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Forget Quiet Carriages On Trains, We Need A Social Coach

20:33Ciaran McCormick

I am currently roaring through England on the Virgin train service from London to Birmingham. It is a quiet journey in the middle of the working day and the few people around me in the grunt classes are buried in their phones or their food. I have done this trek many times over the last three years to visit my boyfriend or get to university.

Looking back, the most memorable journeys have been the ones where something has gone wrong. The sort of disaster where every train is cancelled or delays force you to take some absurdly convoluted route. On those journeys, a London miracle occurs. People are forced to talk to each other.



I have made connections with other travellers in an instant in some of those moments. We have jogged together to catch booked trains about to leave and offered advice to each other in the spirit of British camarderie. Even when there has been no disaster, the best journeys have begun with an awkward striking up of conversation and ended with heart to heart life stories.

However, these moments are rare. My introverted personality means that the effort to pluck up social courage on public transport isn't often worth it. You tend to get avoided, brushed off or treated like a deranged lunatic. So here is my radical idea. We already have quiet coaches where miserable souls can escape modern technology and sink into a paperback or sleep. Why don't we introduce a 'Social' carriage onto our trains?

Just like when you enter a silent area, you accept the need to respect the awkward silence, you embrace the sociable quality of these new carriages. People can chat with strangers and pass the time in conversation with willing fellow travellers. Your journey will go by quicker and you will arrive at your destination refreshed and in a good mood. I am convinced that the lethargy I feel after these long journeys is because I tend to slump into the warm embrace of a familiar Spotify playlist.

These 'Social' carriages should not descend into the kind of loudness of the last weekend train home from booze-fuelled nights out. Definitely not the sort of conversation one has with rugby fans drinking from two cans of Strongbow on packed Bank Holiday Sunday trains. Instead, let us have reserved British chats about ourselves with strangers. I am convinced it could work if everyone was up for it and didn't take themselves too seriously. Even the British mindset of minding our business to avoid awkward social situations could be challenged. People might make a few more friends in the process.

This is on my mind at the moment because I am moving to London very soon. I will leave behind my beloved Essex hometown. We once got an entire bus talking to each other the evening of a festival, cheering and saying goodbye to every passenger that left us. It was incredible. London public transport has a reputation for being an isolating experience. The sort of commute where you can be surrounded by people and yet feel utterly alone.


When I did work experience stints in the capital, my commute was a shattering 2.5 hours and the people doing it alongside me resembled zombies. It was remarkable to walk among carriages with professional people slung over chairs in deep sleep. The only sounds are newspaper rustling, faint snoring and the occasional early business call. The people wake up as the train pulled up to Fenchurch Street and then walk in chilling silence through the stations. Many of these people would not choose to join a Social carriage. That is fair enough early in the morning when a few more minutes of precious sleep is a gift. But for those willing, it could be an energising experience to meet new people from time to time.

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