Like any good story about London it begins with rain. It was Friday night and the rain had begun to trickle finely down as we made a dart for our bus. Clambering on everything seemed as it should, steamed up windows, an indistinct but somewhat unpleasant smell, a McDonalds bag in the corner and all completed by a somewhat grumpy but actually pleasant driver. It wasn’t till the bus began to move that the London-senses started to tingle, something had changed. As the bus streaked along at 30mph out of Greenwich did it finally land, a small but obvious novelty, “Please hold on, this bus is about to move.” It drifted out of the tannoy so serenely and utterly ridiculously. It was only over the course of a weekends bus riding did the extent of this new and sadly faulty addition become obvious. Of course London being London such an error on the part of the highly regarded and beloved TFL was unquestioningly ignored and not subjected to mockery and ridicule across a plethora of social mediums. It did not obtain several damning headlines nor was it condemned to the lowest form of scrutiny and written about in a blog…
While many have condemned the new announcement as annoying and pointless, especially in it’s current malfunctioning state, this new phrase could become as crucial as the (genuinely) beloved “Mind the Gap” announcement. Per TFL’s request “Mind the Gap” was to be produced as a way to reduce injuries occurring on platforms during the alighting and boarding of trains. So an intrepid young sound engineer was tasked with producing what would become one of the most crucial safety announcements to date. He gathered together his gear, grabbed a voice actor, got him to say “Mind the Gap” and “Please stand clear of the closing doors” and just as quickly packed everything up, called it a day and headed to the pub. Completely unaware that not only was he going to have a grand impact on personal safety on underground stations but also just captured what would become a cornerstone of London pop culture. As well as later drawing TFL into a large settlement when said voice actor came back looking for royalties on his work but that’s a whole other story.
Of course in these more modern of ages a great deal more thought has been put into the newest of announcements. With on an average nearly 6.3 million people travelling by bus each day in London, passenger safety and comfort is a great concern of TFL’s. Last year alone they recorded 3,000 injuries on buses due to falling so clearly a reminder is needed. But why is it so horrendously mistimed? Well, the current system works off of an estimated time a bus is at a bus stop for, so if a driver pulls away too soon the intendedly helpful announcement sounds when you’re already barrelling along at 32mph and your shopping has just gone skidding down the aisle. TFL however were quick to reassure it was a simple glitch and they would continue to test it over the coming months in order to improve the system. TFL have made several grand strides in improving announcements and have made a point of listening to community feedback. As of last year they made a push to make all announcements gender neutral throughout London. An easier solution to the current bus announcement problem it would seem would be to air the advice a mere couple of seconds after the doors of the bus have closed, as there is no harm in airing the message a few moments early if the intention is to warn and advise passengers of what is to happen but that’s just my opinion.
As London continues to rapidly blossom information is becoming one of it’s heaviest commodities for both foreign and native members. Years back the topic of automated messaging verses conductor/driver controlled information was hotly debated. It is near impossible to imagine modern London without the ease and clarity of the current automated messaging. As benefits have been felt by both the public and service workers, as no longer do our conductors or drivers need to pluck-up the courage and repeat for the 40th time that hour to move down inside the bus, now it only takes a push of a (very worn) button. Anything that TFL can do to improve the ease and transfer of information is a win in my book even if the change does harm my London-sensibilities ever-such a little bit in the beginning, I’m sure we’ll all acclimatise… eventually. Let’s just hope they can get the timings right next time.