Is this a final farewell for the women behind Swiss train announcements?

Everybody who has ever spent any time in Switzerland knows the sound: first a cathedral-like three-part chime and then a woman announcing a train or bus route.

Is this a final farewell for the women behind Swiss train announcements?
Photo: Depositphotos

To many regular commuters, the calm, slow and slightly otherworldly voices of the national rail company, the SBB/CCF, are as much a part of Swiss soundscape as church or cow bells.

The four women behind the announcements – one for each of the national languages – spend months recording a total of 10,000 separate pieces of text, which are then stitched together to create what people hear on station platforms around the country.

This is why the SBB announcements often sound stilted and or just plain odd.

Now though, after 15 years, the SBB is looking at modernising its announcement system, Swiss regional daily the Aargauer Zeitung reports.

The rail company is set to pilot an automated system which would see fully updated and customized data about the rail network converted into speech.

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It’s not clear whether onboard train staff would continue to wish passengers a good morning or apologise for delays under the planned new system. The fate of the current crop of SBB voices is also unclear.

But one thing is clear: if a pilot project set for spring 2019 is successful, any new voice of the SBB will remain a woman.

“The reason the speakers are women is psychological. Studies show that female pitches come across as more likeable. And that’s true for both sexes,” said the SBB in a 2013 blog entry.


Rail services to remain disrupted in Switzerland in the coming days

Snow and sub-zero temperatures over the weekend caused havoc on some train lines, mainly in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

Rail services to remain disrupted in Switzerland in the coming days
Snow has slowed down train traffic in Switzerland. Photo by AFP

Freezing temperatures cut off the power on some lines, disrupting train traffic in several regions.

Internationally, traffic between St. Margrethen in St.Gallen and Munich was interrupted due to heavy snowfall. EuroCity trains between Zurich and Munich were canceled.

Before it resumes normal service, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) must clear a thick layer of snow from trains and remove fallen trees from tracks, the company said on its website.

The train between Basel and Zurich airport will be canceled until Tuesday evening. 

But SBB says it will resume most of its traffic on the main lines on Monday, though at reduced frequency.

Shorter train formations and longer journeys should also be expected in the next few days.

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How can you know ahead of time about any last-minute cancellations or delays?

The timetable is also constantly updated on the SBB Mobile App. 

Any delays or last minute cancellations are indicated there in real time.

On Twitter, @RailService and @railinfo_cff provide information on possible disruptions as well.

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