The opposite day, I caught a practice to London from Lewes in East Sussex. It is solely an hour-long journey, but it surely quickly grew to become insufferable, because of the barrage of pointless bulletins blaring from the overheard audio system.
I counted the variety of occasions the lengthy message that culminates in ‘See it. Say it. Sorted.’ was performed. This chorus was repeated on no fewer than seven events — as soon as each 9 minutes. And, in fact, it was removed from the one announcement blaring out over the Tannoy.
For anybody nonetheless fortunate sufficient to not have heard it, that is how the announcement goes: ‘In case you see one thing which does not look proper, converse to workers or textual content the British Transport Police on 61016. We’ll kind it. See it. Say it. Sorted.’
It’s, frankly, drivel, force-fed to luckless passengers on trains and in stations.
The marketing campaign began in November 2016 beneath Theresa Could’s authorities to encourage passengers to report uncommon gadgets or exercise, supposedly within the title of stopping terrorism. Now it is in every single place — and it by no means appears to cease.
NORMAN BAKER: ‘The opposite day, I caught a practice to London from Lewes in East Sussex. It is solely an hour-long journey, but it surely quickly grew to become insufferable, because of the barrage of pointless bulletins blaring from the overheard audio system’
And what makes it significantly infuriating is that after I was transport minister about ten years in the past, I attempted my finest to manage the explosion of meaningless bulletins on the railways.
Whereas I did handle to get messaging about security playing cards and quiet coaches eliminated on some Southeastern providers, others popped as much as take their place.
So it’s now virtually inconceivable as of late to take a journey on a practice with out being bombarded with pointless and patronising directions.
For instance, not way back, I used to be at London Bridge station. As an alternative of with the ability to use this busy terminus in peace, travellers utilizing the escalators are subjected to a looped message that they need to take heed to half a dozen occasions from prime to backside: ‘Please maintain the shifting handrail and face the path of journey.’
Are all of us actually so weak-minded, so feeble, so incapable of understanding how you can use an escalator that we have now to be instructed this? Are we going to fall over and collapse pitifully in a heap if we don’t comply with the instruction?
NORMAN BAKER: The frequency of the ‘See it. Say it. Sorted.’ message would possibly give somebody the impression that we’re in an unprecedented disaster with terrorist assaults taking place day in, day trip
And when did you final see somebody happening an escalator backwards? You could as properly have an announcement to say that lions and tigers are banned in stations. (I do not even rule that out: it’d give humourless health-and-safety officers the chance to level out that the absence of lions and tigers proves that their announcement is efficient.)
On damp mornings at stations throughout Britain, I am typically greeted with the message: ‘Please take care across the station as surfaces could also be slippery.’
After all, if it has been raining, they might be. Most individuals can work that out for themselves. Usually the surfaces aren’t slippery in any respect.
And, as soon as on trains, there’s maybe probably the most ridiculous instruction of all of them: ‘Please examine the protection card which might be discovered on the finish of the carriage.’
It is ironic that these bulletins appear to be significantly prevalent on Thameslink, owned by Govia Thameslink Railway — one of many worst-performing rail operators within the nation.
Do the practice operators actually count on passengers to leap to their toes, march down the carriage and collect spherical a crashingly uninteresting discover? If that’s the case, they’re utterly deluding themselves.
NORMAN BAKER: To my delight, when Grant Shapps was transport secretary at the start of this 12 months, he introduced a ‘bonfire of the banalities’ to make journeys a ‘little bit extra peaceable’. Properly, not sufficient has modified, for my part
And here’s a reality the dullards who provide you with these bulletins appear by no means to understand. Not solely is their stream of garbage intensely irritating, it is usually solely ineffective.
No one modifications their behaviour because of being hectored.
The unhappy reality is that because the inane bulletins multiply inexorably, Britain’s practice service appears to get constantly worse.
Figures printed this week reveal that cancellations are at their highest degree on report. Greater than 314,000 trains had been absolutely or partly cancelled over the previous 12 months, double the proportion from 2015. And that is earlier than the unions cripple the community with contemporary strikes over Christmas.
How significantly better it might be for passengers if the trains ran in line with the timetables and all of the irritating bulletins had been cancelled as a substitute?
However past the straightforward intrusion into our lives, there’s a sinister facet to all this.
It’s the creeping acceptance that these in authority can take it upon themselves to manage the tiniest element of our behaviour.
At Paddington station, there’s a significantly egregious instance of this. There’s a set of ten or so steps there, every of which is emblazoned with directions on how you can behave: one step at a time, maintain handrail and no mobiles.
It’s virtually unbelievable that some bureaucrat genuinely appears to suppose that folks can not stroll up stairs and use a cell phone on the similar time.
Sure, the examples I give might, in themselves, be trivial. However they go to the center of the age-old steadiness of energy between the state and the person.
The British have lengthy had a free spirit and instinctively rejected pointless makes an attempt to rein it in. Lengthy might that proceed.
In distinction, in international locations such because the U.S., Spain, Poland, Australia and Slovenia, so-called jaywalking — crossing the street at an undesignated level or with out ready for the lights to vary — is illegitimate.
I as soon as crossed an empty street in Germany towards a pink pedestrian gentle and an indignant girl hit me along with her purse.
In Britain, ostensibly a freedom-loving nation, we want to evaluate for ourselves when it is protected to cross — and never wait to be instructed to. The pedestrian gentle is taken as recommendation, not instruction.
But, because of pen-pushers within the public transport sector, that room for particular person selection is steadily being eroded.
How handy it was to hop on and off the previous Routemaster buses the place you needed. In the present day, all London buses have doorways and travellers have to attend for the following cease, even when there’s a visitors jam and the cease is only some toes away. Even the brand new Routemasters have closed their open platforms on account of a scarcity of conductors.
The final time I used to be on a correct open-platform bus in London, about ten years in the past, I took nice enjoyment of hanging off the pole and feeling the wind in what hair I’ve left because the bus got here to my cease. I used to be severely admonished by the jobsworth conductor, who instructed me I needed to keep properly contained in the bus till it had stopped.
The one motive I used to be on his bus, I instructed him, was exactly in order that I might dangle off the pole. I had been doing so with out incident for many years, I stated, and that if I ought to occur to fall off, then that will be my fault.
Make no mistake, some bulletins on trains are each essential and helpful. However they’re simple to overlook, since their significance is diluted by the froth that envelops them.
The frequency of the ‘See it. Say it. Sorted.’ message would possibly give somebody the impression that we’re in an unprecedented disaster with terrorist assaults taking place day in, day trip.
And if we do find yourself in a crucial part with terrorism, will they up the frequency much more?
But no one appears able to seeing sense — and controlling this explosion of bulletins.
To my delight, when Grant Shapps was transport secretary at the start of this 12 months, he introduced a ‘bonfire of the banalities’ to make journeys a ‘little bit extra peaceable’. Properly, not sufficient has modified, for my part.
So what’s to be accomplished?
First, all pointless and trite bulletins hectoring individuals and pointing them in a single path or one other, must cease. Then, having cleared the airwaves, allow us to erect a excessive hurdle for anybody who desires to create a brand new message. If it isn’t important, it shouldn’t be allowed.
Depart us to benefit from the peace and quiet, and the comforting rumble of the practice.
Hear it. Ditch it. Sorted.
■ Norman Baker was minister for transport from 2010 to 2013.