Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Talkative Virgin

We travelled back by Virgin Trains yesterday and I’m still a nervous wreck. Not from the service, which was comfortable and on time. But from the new public address system they’ve installed across the network. I was used to the old system which would announce the arrival of a train and list the destinations. The new computerised voice can’t stop warning me about everything else in life. How I shouldn’t smoke within the station premises, how I should keep children under control and away from the edge of the platform, that my bags might be blown up at a moment’s notice, that the whole place is under constant surveillance, and that my train now has a shop, a quiet carriage, first class and second class, a hairdressers, and that is might not stop at every station and I should tell the conductor where I intend to get off.

I spent a good few minutes listening to all this and then, when it fell silent, I turned to my Romanian travelling companion to comment on how annoying it all is, only to be interrupted because the computerised voice then began to announce the very same information but for a different train leaving from the other platform. In the hour I was sat waiting at the station, I never had more then a minute without being lectured to. It’s making travelling one long lecture by a voice without a soul.

Things didn’t improve when we got on the train. ‘Thank you for travelling by Virgin Trains’ announces the same voice, still unable to seamlessly fit clauses together. This might be a clever bit of design to make sure we don’t confuse the computer voice with one that actually cares about the apologies it occasionally makes. Not that apologises happen very often. It’s more suited to issuing warnings. ‘Might we remind customers that this is a non-smoking service…’ And so it goes on and on. Before every stop, the voice announces the next station, reminds us to take personal belongings with us. And after every stop, the voice returns: ‘Thank you for travelling by Virgin Trains. Might we remind customers that this is a non-smoking service…’

I’m back in Bangor but I can still hear that voice. It will take me days to recover.


ElizaF said...

My husband's Grandfather (who was a railway man for 50 years) once announced over the platform at Waterloo: "Sorry about the late running of the train.... it is down to incompetant management" Now THERE is an announcement.

Ms Baroque said...

I had the same thing Great Western in April, going to Cornwall. It is noise pollution & a menace. You're right: awful.

Mopsa said...

Welcome home. Run a bath and dunk your head under for a few seconds. It'll block out the virgin voices.

Big Chip Dale said...

Eliza, so you have contacts! You should have said. Can't you tell me who I should contact to complain? As Ms. Baroque says, it's noise pollution. I'm going to lead the fightback.

Ms. Baroque, I used to enjoy travelling. Now I feel like I've stepped into a nursery where I'm being told to be careful with the scissors. What can we do?

Mopsa, tried it. It didn't work. Perhaps the fact that I live not too far from the station doesn't help. I swear I can hear the voices in the dead of night.