Why I'm shouting about the tragic demise of the quiet carriage

Forcing us to overhear dull phone conversations should be regarded as an offensive act

Share

I had five hours in the company of First Great Western last weekend, on a packed train - the earlier service had been cancelled - all the way from Cornwall to London.

I got to know some of my fellow passengers rather well. Not through talking to them, you understand, but by the involuntary act of listening to them on their mobile phones.

There was the youth who was explaining to his friend exactly how much he'd had to drink the previous night. Opposite him was a young woman who was very excited to be going to Lanzarote for her summer holiday.

And then there was the man who I took to be a car mechanic, so detailed and technical was his conversation about a second hand Audi. Everyone had a different, annoying ringtone, and none of the conversations I was forced to hear was particularly interesting: of course, it doesn't help when you only hear one half of the exchange.

By the end of the journey, I was silently raging against the modern world, and feeling especially murderous towards First Great Western who, on the odd moment when our carriage fell silent, would make an announcement about the buffet car either opening or closing.

First Great Western seem to have a crusade against peace and solitude, having dispensed with quiet carriages - welcome refuges where passengers were requested not to use mobiles - on the questionable pretext that getting rid of them increases capacity on their trains. How so?

Another rail firm, CrossCountry, followed this lead, and got rid of their quiet carriages, saying that the imprecation to be silent was being flouted and this was causing disputes between passengers. I'm not sure how much of a problem this actually was: we are British, after all, and, by and large, a polite request is generally met with a polite acquiescence.

I wonder whether it's an age thing, the fact that I grew up in an era long before mobiles were invented, but I cannot understand why people are happy for strangers to overhear their telephone conversations. In fact, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they actively want you to hear what they've got to say, as if it gives some sort of validation to their lives, makes them important, or popular, or knowledgable.

I, meanwhile, have a phobia about others overhearing what I'm saying, not that I'm guarding my privacy, but because I don't want to inflict the minutiae of my life on others.

I suppose the idea of quiet carriages is flawed. We shouldn't have to create special zones where anti-social behaviour is frowned upon. Forcing people to listen to dreary mobile phone conversations should be regarded as an offensive act.

We need new rules of engagement, a code of behaviour that takes into account the mores of the modern world. Every train carriage should, in theory, be quiet. Why can't that be the standard? It is possible to change public custom and practice.

It's not so long ago that pavements were littered with dog mess: now it's vastly the norm that dog owners clean up after their pets. And once we restore peace and quiet to trains, we can then move on and stop people bringing fast food on them, too.

READ MORE:
Does Cameron really believe in 'British Values'?
Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
The parents of Channel 4's Child Genius might be bad, but we’re worse for watching

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London