Train announcements

Image by Kitty DuKaneThis train is formed of… six carriages. We would like to remind passengers that a no-smoking policy is in force on this train. Please ensure that you have taken all your belongings with you when you exit the train.

Transport Minister Norman Baker has spoken against frequent announcements on train journeys. Well-known transport commentator Christian Wolmar also finds them intolerable. I can sympathise – in my commuting days, I got quite fed up with the robotic voice repeating the same announcements at every single one of the many station stops on my daily route.

Clearly, announcements play an important role for those with impaired vision – but need there be quite so many of them? In the comments on the BBC report of the story, contributors point out that many are redundant – like ‘this is a no-smoking train’, when smoking is banned on all trains these days. Or ‘thank you for choosing to travel with [this train company]’, when there’s only one operator in the district.

FixMyTransport users get exercised about train announcements, too – not to mention on buses, the Tube and on station platforms. Some are for them; many are against. Here’s a small selection.

On Virgin’s Glasgow to London line: “Honest, I won’t sue the train company if it neglects to tell me how to blow my nose.”

On the Bakerloo line: “At 11 pm, do we really need to be told to ‘alight here for London Zoo’?”

On the Jubilee line: “Loud, irritating, patronising, tedious, whinging, stupid, pointless, endlessly repeated announcements”.

We have several complaints about Scotrail’s announcements, including this one: “When this is your life 5 days a week, 49 weeks a year it makes for an unpleasant, stressful and depressing commute”.

And the other side of the issue:

On London Midland’s Birmingham to Lichfield route: “The problem mainly exists at night when it is hard to see station signs due to the bright lighting on the train”.

On Tramlink 3 in Croydon: “I am partially sighted, and this resulted in my boarding the wrong tram yesterday and wasting time going to Blackhorse Road.”

Given that routine announcements may be a necessity for some and an annoyance to others, I’d like to suggest an opt-in method to hear them, like plug-in aeroplane headphones. No need to thank me, train operators of Britain – my real reward will come when we can all travel in peace.

Image: Kitty DuKane (CC)



  1. Natalie Jones says:

    I am registered blind, but I am getting fed up of the robotic announcements on stations reminding me that train doors close up to 40 seconds before departure and to keep an eye on (!) luggage and personal belongings.

    They could make it better. In some bus stations they have boxes fitted to the stands that announce the times and destinations when you press the button, You could fit these to platforms say every 2 metres.

    On the trains if you are sat near the Priority seats or near doors, the boxes could tell you the next station, and the train’s destination.

    You would still need the announcements at times of disruption, as well as an audible tone to let me know that a new announcement is available.

    So, in essence, you can get rid of all announcements, and replace them with these “on demand” boxes.

    A much simpler, quieter and elegant solution!

  2. paulhollinghurst says:

    An good example of excessive announcements is Virgin Trains with “Please do not leave items unattended on the railway and beware of any suspicious items or behaviour. Report these to a member of staff or the security services” announced twice for every station stop, so up to 25 times between London and Glasgow.

  3. Dave H says:

    Often referred to as “Digital Doris” or “Mary Poppins” (nanny knows best) few have the neatness of the succinct “Mind the Gap” iconic railway announcement.

    Good staff training to make better use of the spot announcements that can be made by train crew is one way to improve on matters, often injecting a bit of humour. “I need to remind some people that in the quiet coach you should avoid noisy use of mobile phones, and portable entertainment devices. I can hear you guys through here in the driving cab”

    Some blind users benefit from ‘beacons’ on bus stops which transmit information to any mobile receivers nearby, and this might also be available for those with poor hearing. Sit in the coach and click the hearing aid to a setting which than captures any announcement made – even it it isn’t broadcast to the train.

    One option might be to piggy back this on the wifi systems already operating on the train, or for train locations, look at what the independent guys are doing with Network Rail , TfL and ATOC free-access data, you could identify the calling points and get buzzed when your train is reported to be at the sequence preceding the one you want to get off at.

  4. Peter says:

    ‘you are in carriage 2 of an 8 carriage train’
    What exactly am I supposed to do with this information?

  5. Pin Ball says:

    The worst – and annoyingly moronic – by far is the extended FOUR PART announcement at Manchester Piccadilly station re: unattended luggage whereby – not content with it already being lengthy as it is, they have extended it by another sentence, so it now reads thus: “PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY LUGGAGE UNATTENDED, UNATTENDED LUGGAGE MAY BE REMOVED OR DESTROYED BY SECURITY PERSONNEL. A SECURE LEFT LUGGAGE FACILITY IS LOCATED ON PLATFORM 10, TO ENABLE PASSENGERS TO STORE THEIR LUGGAGE….”

    So the irritating, nagging, wittering, sub-Sloaney programmed female voice constantly tells us every two minutes or so…..

    Can you BELIEVE the utter inanity of the wording of this announcement? Not to mention, the sheer repetitiveness of it – whereby some of the words are repeated (in the case of ‘luggage’, an astonishing FOUR TIMES). Who the bloody hell came up with this one, stating the bleeding obvious? It’s exactly the same as saying ‘toilet facilities are located on platform X or Y, to enable you to use the toilet’. For goodness sake!

    I repeatedly pointed this out to the station manager (his name – for anybody interested – is Scott Green) and to other Network Rail personnel for the best part of two years now, and incredibly, they insist that this announcement is accurate and they will not rewrite it or edit it. What bloody planet are they living on, when it is perfectly clear that everybody (to whom I have drawn attention to this ridiculous message) is of the same unanimous opinion that it is one of the most long-windedly nonsensical messages currently being used anywhere…

    And all those other ones from Nagging Sloaney Cyber -Hectorer that sternly proclaim: ‘THIS IS A SAFETY ANNOUNCEMENT’ (oh, you don’t SAY!!!!!!) , of which there are now three or four different variations (wet weather, cycling/skateboarding, stairs and escalators), are just as totally pointless and irritating.

    • Pin Ball says:

      Apologies for the rather dodgy syntax of my post above…. just in case others point out the irony of, on the one hand, my criticism of the wording adopted in the aforementioned announcement[s] whilst on the other, my own syntax not being exactly that great either – it’s late, and I have had a hard tiring day (being bludgeoned into submission with, yup, you guessed, endless rail announcements during my commute….) so my brain has probably half turned to mush by now…..