Surprisingly, Quiet Carriages Seem To Be Working

Surprisingly, Quiet Carriages Seem To Be Working

CityRail in Sydney began its trial of quiet carriages yesterday. I was cynical about the average commuter’s ability to give a damn about anyone else, but on Day 1 it seemed to be working OK on the train I travelled on.

On the majority of trains which are part of the trial (all services from Newcastle to Sydney and peak-hour services from Wyong to Sydney), the designated quiet carriages are the first and last. At Central Station in Sydney, your chances of actually getting a seat in the last carriage are somewhat lower: it’s at the end of the platform where most people transfer from other services, and many of them are too lazy to walk further along the platform. So for my test journey from Sydney to Eastwood yesterday just after 4pm, I found myself in the front carriage.

Shortly after sitting down, I had a sinking feeling. Two rows ahead were a family with two parents and two young kids, who were already arguing noisily. “You should put the laptop here Dad!” I wasn’t going to ask them to be quiet myself (I’m here to observe), and I suspect most people would recognise that keeping kids quiet can be a challenge. So it seemed likely that we’d be getting more noise than we expected.

Fortunately, we actually got an announcement about the scheme as the train took off.

As of today, we are trialling quiet carriages. The quiet carriages on this service are at the rear and front of the train. Please keep the volume of your voice down to a minimum, and mobile phones and music devices are not permitted.

At this point, the father of the kids said “Sssshhhh!”, and they actually paid attention. So we progressed in majestic silence to Strathfield. No-one used their phones for conversations; there was no tinny echo from an iPod headset. I was almost self-conscious about typing notes into my BlackBerry. It was all very pleasant.

Predictably enough, one of the people who boarded at Strathfield (the next stop) was already conducting a booming and tedious conversation on his mobile. However, that finished before the announcement was repeated. A few minutes later, a phone rang in the carriage, but its owner instantly silenced it. The message was getting through.

I got off at the next station, so I have no idea if a crowd of rampaging antisocial hoons got on at Hornsby or any of the subsequent stops. I also didn’t get to see anyone actually tell another passenger to be quiet. But on the whole, the scheme seemed to be working OK. The test will be if the “quiet carriage” announcements are maintained. (Alex at Gizmodo also tested a “quiet train” yesterday, and didn’t encounter any announcements after Central.)

Had your own quiet carriage experience, in Sydney or elsewhere? Share it in the comments.


  • I was on the train for the first time in a few months from Sandrigham to Flinders and then Flinders to Parliament and back again…

    It was very pleasant and only one encounter of the young girl with “OMG Are you for reeeeeal I Loooove you hoooney” conversation with her ipod on full blast from her head phones…I moved seats across the isle. But she got off eventually, still annoying! The school boys from a Grammar school where pretty good too, no noticeable swearing…maybe it was the time of day or the train line I was on

    I would like this in Melbourne though….see how it works

    • I think melbourne metro trialled quiet carriage for a very short period in early 2011? Apparently it was popular, so after the trial period they just forgot about it

  • No mobile phones, no music devices – no load clicking on laptops and blackberrys, no heaving breathing, no sneezing.
    The message should be consideration for your fellow passangers, not being forced into a unatural silence.

    Who tells my train carriage to be quite when it starts squeeling/

  • It is one of the strange pleasures of train travel in Japan…
    They have had silent carriages forever (decades at least).
    They work well. I hope we Australians can manage some self
    control to make it work here.

    • I moved to Japan in 2007 for a three year stint – after arriving, I was in the train station under Narita airport and there was easily a thousand people there – and you could hear someone cough on the other side of the platform. Still amazes me.

  • Brisbane has been running this for a while now with … I think … some success.

    It’s a bit of a sad reflection on society that we need rules to remind us to be considerate. to others.

  • Quiet train is working because transporters are reminded constantly.

    What I’d like to see is they also include other rules like school kids should leave seats for adults in the announcement. Its really annoying having to tell kids yourself.

  • I was on a quiet carriage from Hornsby to the Central Coast yesterday. It was…pretty quiet. I liked it. But there were a few noisy folk downstairs and nobody had the guts to tell them to shut up, as well as a few guys intermittantly talking into their phones. Overall, it wasn’t too bad.

  • I agree – it is working. The noise levels are much less than usual. However, the only way to make this trial prove it’s worth is to have signs on the quiet carriages to ensure people know. Many won’t realise it’s a quiet carriage, especially the infrequent commuters, and ironically the people I saw talking didn’t hear the quiet carriage announcements because they were talking over it! Signs will ensure more are aware of it and it gives an easy way for us to gently point a ‘noisey’ passenger’s eyes towards the sign, rather than finding the confidence to verbally ask a stranger to keep it down.

  • I’m surprised Angus is making such a big deal over this. They’ve been working in Brisbane for months. Only problem is, schoolgirls start talking the moment they’re on the train. The schoolboys seem to not be too bad, unless there’s a reasonable group of them or they’re with schoolgirls.

  • Sounds like a good idea, I’m constantly annoyed by obnoxiously loud people on the trains. With the headphones rule however, I wonder if an exception would be applied to “in-ear” headphones, as beyond a few centimetres from the speaker they are virtually silent.

  • People have seen this as a perfect opportunity to work on the way to work. And guess what. Laptops make noise. 2,3,4,5 laptops clacking away is worse than it was before. ‘ it’s in the rules I’m allowed to ‘. The idiot guard saying ‘ it is a quiet carriage not a silent cariage it is not an offense to touch type’ . People taking liberties ‘ within the rules ‘. it’s about consideration but people don’t get it they would prefer to prove a point

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