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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Chatty Carriage puts older people on the right track to friendship and new connections

Madeline Lundy and Isabella Barkley on board the Chatty Carriage with Mark Dunn from Translink

Madeline Lundy and Isabella Barkley on board the Chatty Carriage with Mark Dunn from Translink


A group of older people has proved it’s never too late to forge new friendships as they embarked on a very special train journey.


The ‘Chat Tea Train/Chatty Carriage’ exchange was organised by the multi-disciplinary team (MDT) social workers in the Northern Trust in collaboration with their colleagues in the Western Trust and Translink to coincide with Age NI’s Loneliness Awareness Week.



The annual campaign aims to raise awareness about loneliness and empower people to make connections.


Some of those who took part in the Chatty Carriage journey pictured at the station in Coleraine.

Some of those who took part in the Chatty Carriage journey pictured at the station in Coleraine.


Approximately 90 SmartPass holders boarded in Coleraine, enjoying the scenic train journey before disembarking and meeting with a group of older people who were preparing to make the opposite journey. Along the way passengers were accompanied by the U3A ukulele band and Lilliput Theatre Company.


After enjoying their day out, both groups met up again in Coleraine Train Station where they were treated to a performance by the Irish Society Primary School choir ahead of the Derry group’s return journey.



Pupils from The Irish Society Primary School perform for the Chatty Carriage participants

Pupils from The Irish Society Primary School perform for the Chatty Carriage participants

Pupils from The Irish Society Primary School perform for the Chatty Carriage participants

Reflecting on the initiative, the Northern Trust’s Primary Care MDT Area Manager Elizabeth Craig said:


“We have organised Chatty Carriages before but this one was a little bit different because of the added reciprocal element which has proven to be a resounding success.


“As it was Loneliness Awareness Week we thought it was the perfect opportunity to work with our colleagues in the Western Trust to go beyond local connections and it has been a fantastic day for everyone involved.



“Our older people are such an important part of our local communities, but unfortunately it is all too easy for them to feel socially isolated or alone.


“We all need interactions and friendship, but as we get older sometimes these opportunities just aren’t there. We are delighted to facilitate this and help our older people to develop the relationships and networks which are hugely important for both their physical and emotional wellbeing.”


Helen Welsh, Eva Tolsen, who was celebrating her 90thbirthday, Geri Doherty, Trevor Moffat, Bronagh Hoyle and Anna Kane prepare to board the Chatty Carriage in Coleraine.

Helen Welsh, Eva Tolsen, who was celebrating her 90thbirthday, Geri Doherty, Trevor Moffat, Bronagh Hoyle and Anna Kane prepare to board the Chatty Carriage in Coleraine.

Geri Doherty, Mark Dunn from Translink and Trevor Moffat prepare to board the Chatty Carriage in Coleraine.

Geri Doherty, Mark Dunn from Translink and Trevor Moffat prepare to board the Chatty Carriage in Coleraine.


Welcoming the partnership with the Northern Trust’s MDT, Shona McEleney, Western Trust Social Work Assistant with Glendermott Multidisciplinary Team said:


“The Chat Tea Train initiative started off back in October 2023 with a small number of participants attending and from the positive feedback this has now grown to having more than 110 people joining us for our last event in April 2024!


“We are delighted to welcome our colleagues in the Northern Trust to collaborate with us for this joint event. It is has been a hugely successful initiative and to see the friendships and connections made through our train journeys has been wonderful. We hope that these events can continue to help older people in our community to feel less isolated and lonely.”


Nimmi Ghaie, Mark Dunn from Translink & Anjana Ralhan on board the Chatty Carriage from Coleraine.

Nimmi Ghaie, Mark Dunn from Translink & Anjana Ralhan on board the Chatty Carriage from Coleraine.


Mark Montgomery, Route Manager at Translink, said:


“Public transport plays a vital role in better connecting people and offers so much more than simply taking people from A to B.  It not only helps get people to appointments, social groups, and to visit friends and family, it’s also a great facilitator for social engagement. Initiatives like Chatty Carriages and the Chat Tea Train, are a fantastic way to remind people of the benefits of using bus and rail and the valuable opportunity travel offers to engage with more people, tackle loneliness and connect people within their communities.



“Translink is proud to have supported this initiative and it has been wonderful to see the groups grow with each event. We hope there are many more days out planned in the future for these passengers to enjoy.”


The Northern Health and Social Care Trust is a member of Causeway Loneliness Network which was first launched in 2019. It brings together a range of community, voluntary and statutory organisations who share a common aim to prevent and address loneliness.


Christine Kennedy, Doris Brown, Elisabeth Taylor who travelled on the Chatty Carriage.

Christine Kennedy, Doris Brown, Elisabeth Taylor who travelled on the Chatty Carriage.


You can find out more about getting involved by emailing: healthandwellbeing@northerntrust/hscni.net

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