TRAIN operator Greater Anglia has launched an online virtual tour of Manningtree rail station to help people travel with confidence.

The firm said the initiative is especially useful for disabled customers wanting to check how accessible their journey is.

The tour has been designed to support journey planning, give customers a clearer picture of the station before they travel and reduce anxiety about how they’ll get from car park to platform.

Detailed 360-degree photography has been used to map the station, capturing all public spaces, which people can navigate virtually even visiting the toilet or the waiting room before going to the platform.

A spoken scene guide with closed captions plays on the home page at the station entrance and future developments for the project will look at incorporating British Sign Language videos.

James Bonehill, Greater Anglia’s accessibility and inclusion manager, said: “The idea was to create a tool for customers to assist them with their journey planning and reduce the anxiety about whether the station would create any accessibility barriers."

“We want to give people who may not have travelled by rail for a while or maybe not at all, to do so with confidence.

“We are committed to making rail more accessible and providing quality information to enable more informed journey planning.”

Neil Henderson, managing director of Virtual Tour Experts, added: “We’ve really enjoyed working on this project to create a number of industry firsts.

“The world of VR is developing fast but until now that development has not given due consideration to online accessibility.

“This tour is the World’s first to incorporate an accessibility widget, guided tours, subtitled scene guides and there is much more to come.

"The user-first attitude of the team at Greater Anglia provided the perfect base for development and will ensure the platform continues to evolve.”

360-degree virtual tours are now available for 14 of Greater Anglia’s busiest stations, including Bishop’s Stortford, Broxbourne, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ely, Harlow Town, Ingatestone, Ipswich, Manningtree, Norwich, Shenfield, Southend Victoria and Stansted Airport.

The tours can be viewed at