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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Automated voices on the Underground

Tube AnnouncerDoes Sonya get on yer nerves?

A reporter from the Washington Post got in touch with me to say that the Metro in Washington appointed Randi Miller "record peppier messages warning customers to stand clear of doors or move to the center of trains". However, Miller is worried there will be a backlash to her continually repeated messages. Initially, she thought it would only be used when someone was blocking the door and she had no idea that the message would be continually repeated and thinks it is a bit excessive.

Emma Clark who is the voice of the Victoria, Bakerloo and Central Line also gets a bit tired of hearing her voice but being Miss Mind the Gap had it's moments. In an brilliant interview with b3ta she said: "You should have heard the multiplicity of ways they made me say 'Marylebone.' Mahree-lee-bone. M'ree-labbon. Mary Lob-on. It was bleeding hilarious." She also admitted that there were some spoof recordings to pass the time "Me and the producer did record some spoof announcements after the LU suits had left the session, purely for our own amusement. Stuff like: 'The man in the green coat is sitting in tramp's piss.' And 'Passengers are reminded that reading 'Captain Corelli's f**king Mandolin' is strictly prohibited.' "

I know that a number of drivers on the District Line turn off Sonya's repetitive messages announcing the next station or the current station, mainly because it lives up to the name and Gets on yer nerves. But should they really be doing this? What about poor old tourists who don't know where they are going?

The reporter had also asked me whether I thought that voices should reflect the lines, which is an idea I loved. I think a Victor Meldrew sounding voice would be perfect for the Northern Line. I believe that the London Underground once considered having celebrity voices as they do in the lifts at Covent Garden (as you probably know) they use Loyd Grossman whose loose mid-Atlantic vowels tell you to "Turn roight out of Covent Garden for my Favooooorite Museum - The London Transport Museum". I believe that Hugh Grant was also considered. Probably for Notting Hill - although that could be an urban myth! Aren't Joanna Lumley's dulcet tones also used somewhere on the Tube?

It's weird that we seem to have lost The Shouty Man though - who doom laden "Big Brother" voice used to bellow "Mind The Gap". There still is a particularly terrifying and echoey "Mind the Gap" at Bank though - presumably because the gap is so big and perhaps a woman's voice wouldn't convey the seriousness of the consequences if you ignored their warning.

What do you think of automated voices? Who's your favourite, or do you hate them all? Would you like to vote for them like the commuters in Washington? Do you think that the drivers or station assistants should make all announcements, as at least that keeps you reassured that the system is being operated by a real people?

; Posted by Unknown Tuesday, August 01, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE