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Human element - manual vs automated announcements on trains.

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AlphaHotel

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Just sat on a 323 that was renovated to have the PIS which gives the next stop and approaching the station, I had a great conductor who announced the stops as well as extra information. For example, Aston where the line splits off to Walsall.

with the automated announcements now on trains is it a conductors choice to do announcements as most of the time they leave it to the PIS. And do you feel its important to have the human element of imput for passengers?
 
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Just sat on a 323 that was renovated to have the PIS which gives the next stop and approaching the station, I had a great conductor who announced the stops as well as extra information. For example, Aston where the line splits off to Walsall.

with the automated announcements now on trains is it a conductors choice to do announcements as most of the time they leave it to the PIS. And do you feel its important to have the human element of imput for passengers?
On my line (Hereford - New Street) The guard makes all of the announcements if the train is formed of the quickly diminishing class 170 fleet. However on the Class 172's that have been drafted in temporarily (172/0, 172/2, 172/3) the announcement is made automatically of the next station and a new 'safe travel' announcement. Whether the 172/1's that have just transferred from Chiltern will have the guard doing the PA as the PIS will not cover the HFD - BHM route is yet to be seen.
 

jh1989

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TrainFX automated announcements can be good, but are rarely perfect! With plenty of our units, it doesn't announce anything on the approach, but will blurt out "THIS IS XXXXX" once the doors open. When it does announce on the approach, at times it can be far too early. It also doesn't secify where there is a particular gap/step/lean when leaving the train.

I tent to use it as an aid to help me in my duties, and absolutely not as a replacement for my input
 

king_walnut

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In my opinion, if the automated PA is announcing the next stations then it's silly to then repeat that every time. However, human input is always a good thing when initially departing, when arriving at an interchange station, and before the train terminates.
 

Bletchleyite

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Just sat on a 323 that was renovated to have the PIS which gives the next stop and approaching the station, I had a great conductor who announced the stops as well as extra information. For example, Aston where the line splits off to Walsall.

with the automated announcements now on trains is it a conductors choice to do announcements as most of the time they leave it to the PIS. And do you feel its important to have the human element of imput for passengers?

What I find grossly annoying is staff talking over the automatic announcements (unless they are wrong or faulty somehow) with basically the same thing but usually not as clear. Let it run, then if you want to introduce yourself and your dog or announce connections or whatever, do it then.
 

Sprinter153

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To a point, I think most passengers appreciate the human touch as long as the tone is right - not too ‘wacky’ because it’s rarely amusing, and not too aggressive (threats of penalty fares and six years in a gulag if you have a Northern Only ticket or sit in an aisle seat).
 

Ashley Hill

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I usually let the auto announcer do her thing but sometimes there are things to be said which she cannot cope with. Also I reinforce her announcements if I have a reason to e.g. an early announcement if I believe it will help certain passengers.
There's a recent thread on here about announcements.
 

WestRiding

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One or the Other. A stipulation of manual announcements should be that the user can actually string a sentence together, and without waffle. Example, Cross Country the other day, went something like this; please follow the covid guidelines.......... because well.......... it helps myself......... and others to maintain........ erm..... social distancing. masks are also....... erm....... mandatory, if you choose not to wear one.......... well erm.... erm, thats your choice. This was all the way from Newcastle to Wakefield, along with other waffle. In this case, the human element was most unwelcome. The guard from Edinburgh was spot on, and didnt feel the need to shout either, where as the new one from Newcastle, shouted and screeched down the tannoy. Totally un-acceptable.
 

al78

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It is good to have the human element of input when the tannoy is talking gibberish, like announcing the next station that doesn't exist on this line. I can only think that sometimes trains are moved from one route to a completely different one but the automated announcements are not updated (properly).
 

Horizon22

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Its a mixture. I feel the human voice should complement, not overrule the PA (unless its giving out gibberish).
 

py_megapixel

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Automated PIS is something which is a fundamentally excellent idea, but which hardly any operators in this country seem to get right. One gripe I have is that TrainFX is possibly the buggiest system I've ever had to interact with as a railway passenger. Often it seems that it either announces something incorrect, or nothing at all. Also Northern in particular don't seem bothered to set it up properly - plenty of spurious spaces and punctuation. Additionally the actual hardware is bad - the majority of units have horrid flickery dot matrix displays, and the few that have modern LCD displays just show the same as the dot matrices, but horribly formatted.

The other issue is that TOCs can't seem to resist diluting the useful information they have the potential to provide by stuffng them with irrelevant waffle. There is one TOC where it's reasonably common on a short stop for the PIS not to finish its spiel at all, with it ultimately being interrupted by the next-station announcement on departure.

But human announcements are not without their flaws either. @WestRiding is correct that some are far too waffly - additionally some staff don't seem to know how to use a microphone; they either put their mouth too far from it making the announcement inaudible, or shout into it causing distortion. And nothing is more irritating than duplication or interruption of the automated announcements.

My personal preference would be:
  • Basic automated announcements, which are responsible only for providing details about the service and calling pattern (i.e. "This station is Stafford. This is the 15:40 London Midland service to Liverpool Lime Street. The next station is Crewe.")
  • Several high-quality displays in each carriage showing the next few stops with live running information - all generic information such as unattended baggage should be relegated to posters or decals
  • Conductors properly trained in how to make good quality passenger announcements, but not to do so unless the automated system does not work properly (in which case it should be muted or switched off) or unless they are providing additional information (such as connecting services)

Its a mixture. I feel the human voice should complement, not overrule the PA (unless its giving out gibberish).
If the PIS is giving out gibberish then it should be turned off, and in my opinion any such system which does not allow the staff to turn it off should not be considered fit for purpose.
 

Horizon22

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If the PIS is giving out gibberish then it should be turned off, and in my opinion any such system which does not allow the staff to turn it off should not be considered fit for purpose.

Previously I've been unable to switch it off, but at the same time, it rarely gave out gibberish so it was just complementary announcements I made.
 

Mcq

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Many years ago when the Hertford loop only took passengers as far as Hertford North - the voice over on that service had the most wonderful deep Hertfordshire accent.
I couldn't wait for the next announcement - he seemed to be on every traIn I came home on - so there must of been several of them - miss that.
 

jh1989

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So You'd still announce over the PA system regardless?
No, not regardless, but I will if I know it's not announcing before we stop on the platform, or not functioning properly in any other way.

Too many think that once TrainFX is set, that's it... it must be working, so it's not my job to announce anything.
 

Bigman

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I once got on a 150 at Lancaster heading to Leeds. When the conductor had completed the stopping list, he reiterated that the train stops at Long Preston, not Preston and that anyone on the train wanting to go to Preston was on the wrong train. Nice touch.
 
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On Siemens Desiro units, manual PA announcements can be made at any time when there is power, but the automated announcements/PIS screens are only operational when the driver's key is in. The initial welcome message plays once when the driver puts their key in.

So at a terminus, if passengers are boarding before the driver has arrived, it's worth making a manual announcement to make sure people are on the right train. Similarly if people board after the driver, they won't have heard the message so another is useful.

It also means if there is a driver change mid-route, all the screens go off then it starts again when the new driver takes over.
 

PennineSuperb

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On Siemens Desiro units, manual PA announcements can be made at any time when there is power, but the automated announcements/PIS screens are only operational when the driver's key is in. The initial welcome message plays once when the driver puts their key in.

So at a terminus, if passengers are boarding before the driver has arrived, it's worth making a manual announcement to make sure people are on the right train. Similarly if people board after the driver, they won't have heard the message so another is useful.

It also means if there is a driver change mid-route, all the screens go off then it starts again when the new driver takes over.
Thats interesting, which Desiro sets are these?

On the Class 185's automatic announcements can announced with/without a Drivers Key in.
The Headcode needs to be inputted into the HMI however, but this can be done by a Driver or Conductor. There is also a list of 'Emergency' or 'Get Me Home' inputs availabile for exterior destination indicators.
 

setdown

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On my journeys with London Northwestern, the guard tends to make a manual announcement departing the first station, and then leaves it to auto for the rest of the journey. Which I think is the best way to do it! Lets people know there's staff on board.

(One odd experience was travelling on a Birmingham-bound train leaving Liverpool once, and the auto announcements were stuck in reverse. It thought the train was still on a journey into Liverpool, so after leaving each station, it announced that "we're now approaching X" where X was the station we'd just left! There were no manual announcements then, which would have been very handy for clearing up the confusion!)
 

_toommm_

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Had the emergency brakes slammed on on the train I’m on, in Morley tunnel. Sat in there for roughly 10-15 minutes. No announcement, no asking if everyone was okay. Pretty poor IMO.
 

lxfe_mxtterz

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Much prefer automated announcements as they are often good, clear and straightforward - if working correctly, that is. (Bakerloo Line excluded - often wonder why they bother with the announcements as they're impossible to hear most of the time!)

I do appreciate a human voice, especially if travelling on an empty train alone and at night, however - if I can actually understand what is being said. Unfortunately, from my experience, 9 times out of 10, the "guard's announcement" is nothing more than a low, indecipherable mumble above the drone of the engine.

I find having both on the same journey is often overkill - should be one or the other (with a personal preference for automated), unless, of course, there is something important to be said which cannot be announced using the automated system, e.g. information regarding a delay or a diversion.
 

HST274

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On my line (Hereford - New Street) The guard makes all of the announcements if the train is formed of the quickly diminishing class 170 fleet. However on the Class 172's that have been drafted in temporarily (172/0, 172/2, 172/3) the announcement is made automatically of the next station and a new 'safe travel' announcement. Whether the 172/1's that have just transferred from Chiltern will have the guard doing the PA as the PIS will not cover the HFD - BHM route is yet to be seen.
Had this exact situation the other day. The guard announced all the stops for a 170 but on the other times I travelled on the 172 they didn't say a word.

Also some announcements by guards are useless. Having travelled on a loud turbo the announcements are crackly quiet drones I can't make out one word of. The 170s are also a little quiet but still decipherable
 

Johnny Lewis

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Heathrow Express onboard announcements are the worst. As well as going on for at least 5 minutes of the train's 15 minute journey, as the train is approaching either Paddington or either of the two Heathrow stations, an automated announcement kicks in, in a super-posh accent. Then, while this announcement is playing, a second automated announcement, using the now standard GWR voice, kicks in, with an abridged version of the first announcement. When the second announcement finishes, the first one is then restored and finishes. When the announcements aren't playing, the on-board TVs play BBC news items, so essentially there is no peace for customers in the whole of the journey. As the UK's most expensive walk-up train, it's less than ideal!
 

trainophile

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Heathrow Express onboard announcements are the worst. As well as going on for at least 5 minutes of the train's 15 minute journey, as the train is approaching either Paddington or either of the two Heathrow stations, an automated announcement kicks in, in a super-posh accent. Then, while this announcement is playing, a second automated announcement, using the now standard GWR voice, kicks in, with an abridged version of the first announcement. When the second announcement finishes, the first one is then restored and finishes. When the announcements aren't playing, the on-board TVs play BBC news items, so essentially there is no peace for customers in the whole of the journey. As the UK's most expensive walk-up train, it's less than ideal!

So true, and it's not just on the trains. Waiting at stations can be a perpetual racket of largely trivial announcements, often repeated endlessly. It's sometimes as if the bod in the office with the control buttons decides "oh it's been five minutes, time for another burst", and presses the PA pre-recorded buttons randomly.

The railways could do themselves a huge favour in terms of appeal if they recognised that most people just want a bit of peace and quiet. They may have their own thoughts to think, worries to work out, plans to be finalising. The bonus would be that if the station staff then did have to announce something important, people would be a lot more likely to actually take notice.
 

40129

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Has anyone else heard the John Motson announcement yet?

Drives me nuts every time I hear it
 

nw1

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Heathrow Express onboard announcements are the worst. As well as going on for at least 5 minutes of the train's 15 minute journey, as the train is approaching either Paddington or either of the two Heathrow stations, an automated announcement kicks in, in a super-posh accent. Then, while this announcement is playing, a second automated announcement, using the now standard GWR voice, kicks in, with an abridged version of the first announcement. When the second announcement finishes, the first one is then restored and finishes. When the announcements aren't playing, the on-board TVs play BBC news items, so essentially there is no peace for customers in the whole of the journey. As the UK's most expensive walk-up train, it's less than ideal!

Not good to shove news down your throat, also. With news generally ranging from annoying to depressing, some might choose to avoid it to stay sane.

Still, at least it is Heathrow Express and most of us will never use that.
 

CHAPS2034

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So true, and it's not just on the trains. Waiting at stations can be a perpetual racket of largely trivial announcements, often repeated endlessly. It's sometimes as if the bod in the office with the control buttons decides "oh it's been five minutes, time for another burst", and presses the PA pre-recorded buttons randomly.

The railways could do themselves a huge favour in terms of appeal if they recognised that most people just want a bit of peace and quiet. They may have their own thoughts to think, worries to work out, plans to be finalising. The bonus would be that if the station staff then did have to announce something important, people would be a lot more likely to actually take notice.

Aren't stations obliged to repeat certain announcements at set periods by DfT security people? Is there a similar requirement for train operators?
 

tpjm

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Worth remembering that automated PIS is more than just announcements. Customers with hearing impairments benefit hugely from the PIS giving out correct information on the various visual displays. Equally so, those with visual impairments are reliant on those audio announcements being accurate, clear and informative.

Unfortunately, I know of Guards who don’t like the pre-recorded announcements and instead choose to disable the PIS in its entirety. In the interests of ensuring accessibility for everybody on board, PIS (if working correctly) should be allowed to do it’s thing and then additional announcements added on top if the crew so desire.
 

Kite159

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Heathrow Express onboard announcements are the worst. As well as going on for at least 5 minutes of the train's 15 minute journey, as the train is approaching either Paddington or either of the two Heathrow stations, an automated announcement kicks in, in a super-posh accent. Then, while this announcement is playing, a second automated announcement, using the now standard GWR voice, kicks in, with an abridged version of the first announcement. When the second announcement finishes, the first one is then restored and finishes. When the announcements aren't playing, the on-board TVs play BBC news items, so essentially there is no peace for customers in the whole of the journey. As the UK's most expensive walk-up train, it's less than ideal!

I reckon the automatic announcements on some Welsh services (150/158s) might be more annoying

After every stop it does the "Travel safer" advice in Welsh followed by it in English, and after certain stations it does an extra security announcement, taking over a minute.

Repeat every few minutes.
 
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