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Sometimes hearing people take things so much for granted they don’t actually notice what they’re hearing.

The other day the Bear and I were out on a shopping trip in the beautiful city of Bath – full of independent shops and very nice branches of the chain stores, and not one but TWO independent bookshops (Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights and Topping’s). You name it, you can get it in Bath – anything from a venison sausage to a tiny collectible teddy, from vintage clothing to just the right kind of drawer handle, from artisan cheeses to specialist card shops, and more framing shops than you can shake a stick at. Bath has a genteel and ever so slightly kooky vibe, and that’s just what I like about it.

Not quite so good, perhaps, is the train company which runs into Bath, and I’m not providing you with a link to them because, a, I have no wish to give them free publicity, and b, they’re giving up the franchise in a few months anyway. I have no beef with their staff, most of whom are actually pretty darn good and go out of their way to help this hardened commuter, but hello, what idiot thinks it’s a good idea to have the PLATFORM announcement “Bath Spa: this is Bath Spa” while the train is still roaring into the station? We on the platform know we’re at Bath Spa, thank you, and if you’re trying to let your passengers, especially your blind or partially sighted passengers, know they’re at Bath Spa, well, how are they going to hear when they’re still on the train on the curve approaching the station?! It’s usually followed by “The train now standing at platform 1 is the train for xxxxxx” and that’s if you’re lucky, quite often it is just “The train now standing xxxxxxxxxzzzzzzhiisssssscreeechhhhhissssbrrrrrbrrrrmmmmmmm”

Aside from being factually incorrect – the train isn’t standing, it’s approaching – who the hell is this announcement designed to help, exactly? (They’ve already given the “the train now approaching” spiel when you can barely see it on the horizon.) Are they expecting their customers to have perfect hearing and understand gobbledegook just as the train screeches to a halt? Does anyone actually think: how on earth is someone with a vision impairment and therefore reliant on announcements expected to get confirmation that they’re boarding the right train? Oh yes, they might have heard the announcement that the train is approaching – but then they might not, they might’ve been running for the train, and what about when trains are running late and the 18.30 storms in at the time and platform usually reserved for the 18.38?

Just such announcements were made at Bath the other day. I remarked on the rubbish timing of “Bath Spa: this is Bath Spa” to the Bear. He hadn’t noticed on the approach of the first train to our platform (not ours) but listened out for it again when the next one came in, and said “You’re right.” So I wasn’t hallucinating, I really was hearing something that was wrong but it took me remarking on it for the Bear to pick up on it. Hearing people take their audio environment so much for granted they don’t really spot things out of place, especially in a busy environment where so much is competing for their attention. I think the same must be true of train companies, because they are so used to the way they work they forget that some of what they do isn’t necessarily helpful to their customers in general and their disabled customers in particular. It drives me bloomin’ nuts!!!

Rant over. *smiles* Let’s hope the new franchisee improves matters!

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