A new partnership between the British Transport Police, GWR and volunteers drawn from Taunton’s local churches has been launched to provide additional support to passengers at Taunton Station.
‘Rail Responders’ will patrol the railway station and the surrounding area seeking to offer a caring, listening and reassuring presence. Their approach is to reach out to people in moments of crisis, to offer compassion and understanding.
The new team is an initiative of Taunton Team Chaplaincy which has a good record of community engagement and support for over eight years. Its volunteer chaplains currently serve in Care Homes, Retail premises, Offices and Public spaces.
Fourteen local volunteers have received training and during the spring of 2018 they will start to patrol the station and surrounding environment.
T/Supt Mark Cleland, Sub Divisional Commander of the British Transport Police C Division (Western) has welcomed the development, saying: ‘I’m really pleased to welcome on board these 14 new volunteers as part of Taunton Rail Responders. These team members will offer a reassuring presence to the travelling public and are ready to help any vulnerable passengers on the station.’
Volunteers who have received training in listening skills from the Samaritans will wear a distinctive uniform labelled ‘Rail Responders’. This distinctive royal blue coloured clothing avoids confusion with enforcement agencies and assists the volunteers to engage and interact in an informal manner. Working in teams of three or four, the volunteers will each patrol at least once a month, generally in the evenings and at weekends.
Similar schemes elsewhere in the UK have brought the added bonus of a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour on and near the stations they visit.
GWR’s station manager for Taunton, Tracy McCarthy, expressed the company’s support for the new initiative: ‘GWR is pleased to welcome these community-minded volunteers and looks forward to a productive partnership which will enhance the experience of all our customers, and help to ensure a warm and friendly station environment.’
The project’s organisers are grateful for generous financial contributions from The Fairfield Charitable Trust, Somerset Community Foundation, The Avon and Somerset Police Commissioner’s Community Action Fund and GWR.