A peaceful train journey at last

Praise where it is due. I have just had a peaceful ride from near  Cambridge to Tottenham Hale on a National Express East Anglia train totally uninterrupted by any announcements. There was a screen providing accurate information on the next station and absolute blissful silence.

Yet in the past few weeks I have been on parts of the railway where one is bombarded by announcements. The worst is undoubtedly Hull station which is no paragon of silence.  Indeed, within two minutes, there were announcements about the potential dangers of a slippery surface – it was a dry sunny day –  feeding the pigeons, and not leaving your baggage unattended. Similarly on South West Trains, there are often announcements, usually automatic ones which people always ignore, every couple of minutes about forgotten bags, platform edges or whatever. All of it is nonsense, designed to irritate and alienate rail passengers with absolutely no discernible benefit.Perhaps the Railway Safety and Standards Board should do an analysis to see if there are fewer accidents at Hull – I suspect there are more as people get irritated!  

I don’t wish to sound like a grumpy old man, but this is something that the railway could get together to discuss in order to reduce unnecessary announcements. I’ve just thougth – perhaps the tannoy system was not working – though that, today, is a reason for cancelling the service.

  • TimD

    Perhaps if the interminable number of annoucements are non-negotiable, we could at least have a voice that is something other than the toxic mix of RP, patronising smarm and disinterest as used by National Express East Coast and East Midlands Trains among others. I have to restrain myself from making a point of leaving my bag in the middle of the concourse after the fifth annoucement telling me not to, purely because I’m being addressed like a recalcitrant toddler.

    First TransPennine have managed to find a Yorkshire accent for their onboard announcements – perhaps we need a campaign to replace the existing voices with someone more pleasant on the ear – Stephen Fry, perhaps?

  • Al

    all it means is that the announcer system was broken and the driver possibly didn’t realise- the auto-announcers on the 317s (I commute on this line from Cambridge) are very unreliable, with the sound chopping in and out often- announcements start in the middle, or give out part way through, have gaps instead of stations etc. Getting a quiet journey isn’t a policy thing- it’s a maintanence thing!

  • Christian

    Oh God Al, how depressing. And I thought I had found a sensible TOC.

  • RapidAssistant

    Well – not sure if any of you heard the misery guts of an automated voice that they had in the Class 334s up here in Glasgow when they were first introduced – she really did make you want to slash your wrists…..sensibly we’ve got a much cheerier lady these days, and it is actually reliable.

  • Richard Boyd

    “Patronising smarm” pretty well sums up the privatised railway. Terrified of being sued by Mrs Ollerenshawe who tripped over a pigeon whilst failing to cross the wet footbridge at Crewe in anything other than “a calm manner”, they adopt the lowest common denominator approach and treat everyone like idiots.

    Not so sure about the Yorkshire accent on Trans-Pennine Express though: sounds like a recipe for civil unrest once a westbound train emerges from Standedge Tunnel.

  • Dan

    The system is daft. On commuter trains all announcemnets seem to be automated, and thus ignored – but the stream of: “This station is A, the next station is B, we are now approaching B, this is the train for W” – seems to often occupy the whole period of time between station A and B!

    On Sunday I was on NXEC and there were lengthy announcmetns prior to departure about the correct type of Advance tickets for this service and how they must correspond with the code number on the reservation slip etc – all very necessary given their punitive stance on the matter. I didn’t find the tone patronising etc, but I did think that unless you were a regular reader of Barry Doe’s column you probably would not have known what the chap was on about!

    And another thing – why oh why oh why does the announcment about not makign noise int he quiet coach have to be played to the whole train? Why not just have that played in the quiet coach – and all everyone else needs to know is that there is one!

  • sweek

    It really is getting worse and worse. I pity everyone who has to use Heathrow Connect on a regular basis… it has the be the absolute worst one in the country with announcements every 40 seconds or so throughout the whole trip. None of them useful.

    I really wish we could just get more visual announcements only, or very short “Next station: Earlsfield” ones, and skip all the other safety and caution ones they use.

    London buses these days with their “2-5-3… to… Hackney Central” also get very annoying and seem completely pointless, as people know what bus they’ve just gotten on.

  • Peter

    Re comment 4 – must have been the same misery guts that used to be on the SWT 458s. She was quickly replaced by a strangely cheerful sounding man who is still there to this day. Unfortunately he’s often out of synch with the actual stations.

  • RapidAssistant

    Peter – the lady in question had a thick Glaswegian accent, that would have been probably incomprehensible down in the deep south!

    The automated voice used by Southern and South West Trains (and at Birmingham New Street) is a voice actor called Phil Sayer, and according to his Wikipedia article, his missus’ dulcet tones can be heard on the Underground.

    That’s my anorakey bit for the day!

  • Dan

    When the Nottingham trams were introduced the operators ran a competition that local people could enter for the voiced announcements – I seem to recall a local teacher (female) won. In actual fact this is confirmed by the thorough website info here:


    The announcements are good and clear and just name stops and key points at them. I’ve never heard a safey announcment or other needless extra announcments – maybe they do them and just never noticed. However, the accent isn’t that local, which I think is a shame.

    The thing I find really bad is the noise London buses make when the doors are about to close. Given that this happens less than once per minute it becomes infuriating, and the crazy tones of the bleep sort of add a sense of urgency to everything, which contrast with the often slow pace of traffic – which I genuinly find quite stress inducing. Now I think about it maybe the stress levels induced by that should be ‘risk assessed’ versus the prospects of a blind / partially sighted user being trapped in the doors…

    I wish some public transport managers could get a grip on this sort of thing. It must not occur to many of them that quite a few potential passengers have a choice (their car) and thus making the transport environment ‘nice’ ought to be an objective. You’d think this is the sort of thing private sector skills could have brought in to the TOCs….

  • RapidAssistant

    Enough of this whinging – lets turn to what we do like – my favourite automated voice system has to be the trains on the Northern Line of the Underground. And the best phrase is of course:

    “this train terminates at Kennington”

    The way she says it is so soothing for some strange reason I’ve deliberately went via the Charing Cross branch so I could hear it…….very sad I know!

  • Al

    I do miss the voice that was used on the West Anglia units (and others?) under ‘one’- he was a proper Essex/East London geezer. The current RP woman was brought in at the re-branding.

  • Nigel Frampton

    “Hull…no paragon” – good one!

    There must be a happy medium somewhere – announcements on the platform that say where and when the next train is going, plus suitable apologies when it is late. On the train – next station should suffice. I’m not sure how visible the displays are if you are at the far end of the carriage – the German ones I am familiar with would not be adequate.

    Unfortunately, railway operators seem unable to strike this happy medium – on-platform announcements at smaller stations in Germany seem to have been reduced over recent years, and there have been complaints that this could put safety at risk. There was a case where alighting or boarding passengers had to cross the tracks on the level to reach the other problem, and somebody was run over by a train – an appropriate announcement might have prevented that.

  • Nigel Frampton

    The last sentence in my comment above (number 13) should read:-

    “There was a case where alighting or boarding passengers had to cross the tracks on the level to reach the other platform, and somebody was run over by a train – an appropriate announcement might have prevented that.”

  • Tony

    If you travelled on London’s Central Line tube you’d find National rail comparatively quiet! We get non stop automated announcements at stations even when there’s nothing to announce, plus an ear piecing whistle every time the train doors open or shut.