In many parts of the UK, transport options for disabled people and people with accessibility needs can be limited.
Inaccessible rail travel entails more than a lack of step-free stations for wheelchair access, which account for 59% of
the rail network, according to research published last year by disability charity Leonard Cheshire. The significantly
more complex issue is requesting assistance in boarding and disembarking trains, especially at unstaffed stations.
Currently, these make up 90% of the rail network, with 45% of stations being unattended at all times.
Everyone benefits from improved accessibility. Only a small percentage of disabled people are disabled from birth. The
vast majority of people that become disabled will do so as a result of an injury, illness, or old age. So it is
imperative that public transport be barrier-free and adapted to meet the needs of all people equally.
Transreport, a London-based technology company, last year
launched Passenger Assistance, an app that allows disabled
people to request and organise assistance from rail transportation services. The user-friendly app improves disabled
passengers’ overall travel experiences. App users can create a profile that includes their impairment and their
Passenger Assistance was founded by Jay Shen, who believes that everyone should be able to travel spontaneously and have
the independence and flexibility they desire. At every step of the development of the app, they have been working
alongside disabled people.
“Since launching in the UK, we have received the most incredible stories from users of the Passenger Assistance app who
have travelled freely, often for the first time, to visit family, enjoy days out and get to work. Seemingly normal
journeys for many, but full of complexities and anxieties for the disabled community,” says Shen.
Accessibility anxiety is a major challenge for disabled public transport users. Barriers to accessibility can range from
missing wheelchair ramps, to buildings without lifts, inaccessible toilets, and stations without step-free access.
“Disabled and neurodivergent people have to plan in more detail when they travel and allow for unpredictable changes
like lifts being out of order, toilets being closed and accessible entrances being temporarily shut. Unlike train delays
and road closures which are normally communicated in advance, these barriers to access are harder to predict for
transport users. Many Passenger Assistance users tell us they experience anxiety when planning a journey,” says Shen.
Shen is setting out to change the narrative around accessibility by spreading the message that accessibility is
“Pushing for better accessibility in society is the same as putting money into a pension, it is an investment in our own
future,” says Shen.
The idea for Passenger Assistance came about in 2016, when Shen was a student at Warwick University and was inspired by
a conversation he had with a disabled passenger. On the same weekend, the app’s prototype was created and the app was
officially launched in 2021.
His idea has culminated in one of the most innovative apps on the market today - enabling users to organise assistance
in just a few clicks, instead of a lengthy and time-consuming process.
“Passenger Assistance is revolutionary in the way it has enabled disabled passengers to travel with more confidence,
spontaneity and independence. This technology helps the transport sector to provide support tailored to disabled
people’s individual needs, in a dignified and efficient way, meaning we can focus on enjoying our journey,” says Shani
Dhanda, Disability Specialist, Speaker and Activist.
Within the first year, it had 27,000 downloads and daily active users include high profile athletes and prominent
disability activists. In June 2022, it was featured on the homepage of the Apple App Store, which led to 730 downloads
in a single day. In May 2022, they secured new funding from BlackFinch and Praetura Ventures to support their global
“Transreport’s purpose is to enable everyone globally to make journeys freely with comfort and ease. Our latest round of
investment from BlackFinch and Praetura Ventures will help us towards achieving this ambition,” says Shen.
The group is enthusiastic about the upcoming launch of their web app. They believe it will make their service even more
accessible, especially for passengers who prefer to use a desktop over a mobile app because the screen on a laptop or
computer better suits their needs. The other challenge is that disabled people are more likely to experience poverty, so
not everyone can afford a smartphone contract.
“We’re also working toward bringing user-generated elements to the Passenger Assistance experience. This includes things
like empowering users to rate the assistance they received. I want Passenger Assistance to function a bit like
Tripadvisor for train stations,” says Shen.