My recent post The silence of the tannoys recounted my pleasure at having mouthed “Fuck off” at yet another otiose announcement at Birmingham New Street station and hearing it splutter into silence.
A correspondent asks anxiously if I am aware that these announcements are all recorded. Yes, indeed, I know that from the farce we get at Oxford sometimes, where a recording of a female automaton is contradicted by a male human telling us to ignore what she is saying, the train is not approaching Platform 2, has not left Paddington yet, and is unlikely to be here before bed-time. Then the woman cuts in again, reaffirming her view that the train is about to arrive. One longs for a full-scale domestic row to break out over the tannoys, as in the opening scene from the film Airplane!
My correspondent recommends Chiltern Railways for the journey from Birmingham to London. “The fares are cheaper, journey time only a little linger, all the announcements are by real humans” he says. Announcements have actually reduced, apparently in response to customer demand.
That is something – a railway company which listens to its customers, or “passengers” as we used to be called. First Great Western only listens if the passengers go on a fares strike and questions are asked in the Commons.
So I am happy to pass on the puff for Chiltern Railways who (so I am told), actually run to time as well. They wouldn’t like to bid for FGW’s franchise for the Oxford route, would they?
It is a safe bet that no amount of shouting is going to fix structural problems like running to time or providing enough seats. The government is interested only in the size of the kick-back for the award of the franchise, not in the level of service. Minor annoyances, however, like superfluous announcements, may be fixable if enough people complain about them. Get complaining.