This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 13/08/2018.
A new voice for Croydon’s trams?
Croydon’s light rail system will celebrate its twentieth birthday in 2020, and with 2019 just round the corner that’s not long to wait. Croydon Tramlink, as it was originally known, launched in 2000, and in all its years of operation the voices informing passengers of their destinations have remained unchanged.
Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Nicolas Owen’s polite announcements as you round the bend at Reeves Corner. Some might say that he’s ideally suited to the task, being a keen railway enthusiast and author of historical books on trains and trams. But wouldn’t you agree that the announcements could use a refresh after all these years?
A few years ago I floated the idea of replacing Owen with someone a little more, shall we say, Croydon. There are in fact two voices to be heard on the trams. Owen reads the station names and a second, female voice announces the local attractions such as Ikea and Sainsbury’s as well as the railway and bus interchanges.
My favourites for the voiceover jobs back then were comedians Ronnie Corbett and Sue Perkins. I actually thought Rob Brydon would be a better Corbett than Corbett himself and tried to sound him out for the potential role via Twitter. But as time went on, my thoughts shifted and I wondered whether a better representation of Croydon would be its very own citizens – those using the service day in, day out.
Let’s get the tram system alive with distinctive Croydonian voices
At the time, I was co-running Croydon Radio and having our own studio at Matthews Yard meant that we could invite people in to record sample announcements. My idea was that we should run a competition and have folk record an announcement for a particular station that meant something to them personally. We would record their announcement as well as why that particular station name had significance to them. We would then assemble the recordings and let ears from TfL pick the eventual winners.
If all went well, the tram system would come alive with the voices of forty or more distinctive, individual Croydon voices from across the borough, each announcing their own station stop.
I wrote to TfL in late 2016 with the suggestion and the PR officer told me that it sounded like an interesting proposition and said that she would get back to me. A few weeks later the Sandilands derailment happened. I knew better than to chase a response to my enquiry as TfL had way more serious matters to deal with.
Eighteen months on and the idea still resonates with me. I love the thought of lots of different voices and accents informing me the way on the trams. I don’t have the luxury of a radio station now with which to promote the idea or record Croydon people in all their diverse glory. Nevertheless I wonder if it’s an idea that TfL would be interested in, particularly as we approach the twentieth anniversary of the trams’ launch in Croydon. If so, we should make it happen.