Swedish commuters to get lessons in laughter

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Its trains are already a rich source of black comedy but Connex will go one step further today in the quest to lift the cloud of gloom over its cramped commuters ­ by offering them laughter lessons.

The transport giant's Swedish subsidiary, Connex Tunnelbanan, will bring a new dimension to the phrase "charm offensive" by flooding the Stockholm subway system with laughter instructors.

While other rail companies grapple with the more traditional issues of wrong types of snow/sunshine/leaf mulch on their tracks, the Swedes have decided success lies in feeding passengers' minds with gags.

The train operator will unleash a crack corps of court jesters ­ doubtless armed with shin guards ­ to arouse titters between stops. Each brave comedian will offer anyone suffering a sense of humour failure lessons on how to return to the level of levity needed to render bearable the Stockholm's underground system.

Connex Tunnelbanan, which insisted it had not got the wrong end of complaints that its service was a joke, said it was undertaking the project in a spirit of philanthropic discovery. A company spokeswoman Anette Ullskog, said: "It's often stressful on the subway. This could be a way to lighten the mood."

Seasoned Stockholm travellers, meanwhile, smelled a comedy rat ­ pointing out that the arrival of the laughing boys and girls coincided with an increase in ticket prices.

For those disconcerted by such dynamism, there remains a thoroughly normal service at Connex in Britain, which operates between London and Kent, Surrey and Sussex. A spokesman said: "Oh god, we don't know anything about this. I don't think we have any plans for something similar here."