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.