North Norfolk on the road to providing passengers with dementia-friendly buses and trains

Sheringham Dementia Friendly Community secretary Liz Withington with Sanders Coaches training manage

Sheringham Dementia Friendly Community secretary Liz Withington with Sanders Coaches training manager Kevin Reynolds and driver Caren Chandler. Photo: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

North Norfolk is on the road to becoming one of the first areas in the county to provide dementia-friendly trains and buses – a move which could have knock-on benefits for passengers with other health problems.

Thanks to the efforts of Sheringham Dementia Friendly Community (DFC), Holt-based bus company Sanders is forging ahead with plans to train all its 100-plus drivers to recognise the signs of dementia and take into account the individual needs of passengers.

As part of a review of its training programme, Sanders, which covers an area stretching from Fakenham to Great Yarmouth, decided to include dementia awareness sessions provided by Sheringham DFC for its drivers and office staff.

'We wanted to do more to support the community,' said the company's training manager Kevin Reynolds. 'If our drivers know how to recognise the signs, then it is helpful for them and for people with dementia - and from a commercial point of view, keeping people using the buses, means keeping buses on the road.'

Sheringham DFC secretary and training session leader Liz Withington said that having the support of the main provider of bus services in north Norfolk was a 'major step forward'.

'It is not just about drivers, it is also about signage and access to easy-to-read timetables and information,' Mrs Withington explained. 'And once you start thinking about people with dementia, you are automatically helping people with other needs such as those with visual impairment.'

Sheringham DFC is now working on supporting the Community Rail Partnership for the Bittern Line to look into ways in which the Sheringham to Cromer train service could be made more accessible to passengers with dementia, with the group also urging other public transport companies to consider developing dementia awareness schemes.

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'The main obstacle to using buses and trains faced by people with dementia is anxiety and wondering how they will cope if something goes wrong,' Mrs Withington said. 'This can mean a simple task like getting on a bus becomes almost impossible and dementia-aware drivers can ensure people don't become frightened to use public transport and end up isolated and lonely,'