Start-up tech company Window Seater launched a new series of immersive audio travel guides on 17th February 2022 to connect rail passengers with the world outside their train window.
These travel guides are the result of a collaboration between Window Seater, the Community Rail Network and GWR. The project was backed by the Department for Transport’s “Innovate UK – First of a Kind’ innovation fund – with a grant of £50k in 2021. The app knows where you are on the line through geo-location and selects the appropriate stories as you travel along.
Window Seater say:
“We believe there are amazing stories everywhere, even along the routes undertaken in the most common of journeys, and they’re going unnoticed or forgotten. As travellers, we should travel mindfully and build better awareness of – and connections to – the people, history and cultures through which we pass.”
Which lines are covered?
At present there are 10 UK audio guides, including ones for the following local lines:
- Severn Beach Line (Bristol to Severn Beach)
- Bristol to Worcester
- Heart of Wessex Line (Bristol to Weymouth)
- Cotswold Line (Oxford to Hereford)
- Golden Valley Line (Swindown to Cheltenham)
- TransWilts Line (Swindon to Westbury)
How to listen
You can download the free Window Seater app from the Apple or Android app stores. Then choose a route, grab your headphones and enjoy the journey. It is intended to cover the whole UK network by the end of 2023.
Window Seater – Severn Beach Line
The Severn Beach Line guide makes a good attempt at exploring Bristol history and counter-culture including following themes:
- growth of the city around industry and trade
- import of colonial produce as part of the transatlantic slave trade
- cultural diversity
- street art
- biodiversity and microclimates of the Avon Gorge
- growth of Avonmouth docks as larger ships struggled with River Avon’s tidal range and Horseshoe Bend
- importance of salt marshes at Severn Beach for waders, wildfowl and sea birds.
On my journey the train announcements sometimes out-shouted the app voices and the geolocation struggled to find the right stories and mostly displayed the message “listening for nearby content”. However, you can select the stories manually, and could even listen to them from a quiet sofa at home.
But it’s more fun to catch the train!