TransPennine Express (TPE) is encouraging customers to be on the lookout for those who are sat on their chatty benches this Christmas as it’s revealed that 46% of Brits admit to feeling lonely, a figure that is set to rise over the festive period.
The benches, created in partnership with the Campaign to End Loneliness (CEL) at TPE managed stations across the North, are clearly signposted and available for those looking to sit and have a conversation or say hello to a fellow customer.
Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Service and Operations Director for TransPennine Express explains:
“Millions of people pass through our stations every year, everyone with their own stories. Many of these will be experiencing feelings of loneliness, particularly over the festive period, which is something that the Campaign to End Loneliness has highlighted over the past few years, and our benches are available for those who may be in need of a friendly chat.
“We feel it’s really important that those travelling with us are on the lookout for anyone using the benches over Christmas, keeping an eye out for anyone who may really appreciate a quick hello or a chat. Christmas can be one of the loneliest times of year and your conversation may just change their life.”
TPE recently invited customers and colleagues to one of their chatty benches in Huddersfield Train Station, where they sat down and opened up, detailing the stories that had changed the course of their lives.
Ian Watson, a TPE Train Driver is one of those who has told his story in a poignant video released by the train operator, he said:
“Our chatty benches are a great idea, because you never know the difference that one chat might make. It might be that the person that chats to them on that bench is the only person they are able to talk to. The difference that one conversation could make could be life changing, it could be lifesaving.”
The ‘Stories from a Chatty Bench’ video has been made to bring awareness to the fact that you never know who you might be sat next to, what their story is and whether they are in need of someone to talk to.
Other rail users and TPE colleagues took part in the storytelling, including CEL ambassador Claire Jenkins, she said:
“At a real low point in my life a stranger reached out to me, and it was a small moment of kindness and human interaction that fundamentally changed my life.
“This is why the chatty benches are so important, because you could provide that moment of light for somebody else.”
Robin Hewings, Programme Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness said:
“Chatty benches remind us that it’s important to make the effort and see how someone’s day is going. These small moments of connection can really make our day – and for some of us it can be sorely needed.
“These benches will help move our country towards being a place where it is okay to talk about loneliness and where we help each other to feel secure and connected in the world around us.”
By connecting people and places through their train services, TPE is supporting the work of the Campaign to End Loneliness, raising awareness of loneliness, and signposting their customers and colleagues to find support in making social connections.
Now that this Christmas will be the first where all COVID restrictions have been lifted, it is more important than ever for people to get together again to reconnect with friends and family.