users to view the station layout in its entirety, as well as links to navigate specific areas of the station. The virtual platform aims to increase security in terms of accessibility and the general safety of passengers at the station.

The tour uses 360-degree photography, aerial views, and an interactive map to locate customer facilities. The tour includes other public areas of the station including the entrance, restrooms, customer service desks or ticket offices, platforms, elevators, parking lots and exit areas.

There is also an aerial view of the car park, bike park, bus stop and taxi rank/bus stop, while travel meeting points can be viewed via the drop down menu.

The Greater Anglia spokesperson says: “This gives you the closest experience to physical presence. Customers can take their time to have a good look around without the pressure of an actual trip.

“It gives people a visual guide and a spoken tour of the station. This empowers the customer as they can decide what is and is not an obstacle to their journey, rather than whether something is accessible or not.”

Informed travel planning is key for some passengers, and the tour offers a closed-captioned spoken guide on the homepage and an accessibility widget that allows users to change layout options, including large font, high-contrast, or audio transcription.

Map the future

Implementing the virtual tour technology presented many challenges. Greater Anglia were looking for a supplier who could run the project and Virtual Tours Experts made it happen.

The station had to be filmed during a quiet period when few passengers were on the move. This was important to ensure clarity, to ensure that passengers had a detailed idea of ​​the locations within the station and that the station layout was clear without obscuring travelers’ views. A permit was also required for aerial photographs of the outdoor facilities.

Greater Anglia and Virtual Tours Experts have also overcome technical limitations to make the virtual tour responsive, meaning it can be used on platforms such as mobile and computer.

The goal for the future is to create 360-degree virtual tours for ten stations, which are expected to have more passengers in the future and may therefore be more difficult to navigate.

There are also virtual tours for passengers using Norwich and Cambridge stations. Virtual Tours Experts also plans to offer tours of Bishops Stortford, Broxbourne, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Shenfield and Southend Victoria stations to the public.

Greater Anglia also plans to include British Sign Language videos in the future to support customer information.

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