Sunday, 7 February 2010

Tube travellers are deafened with boastful updates

Life & Style

Tube commuters
Commuters will be boomingly reassured that they are part of 'planned engineering works', a phrase betraying a certain smugness

Tube travellers are deafened with boastful updates

Andrew Martin
Much to the Mayor's fury, the notorious PPP contractor, Tube Lines, is demanding a total of 131 full days' closure of the Northern line starting next month, including 21 weekend closures.
Thanks to a policy of deafening us - sorry, keeping us "informed" - initiated by Tim O'Toole, the PR-minded managing director of the Underground between 2003 and last year, we can be sure we will be kept abreast of these closures by a series of announcements.
We will be boomingly reassured that they are part of "planned engineering works", a phrase betraying a certain smugness. London Underground is saying: "There is an element of pre-meditation here, you know. We didn't just decide on these works five minutes ago for a laugh."
A grown-up railway ought not to be boasting about that. The phrase is also dishonest. The only reason the works on the Jubilee line are "planned" is that Tube Lines didn't finish them on time last year.
John Stewart, of the UK Noise Alliance, believes there are "far too many announcements on the Tube, and they are far too loud". I agree.
I descend to my local station, and the tannoy bellows: "Please keep Highgate station tidy, and take home your noosepapers." What's a noosepaper, for God's sake? It sounds like a trade journal for hangmen. (I suppose I shouldn't complain. We've put up with "Mind the Gep" at Bank for 30-odd years).
Then, with excited urgency comes: "This is a service update from Euston control ..." I think it's Euston, but the distortion's terrible, and the "update" is drowned out by another voice telling me that the train approaching is for Kennington, and the backwash of a third voice on the other platform.
I imagine all sorts of people involved in operating the Tube queuing at a central microphone desperate to have their say. The ticket man gets first turn. "To reduce queuing there is a minimum Oyster top-up of five pounds." He wheels away, punching the air.
Now it's the policeman: "This is a message from the British Transport police," he begins, but lost for what to say next, lamely comes out with: "Thieves will lose no opportunity to steal your personal belongings."
When they've all had their turns, there's nothing left to say. But one man still hasn't had a go, so he's given permission to announce: "There is a good service operating on all Underground lines."
We will, at least, be hearing a bit less of him for the next few weeks.

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