Announcement madness

I know this is slightly a hardy perennial, but last night’s trip to Ashford International and back was the pits in terms of the number and vacuousness of the announcements. Both trains were late, and that did not help, but on the outward one, there really were about a dozen in the first 20 minutes, and even when a measure of peace had been obtained as the station had been announcement, for some reason the ‘do not leave your baggage unattended…destroyed’ belted out automatically, even though the same information had been given a few seconds before.

The train companies claim that they have to do this to comply with Transsec rules or whatever, but that is simply not true. They have just set up these automatic feeds and they actually ruin the pleasure of a train journey. On the way back, waiting at Ashford it was even worse. The train was around a quarter of an hour late, but every time the estimate changed, the automatic voice made a new announcement saying it was 11 or 13 or whatever minutes late – eventually of course it was 20. Even if these were necessary – and they are not – they could be shortened so as not to include ‘Southeastern apologises blah blah blah’ No one takes an automated apology seriously. Then on the train, the apologies multiplied, interspersed with security. And oh, why are there announcements about ‘this is a non smoking station in the interests of safety and comfort’ — all indoor spaces are smokeless and everyone knows that now.

So come on ATOC, set out some clear guidelines. One short announcement, per station – not the full recital of stations every stop (‘and all stations to Dover Priory..’ would do fine) and think of your customers…. I am used to working in busy newsrooms, or to very tight deadlines, but trying to read a slightly difficult book on the train yesterday was quite impossible.

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