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If You Ask Me: Train Announcements Have Gone Off the Rails

Rail companies are guilty of many things – including crimes against the English Language, says Flo Whitaker

I (mostly) enjoy rail travel but hearing the announcement ‘The next station stop…’ makes my innards shrivel. Who authorised this ridiculous flummery? A simple ‘The next stop is…’ will suffice. We’re on a train – even the most dim-witted idiot assumes we’ll be stopping at a railway station.

I’m a regular traveller on the Paddington - Penzance route. The train takes approximately 25 minutes to arrive at its first stop, Reading, by which time a member of the ‘onboard’ (where else would they be?) staff may have finished a torturous announcement, listing items available from the refreshment trolley.

This chariot of delights, allegedly stocked with tea, coffee, hot chocolate, fizzy drinks, cider, beer, red wine, white wine, rosé wine, gin, whisky, biscuits, cakes, flapjacks, chocolate, pastries, sandwiches, croissants, sausage rolls, crisps and assorted nuts will be ‘passing through’ the train – hopefully. Failure to ‘progress forwards’, (or, indeed, backwards) is usually due to the aisles being cluttered with suitcases and surfboards. Occasionally, no refreshments are available, as the trolley (ironically) misses the train, having failed to be delivered to the platform on time.

The positive consequence of this otherwise regrettable incident is that ‘customers’, (why can’t we be passengers?) are spared the catering announcements. However, on most journeys, an endless list of culinary offerings is frequently and wearily intoned – presumably for the benefit of novice travellers who are likely to confuse ‘refreshment trolley’ with ‘fine dining’ and are eagerly anticipating lobster thermidor, beef Wellington and crêpes Suzette.

By Plymouth, the train crew’s enthusiasm for announcements is wearing as thin as the egg mayo. I daydream, watch raindrops trickle down the window, then snooze peacefully until St Austell, when the beach dudes, with their booming voices, size twelve feet and tons of luggage alight to the sage-like wisdom of ‘Wet platforms may be slippery’. Ye Gods...

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