“Next stop Davos Platz!” The voice in our trains

Everyone knows them: the announcements in our trains that tell you what the next stop is, for example. But how does this voice get into the train, who does it belong to and, what's more, how does it know where the train is?

Reto Zünti, Specialist production development, 30. March 2020

What commuters no longer need in terms of orientation is a big help for passengers from near and far, either to make sure they get off the train at their desired destination or simply to help them get to know Graubünden and its beautiful places. The Rhaetian Railway also uses these announcements for example between Thusis and Tirano, on the UNESCO World Heritage route, to tell passengers more about the impressive details of RhB and the landmarks. But how does the voice get into the train? And how does the lady know that the next stop is Klosters Platz?

3,000 individual audio fragments

The Rhaetian Railway has a data collection of almost 3,000 individual audio fragments which can be put together individually in a software program. Individual fragments are, for example, place names, such as “Davos Platz”, “Scuol-Tarasp” etc. But also numbers and individual words, such as “platform”, “Regio”, “Regio Express”, “stop”, “on”, “the” and lots more. 

A major challenge for the speakers

These announcement fragments are recorded by professional speakers in a recording studio and then imported into our software. The Rhaetian Railway makes announcements in four languages: German, Rhaeto-Romanic, Italian and English. When new recordings are made, the respective speaker has to try to say the word at the same pitch as for the previous announcements. This often leads to the speakers having to repeat the recordings. It is important that the announcements are easy to understand and that each of the words is clearly enunciated.

The studio of the speakers

World of technology behind the announcements

Every announcement is linked to the train number – at Rhaetian Railway this is a four-digit number which can also be seen in the online timetable.

The specialists at Rhaetian Railway prepare the recorded fragments so that they are ready to be played on the various trains. 

The work entails not only putting the announcements together according to the rules and regulations but also reprogramming when there are line closures, major events and extra trips. 

The announcement is triggered automatically by the customer information system on the train. The system is geared to the number of kilometres that have been covered which can be measured according to the number of wheel turns. This is how the announcements are made at the right time.

Software into which the text modules are imported.

Some things still to be done by hand

Every time the timetable changes, the changes made to the old timetable are also made to the announcements. Once all the preparations have been made in the software, the announcements are supplied to the systems on the trains. On the new vehicles, this can be controlled from the software and distribution takes place via GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications). In older vehicles, however, the data cannot be distributed automatically. In all vehicles of the older generation, the announcements are stored on memory cards and then replaced manually in the vehicle. Two employees need around 10 days to replace the 105 memory cards currently in use when it comes to the timetable changeover. 

Thanks to the voice on the train, we can ensure that none of our passengers misses their destination and that the desired information is available in different languages. 

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