After receiving what they judiciously describe as “a lot” of feedback, TfL has announced significant changes to the recorded information announcements on London buses. Those changes mainly seem to involve – hooray! – reducing their frequency.
The announcements, rolled out last year in conjunction with a display system, are designed to help visually impaired travellers, as well as visitors, navigate the confusing streets of London. A worthy project, certainly, though it means less hilarious instances of confused-looking tourists ambling around Tottenham Hale when they were clearly expecting Tottenham Court Road.
However, the well-groomed voice of former radio presenter Emma Hignett repetitively intoning the same information at every single stop – and on some buses every time the sodding doors open – have quickly become a nuisance. Along with tinny grime ringtones, braying Dom Joly-style phone conversations and battalions of kids plotting who they’ll shank next, the recorded announcements are near the top of Londonist’s list of bus-based aural irritants.
Lib Dem MP Norman Baker, who warned of “incessant verbal garbage” at the scheme’s launch, had it spot on. For the system doesn’t only announce the next stop and the destination. It’s also regularly warning browbeaten passengers about ticket inspectors, thieves, suspect packages, and other bus perils – something that nobody seems to be in agreement about. And is Londonist being paranoid, or is there something suspicious about the way that the pickpocket warning always blasts out as the number 73 turns onto Stoke Newington High Street?