Train operators urged to curb 'excessive' announcements

image captionTrain operators have to follow best practice guidelines on passenger information

Transport minister Norman Baker has said the number of computer-generated announcements on trains has got out of hand and needs to be reduced.

Many of the speaker messages were irrelevant to passengers and spoiled their journeys, he told the BBC.

It was unnecessary, for example, to tell people they were on a non-smoking train when it was banned on all trains.

The Association of Train Companies said many passengers found announcements useful but a balance must be struck.

Mr Baker told Radio 4's The World at One that firms should differentiate between essential announcements - such as imminent station arrivals and explaining reasons for delays - and ones which were "simply unnecessary".

"Telling people they are in a quiet carriage when you have chosen to be there, telling people they are in a no-smoking train when all trains are non-smoking, telling you if you see something suspicious to see a police officer when there aren't any on the trains.

"There are so many announcements which get in the way. People do not want every single moment of their journey filled with someone saying something... the sadness is that the unnecessary announcements dilute the value of the important ones."

'Playing incessantly'

Announcements by on-board train staff "were not that bad" and it was automatic ones which were most annoying, the Lib Dem MP suggested.

"Someone has designed a computer program somewhere in a dark cellar and they have put it into the train and plays incessantly and no-one has the power, it seems, to stop the program playing."

Asked what he was going to do about the issue, Mr Baker said trying to regulate what could be said would be "completely over the top" and train operators should simply use their common sense about what was appropriate or not.

"What I am saying to the train companies is often you are running really good services but you are spoiling the journey for people by the excessive announcements."

The Association of Train Companies (ATOC) said that, according to research by consumer watchdog Passenger Focus, the vast majority of people were satisfied with information they get on trains and at stations.

"Passengers want concise and relevant announcements, such as what the next station is so that they get off at the right stop," it said.

"Train companies know there's always a balance to strike - they need to keep passengers informed without irritating them with too many announcements."

Train operators are expected to adhere to industry guidelines on all aspects on passenger information, including on-train announcements, although they are free to implement the guidance in different ways. ATOC said the guidance was under constant review.

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