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Ted Szukalski

Gallery of fine art photography.

This is a quiet carriage

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City Rail has introduced quiet carriages on many NSW lines, apparently in response to commuter demands. Is it bliss now for passengers or another reason for divisive and antisocial behaviour?

I have to be very open about this and admit I strongly oppose the introduction of the so called “quiet carriage”. I do realise the rationale behind the idea, as some commuters indeed do not have a clue what is and what is not acceptable on a train, and what constitutes an antisocial behaviour.

Having said that, I actually consider the “quiet carriage” as an essence of an antisocial behaviour, which gives new life to overzealous to the point of aggression commuters who now feel empowered to police this new “quiet” state.

On long trips, such as my daily commute, which exceeds 90 minutes each way, it is next to impossible to follow the “quiet” rule. On the line I am using the “quiet carriages” represent 50% of the train, and thus during peak hours very few people care which carriage they get, as long as they can get a seat.

At this point usually they are “welcomed” with the loudest offender of them all – the pre-recorded announcer: “Please turn your mobile phones to silent, keep conversations to a minimum, and use headphones on low, Thank You”. This is repeated over and over during the voyage. Somehow the tone of this message and its loudness along with frequency remind me of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

And so, now the commuters, who asked for “quiet carriages” find themselves on a receiving end of undue scrutiny, often leading to very vocal exchanges at smallest transgression from being “silent”. Keep conversations to minimum becomes “be silent”, keep headphone’s volume to low becomes do not listen to music, and turning the mobile to silent became “do not use your phone”.

At the same time in the same carriage a woman is clipping her toe-nails, a workaholic office employee is typing so loudly you can hear the keyboard keystrokes in the next carriage, and old people stand for an hour, while young man occupies a three-seater by himself. Another woman is using nail polish remover, and a sporty man with huge backpack on his back keeps hitting passengers with that bag as he keeps turning around in the aisle. All of that is OK, as long as they do not speak, listen to music and have their phones turned to silent.

In the past public transport in various countries carried other special announcements. For example “Nur für Deutsche” (Only for Germans) was a favourite in Nazi occupied territories. Another well-known sign was the “white only”, which enforced racial segregation.

So, is the “quiet carriage” a blessing for peace loving commuters, or is it another form of ill-conceived segregation leading to truly antisocial issues. I would think people should learn to be more civil both trough upbringing and education, so we do not have to have stupid rules like that.

PS: I wonder how does Transport NSW intend to enforce these “quiet” policies, and indeed, do they have a legal right to impose them on public, as they seem to contradict the term “equality”.