How Useful Are Quiet Carriages On Trains?

How Useful Are Quiet Carriages On Trains?

Many train services incorporate a “quiet carriage” where mobile phones are discouraged and noise is supposed to be kept to a minimum. But do travellers really pay attention to those rules?

Picture by mrpbps

Some years ago, I was holidaying with a friend in Scandinavia, and caught the train between Malmo in Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark. We were looking forward to discussing the view from the Öresund Bridge, but almost as soon as we departed and began chatting a rather hassled looking Danish girl informed us that we were in a quiet carriage, something we’d failed to notice before boarding. We were shamed into staying silent, though a lot of ridiculous eyebrow pantomime and improvised sign language did ensue.

While I’d have enjoyed the chance to chat, I was determined to respect the principle of the “quiet carriage”: not chatting excessively, using a mobile or listening to an iPod so loudly that a vaguely distinctive bass line can be heard from every seat. Not all my fellow travellers are so well mannered.

I’ve often been in a quiet carriage and endured someone nattering endlessly into their mobile. I’m rarely aggressive enough to tell them to STFU, but fortunately there’s usually someone else who values their quiet time who’ll make the point. The miscreant generally falls silent on being told, though there is always that small percentage of people who view the usage of a phone as some sort of inalienable right and decide to pick a fight. If nothing else, it helps pass the time.

Sometimes, the disruption comes from the train company itself. On a journey from Brisbane Airport to the city last month, we were told in some detail that a quiet carriage was in operation by the on-board announcer after every single stop. That tended to undermine the benefit that the approach offered — clearly visible signage on the relevant carriage would seem like a much better bet.

While the rules about mobile phones and iPods are often spelt out, there’s still plenty of grey areas to uncover. Is it acceptable to use a laptop PC in a quiet carriage? Does that depend on whether you type like a maniac or just gently browsing? And is it fair enough to eat a packet of chips, or should you stick with less noisy food?

Years of writing in noisy locations as a journalist mean that I don’t need absolute silence to get things done, and these days if there’s a choice offered I’ll often shun the quiet carriage when travelling alone to avoid getting criticised for laptop noise. In return, I just wish that people in any given carriage would learn how to switch off the sound effects when texting from their phones. The silence benefit of texting rather than speaking gets entirely cancelled out if you spend the journey softly beeping.

How do you deal with quiet carriage miscreants? Share your strategies in the comments.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman has been told that his voice can carry long distances. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


      • > Canalphones, yes. iPod headphones turned up so loud that I’m able to hear them OVER my canalphones, no.

        This. Also, people who play music on their phones THROUGH THE PHONE SPEAKER. WTF. Who brought these people up?

        I’d love to learn the sign language for ‘are you deaf’.

    • Headphones are great, except when people have their music up so loud they serve as nothing more than poor quality speakers.

      I remarked at the irony of an individual complaining this morning about others disrupting his peace in the quiet zone of a QR service, then proceeding to snore his head off for the next 15mins.

      I wish quiet zones would get taken to the next level and enforced by transport staff. I’ve endured many trips where someone has refused to turn their music down when I asked, because I don’t have a badge.

  • Of course people don’t follow the rules, just like they don’t follow the rules of the road or any other rules for that matter.

    It seems that many people today feel like they can do what they want & when they want without any consideration for either other people or the consequences of their actions.

    Maybe it’s down to a complete lack of emotional intelligence or just basic bad manners?

    Of course if there was such a thing as a deterrent i.e the enforcement of laws, then things might be different.

    But in this land of litigation and teflon coated shirkers what do we expect?!

  • You know that you’re now allowed to eat on the trains in Brisbane right? So noisy chips is a mute point.

    I like the idea of the quiet carriages though. Travelling north every Thursday night to pick up my fiance from work is nice if you can get people to actually be quiet on those carriages.

  • Another question. Would you actually go up to people these days and ask them to be quiet, and tell them they are in a quiet zone?
    9 out of 10 ppl will either give you a big mouth back or stab you in the

  • Since introduction in Brisbane, I’ve had guys talking so loudly about how into dragons they are that they haven’t heard the announcement, teenagers talking about whether their friend is pregnant and reciting the quiet-carriage message over and over, all the while projecting like they’re NIDA graduates; and finally a middle aged office guy who made loud noises a to assert his dominance over the whole of Train Carriage Shire. I call him the Mayor.

    Its a chamber for kids who dont want to have to talk so loud just so everyone can hear them, the infirm who need and audience, and the oblivious or inconsiderate who like the fact that nobody else seems to be interfering with them. The enforcement goes so far as a OMGSUPERLOUDannouncement every station or two.

    My favorite thing, however, is when you actually end up with a coach with no loud idiots in it, and have some nice talkative true blue ozzie cobber bloke driving the train who recites every station to you over the intercom, before ending his two minute spiel with a reiteration of the new quiet carriage policy. By this time the train has normally reached the next station and its time to start the monologue again.

  • Gosh those announcements on QR are earsplitting! A few signs on windows, posters around the stations, and announcements during the initial introduction would have been suffice.

    Did anyone really feel that train carriages were too loud anyway? At least you know what carriage to head to when the footy is on 🙂

  • I’ve often considered purchasing a batch of cheap ($2) canalphones ready for throwing at people with loud headphones on – having said that, I don’t want to provoke the people who catch the train around where I live…

  • I’ve never seen this in Sydney either.

    I think though that the escalating violence is more of a concern to me. Sure bass music is annoying, but ending up in the same carriage as someone who is drunk and/or getting physically violent can be scary. We’ve had it happen several times in the last year or so.

  • On 3 occasions since the start of the QR quiet car, I have said something to the rowdy passengers and each of them apologised and continued their journey in silence. One thanked me and moved to the next carriage, surprisingly a schoolgirl in uniform.
    I say don’t be afraid to stand up and say something about it, there is sure to be many in the carriage that would thank you for doing it.
    Or pick up a handful of the pamphlets at the station and hand them to the offenders, they will get the idea.

  • Quiet carriages are nothing new and if you’re a seasoned traveller know that they exist in the UK. This is nothing original. The GOCard concept is also nothing new. What I would like to see is the initiative to have more services and have them operating on time. It’s not a large rail network, just outdated. Passenger requests for a ‘quiet carriage’ ranks a hell of a lot less than Passenger requests to have a reliable transport network. Maybe I’ve just missed the point…

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