Train operating companies (e.g. Avanti, GWR, LNER etc.) have a customer facing role in the rail system so it is worth making them aware of your experience of travelling with your child. You can contact them via their website. However, the best thing to do is contact your Member of Parliament about your experience because it’s the Department for Transport that holds more power to make train travel more family friendly.
Find out who your MP is at www.theyworkforyou.com. Contact your own MP, it doesn’t matter if you voted for them, they represent you in Parliament if your postcode is within their constituency (so it’s important to include your address on the letter!). You can email or post your letter (or both) and some MPs are more likely to take notice of a hand-written letter.
Dear __________ MP
Begin your letter by introducing yourself. Introduce the topic and explain what interests and concerns you about it.
“I am writing to you regarding train travel from Sheffield to London. I travelled this route recently with two young children and found the experience extremely stressful.
There is no designated room on board for pushchairs/ prams and seat reservations were not working so my 5 year old spent the 2+ hr journey sat on my lap despite having paid for a child’s ticket. I also had a baby in a sling since the pushchair had to be folded to fit on board.
I have travelled many times with young children on trains as we do not own a car for financial and environmental reasons. I have no alternative to taking my family on the train to visit relatives, for work and for holidays. I know that I am not the only parent struggling with train travel, since this particular journey prompted me to join the Campaign for Family Friendly Trains, where I have met many others who face constant barriers to train travel.”
You may wish to add some personal details into your letter, for example:
- A personal experience you have had and its impact on you or your family.
- A contrasting positive experience you have had or examples of simple measures that make train travel more family friendly.
- It is always good to tell your MP you appreciate their work on something they have done to set the tone for a constructive dialogue, even if you disagree on a lot of areas. You can find your MP’s previous voting record at www.theyworkforyou.com or visit their website to find out campaigns they have taken part in.
Ask your MP to take action.
This could be on a local or national level. Try to make your ask personal, either to you, your MP or your local area. Be specific wherever possible as it makes it easier for them to say yes. Some examples of what you might ask your MP to do are:
- Write to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, to ask for space for unfolded pushchairs to be required on all new and refurbished trains
- Ask them to attend, or ask a question at, an All-Party Parliamentary Group (e.g. APPG for Rail, APPG for Transport Safety or APPG for Rail in the North)
- Address a local issue such as lift access, barriers or step-free platforms at a local station. Ask if they can help you in contacting relevant members of the industry.
- Ask to meet with your MP to discuss these issues further.
I look forward to hearing back from you.