School pupils in Bolton have been the first to try out a new programme to help autistic and neurodiverse travellers to access exciting days out by rail.

Pupils and staff from Birtenshaw School, Bromley Cross, were the first adventurers to benefit from the new Adventures for All initiative.

It provides hands-on guidance and support to young people and adults who may find taking the train, for leisure trips in the North West daunting.

The Bolton News: New Adventures for All initiative

Bury-based outdoor organisation, The Sunnywood Project, created the programme in collaboration with Northern Rail, Community Rail Lancashire and the League of Curiosity. 

Jane Emanuel, the community lead for the Sunnywood Project, said: “Travelling on our railways can be incredibly challenging for people with a wide range of visible and invisible disabilities, mental health conditions and neurodivergencies.

“Adventures For All aims to encourage and enable people who are first-time rail passengers or those with low confidence, with a specific focus on engaging autistic people and their friendship and family networks.

The Bolton News: New Adventures for All initiative

She added: “However, we know from previous initiatives that the wider community will also benefit from accessing the resources produced.”

The firt lot of adventurers took a trip to Blackburn to explore the city centre before a light lunch at the Checks and Greys Café at the Cathedral.

The project is funded by the Northern Accessibility Innovation Scheme and is designed to introduce, encourage and enable autistic and otherwise neurodiverse people to develop rail confidence.

The Bolton News: New Adventures for All initiative

The initiative is focused on the Blackburn to Manchester Victoria route, which became the UK’s first Autism Friendly Line back in 2018.

Community Rail Lancashire’s accessibility and inclusion officer, Katie Douglas said: “Community Rail Lancashire is passionate about the benefits of rail travel, but those most anxious about rail travel are unlikely to travel by train if ‘rail’ is a trigger for anxiety and stress.

“By working in partnership with The Sunnywood Project, who have experience of successfully delivering similar projects with a wide reach, we will continue to engage people along the Autism Friendly Line during 2023.

The Bolton News: New Adventures for All initiative

“By engaging participants with activities supported by, but distinct from, rail travel we are confident that they will discover that they have grown in rail confidence as a ‘side effect’ of taking part.”

At the heart of the campaign is a series of interactive adventure maps that participants can follow on their smartphones to find points of interest and unlock clues and keys by answering a series of questions and solving riddles.

Once participants have visited all points on the map and completed the activities they are given a code, which will open an electronic treasure chest located at or near the rail station where a prize will be waiting.