Monday, April 11, 2011

Is Quiet Zone In UK Trains Being Implemented Discriminatorily?

Quiet Zone Sticker in Chiltern Railways trains
Today for the first time, I happen to sit in the acclaimed ‘Quiet Zone’ [coach] in a Virgin train from London to Manchester. Without realizing it, I went about doing my job which involves many phone calls, and as it is working hours, I fired on.

Three minutes into the first call, a woman passenger sitting across the aisle from me, called my attention to the little stickers that proclaims the hallowed ground. I immediately ended my call, apologised and took to sending text messages where possible while not making a whole other bunch of calls.

Later into the trip, it dawned on me of the huge discrepancy in the implementation of policy. Although I was unsure at first, a lot other passengers were chatting, but I noticed that only those who used phones were cautioned; in fact, a train staff did same to another passenger while ignoring those that were chatting. This included my initial law-enforcement fellow woman passenger who has indulged in non-stop chatting with the passenger next to her. Wonders.

Thoughts ran through my mind as I try to understand this extraordinary policy. Does it only apply to phone calls? If so, what is the difference between the act of talking into a phone and talking to someone next to you that makes the former a noise? I thought over and over without any answer.

I took to reading while ignoring the entire hushed voices, but until a young lady sat in the empty sit next to me and spoke quite calmly into her phone. This fired up the Quiet Zone law enforcement woman across the aisle to stop from her on-going chat and call the young woman to order;” it’s a quiet zone”. Injustice! I felt.

Something has to be done I thought. It must not go on. Since there was no proper train officer around, I knew I have to equate this folly and find out how others feel.

So as our law enforcement fellow woman passenger resumed her conversation again, I turned over and asked her, “does the ‘quiet zone’ only apply to phone calls?” Spot on. She lost the colour in her face. And I could hear a ghostly silence take over the whole coach as all voice went dead. Guilty consciences…

It took her about 5 seconds to recover and muttered an endless and unstable sorry with shame written all over her face. Disgustingly, I ignored her but felt really satisfied to have brought sense.

Here again in a Chiltern train on way back to London via Birmingham, the ticket officer has just called me to order for being on the phone in the adorable ‘Quiet Zone’; yet again?

Well, I wont let this go on. I took an excuse from the person on the other end of my call and asked him if he could hear any other voice/s? But his answer:  “phone calls are not allowed?” My response? But chatting is? He shut up in embarrassment as well as the rest of the talking people.

What a foolish and unwise policy. I noticed on the stickers in Chiltern trains do have icons depicting phone calls, music and talking. However, it seems their staff probably only enforces phone calls and music which must be a rarity. And this seems to be the norm by other train staff including Virgin.

If so, it is discriminatory and ill-executed. What would work is to wish that people be considerate in their manners. If a quiet zone is necessary, then it must be fully implemented without exemption. If the implementation has been dwindling and focusing on technology, the usual suspect, then a review could help.

And if only applicable to phones, then may be, a mobile phone jamming technology would be the answer just as suggested for prisons in today’s Evening Standard by Lord Justice Hughes, Vice president of the Court of Appeal’s criminal division (see page 32).


Anonymous said...

I too too the train last week from Chester to London and was in a "Quiet Zone" yet a woman across the aisle spoke loudly with her companions the entire trip! I hesitated to say anything as I was a tourist and the rules don't indicate voices should be hushed. At the end of the month I make the trip again and I will say something as I agree it's absurd people think they can converse loudly when cell phones calls are prohibited. Thanks for the article.

Godwyns Onwuchekwa said...

It is true that some people will disagree but it is best to speak up when things arent fair of course. So long as you keep it object & get the timing right; do your best. If more people do it, we'll have more improvement on fairness.

Isak said...

It's all about other passengers being able to sleep, to read, or any other reason they have when they chose to sit in the quiet zone.

I have pointed out the quiet zone sign several times, usually politely. Most often the offender simply hasn't seen the sign, apologizes and complies. Today though, two ladies, around 60 years old, were first joking about the signs (haha, look, it's a quiet zone), then continued dominating the train car with loud conversation. I wasn't particularly polite when I told them off, but they disappeared to somewhere else after a few seconds.

Godwyns Onwuchekwa said...

Yes, you are right. If someone is reading or sleeping, it could help. But then how many people who are able to sleep on a train do mind others chatting. I am for a Quiet Zone that its policy is fairly implemented rather than victimizing technology as that is what it simply created for or being implemented at.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog having been told off whilst in a Quiet Zone this morning (10/7/12) on my way into Marylebone from Great Missenden. 

Did I know I was in a Quite Zone? No - the signage was obviously very missable.
Was I speaking on the phone - Yes - guilty as charged.
Was I a bit louder than normal - Yes - so the other person on the end of phone can hear me above the noise of the diesel engine, aimless announcements and a hooter-happy driver, as well as all the other background noise in the Quiet Zone.

My presence in one of these "zones" came as quite a shock to me. I normally sit in the same place on the train (right up the front, by the noisy bits) and I could swear there wasn't a Quiet Zone up here a fortnight ago. Saying all that, I do think they are quite a good idea and I would seek them in future if I don't have to listen to the driver drone on about what station we are arriving at next. With a station every couple of minutes and the well rehearsed 'arrival script' blasted out each time, how can anyone get any sustained peace? How about turning the speakers turned off in the Quiet Zone? That alone would make a significant difference to the noise pollution within the carriage or would that then make these Zones too popular and over-crowded, thus becoming a risk to Health and Safety? Don't get me started....

Godwyns Onwuchekwa said...

Haha! I like the way you put it. Glad you tasted the iron rod and acknowledged your sins. Very unfortunate; it must be. Did you get thrown out onto the aisle - well, if it was a full train?

I actually didnt note if the announcements happened in Quiet Zone; but thats a good point. And I think it is wrong if this is happening? What is the essence of the 'Quiet' then?

And ordinarily, the announcements are terrible coupled with the entire noise. Yet the stations have their name plastered all over...

But then, this is Britain. Someone might probably sue someone for making them miss their station... Yea, it is possible.

But congrats you survived it.

Anonymous said...

Disturbing to see a ban on personal music... Just booked 2 return tickets to Liverpool from Euston and opted for all the "perks" such as a power point, a table and the QZ. I often listen to music or podcasts on the train, and this was part of my reason for wanting the QZ - so that I could listen to my music at a reasonable volume without having to drown out screaming children or the "yoof" bragging to each other about their lastest anti-social antics... The only stipulation should be that the music not disturb other passengers.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar occurance on South West Trains. I was on the train the other Saturday in the Quiet zone.

I did write to SW trains explaining that there was drunken singing and bad language continually in the quiet zone.

I was told by SW trains that the quiet zone is not enforceable. They even said, although the guard was within earshot of the noise, they may not have heard. I am still trying to work out what was meant by that.

Overall I got the impression that SW Trains don't care. They have a quiet zone, but are very relaxed about enforcing it, and if a customer does raise an issue they just seem to sit on their hands!

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