Thameslink give Luton’s RJ a ticket to sporting success

RJ Smith-Jones
RJ Smith-Jones

An up-and-coming Luton footballer has scored free train travel to help him achieve his sporting dreams.

RJ Smith-Jones, 17, a Bermuda U20 international, was struggling to afford the daily rail fare needed for his BTEC Sports course at the Lee Valley Pro:Direct Academy in north London.

However, after hearing of his dilemma, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) offered the aspiring footballer free travel on Great Northern and Thameslink, also sponsoring five of his fellow students from the Beds and Herts area.

GTR’s employee engagement manager, Paula Hilliard, who also works with the Prince’s Trust to organise GTR’s ‘Get Into Railway’ programmes for disadvantaged young adults, said: “It’s such an honour to help these young men continue their studies and support them with this chance to improve their lives.

“It’s wonderful for us to have the chance to make a difference to someone’s life. I look forward to hearing about how they progress.”

Danny Payne, the academy’s head of coaching, said: “Without this free travel support from GTR the lads would not be able to be a part of the Pro:Direct Academy. They now have the chance to chase their football dream while carrying on their academic studies. We can’t thank GTR and Paula enough.”

Past Academy graduates who enjoyed GTR’s travel support during their studies include Jack Morrell, who went on to sign for League One club Gillingham, and Harry Draper, now with League Two side Stevenage.