How Virtual Station Tours Can Soothe Passengers’ Nerves
British company Virtual Tours Experts have collaborated with train operator Greater Anglia on a virtual tour of Stansted Airport station, to give passengers the chance to experience the station before a visit.
The virtual tour can be particularly useful for customers with disabilities to check the accessibility of their journey. The Greater Anglia Accessibility Committee is made up of a group of customers with disabilities who meet regularly with the company to share their feedback on the project. Members shared their support for the virtual tour idea throughout.
Stansted Airport station has step-free access, accessible ticket machines, accessible ticket counters and a ramp is available for access to the train. Some new rolling stock also serves the station, and these trains have access by retractable steps, allowing passengers in wheelchairs and scooters to board without a ramp.
While trained staff are also on hand to assist customers with access needs, the virtual tour further enhances trip planning for passengers arriving at the station.
Explore the station remotely
A Greater Anglia spokesperson said: “The tour has been designed to make travel planning easier, give customers a clearer picture of the station before they travel and reduce anxiety about how they will get around the parking at the platform at the airport.”
The online virtual tour on the web gives passengers choices of autopilot or manual when navigating the station. Users can choose a location within the station they want to see and be automatically guided to it, or they can choose to manually click the route on their own.
There is an interactive map that allows users to view the entire station layout, as well as links to navigate to specific areas of the station. The virtual platform aims to reassure on the accessibility and general safety of passengers in the station.
The tour uses 360 degree photography, aerial photography and an interactive map to locate guest facilities. The tour covers other public areas of the station including the entrance, restrooms, customer service or ticket office, platforms, elevators, car parks and drop-off areas.
There is also an aerial view of the car park, bike park, bus stop and taxi rank/drop-off, while meeting points can be viewed using the drop-down menu.
The Greater Anglia spokesperson said: ‘It gives you the closest experience to being physically there. Customers can take their time to take a good look around without the pressures of real travel.
“It gives people a visual guide and a guided tour of the station. This empowers the customer, as it allows them to decide what is or is not an obstacle to their journey, rather than being told if something is accessible or not. »
Informed trip planning is essential for some passengers, and the tour includes a spoken guide with closed captions on the homepage and an accessibility widget that allows users to change layout options, including including large font, high contrast or audio transcription.
Mapping the future
Implementing virtual tour technology has posed many challenges. Greater Anglia searched for a supplier capable of carrying out the project, and Virtual Tours Experts made it possible.
The station was to be filmed at a quiet time when there were few passengers. This was essential to provide clarity, ensuring that passengers had a detailed idea of locations within the station and that the layout of the station was clear without travelers obscuring the view. In addition, permission for aerial images of outdoor areas was required.
Greater Anglia and virtual tours experts have also overcome technical constraints in order to make the virtual tour responsive, meaning it is usable on platforms such as mobile devices as well as computers.
The goal going forward is to create 360 degree virtual tours for ten stations which are expected to have increased passenger numbers in the future and may therefore be more difficult to navigate.
Virtual tours are also available for passengers using Norwich and Cambridge stations. Virtual Tours Experts also plans to make tours of Bishops Stortford, Broxbourne, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Shenfield and Southend Victoria stations available to the public.
Greater Anglia also plans to include British Sign Language videos to support customer information in the future.