Greater Anglia launches online virtual Colchester station

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The train operators’ innovative online virtual tour aims to increase general confidence in travel and will be extremely useful for customers with disabilities who can check before travelling, how accessible their journey will be.

The tour aims to provide customers with an unobstructed view of the station before travelling, reducing anxiety about how they will get from the car park to the platform at the airport.

The virtual station tour can also offer people a chance to find the location of useful station areas such as restrooms, customer service, platforms and other places they might need to visit while ‘they are at the station, including car parks or drop-off points which will make planning future trips much easier.

Detailed 360-degree photography was used to build the station map which captures all public spaces allowing people to virtually navigate to places they might need to visit before heading to the platform. Aerial photographs accompanied by an interactive map were also used to show the locations of all guest facilities in relation to each other.

Credit: Greater Anglia

The Greater Anglia Accessibility Committee is a group of disabled customers who meet regularly with the train operator, have provided feedback throughout the development of the project and fully support the tour.

The online virtual tour is web-based and offers autopilot or manual choices when navigating the station, an interactive map also allows a full view of the entire station layout and offers links to “ hot-spot” to specific areas of the station.

The aerial view allows people to see the parking lot, bicycle parking, bus stop and taxi rank.

Colchester Virtual Tour Aerial Map
Credit: Greater Anglia

Important features on individual platforms can also be cycled through directly using a drop-down menu to find things like Touch Tessellation which is the texture tessellation on the edge of the platforms, meeting points and assisted toilets.

The “autopilot” option gives users the ability to choose their destination locations within the station, allowing them to be guided automatically with a series of clicks.

The technology for the project was provided by The Virtual Tour company, with the tour software also designed to be accessible.

Another great point is a spoken scene guide with subtitles that plays on the home page at the entrance to the station and provides an accessibility widget so users can switch to high contrast, great font size or an audio transcript. A future goal is to include British Sign Language videos as part of Greater Anglia’s ongoing commitment to improving customer information.

To view the tours, please visit: https://www.greateranglia.co.uk/travel-information/your-journey/virtual-tours

Greater Anglia Accessibility Manager Rebecca Richardson said:

“The idea was to create a tool for customers to help them plan their journey and reduce anxiety about whether the station would create barriers to accessibility. We want to give people who can’t -having not traveled by train for some time or perhaps not at all, the ability 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, said:

“We really enjoyed working on this project to create a number of industry firsts. The world of virtual reality is developing rapidly, but so far this development has not taken online accessibility into account.

“This tour is the first in the world to incorporate an accessibility widget, guided tours, subtitled scene guides and more to come. user, has provided the ideal foundation for development and will ensure that the platform continues to evolve.

Greater Anglia will create 360 ​​degree virtual tours for ten of its busiest stations, with tours currently available for Norwich, Cambridge and Stansted Airport. Tours for Bishops Stortford, Broxbourne, Chelmsford, Ipswich, Shenfield and Southend Victoria will soon be available.

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