Ketech automated announcements system.

Michael Wilkinson made this Freedom of Information request to Northern Trains Limited Automatic anti-spam measures are in place for this older request. Please let us know if a further response is expected or if you are having trouble responding.

The request was partially successful.

Michael Wilkinson

Dear Northern Trains Limited,

I am writing under the Freedom Of Information Act 2000 to ask about your Ketech automated announcements system.

Please may i ask the following questions:

• Your announcements at Wilmslow have been faulty since at least 2017 for over five years. The issue is that almost every word is cut out so the announcements are very difficult to understand. For many words it only plays half of the word or skips out an entire word. So they are very difficult to understand. Despite this bring reported multiple times it is still not fixed over five years later. Please advise if you plan to fix this issue? If so then please provide a timeframe?

• Your automated announcements at Blackpool North have also been faulty for over five years since at least 2017 too. The issue here is that the chime cuts of the beginning of every single announcement. So the first five or six seconds of the announcement are cut off. The part that is cut off is the time of the train and where it is going so this is very important information that passengers are unable to hear. Despite this bring reported multiple times it is still not fixed over five years later. Please advise if you plan to fix this issue? If so then please provide a timeframe?

• Multiple stations have the volume set so low that it is impossible to hear the automated announcements and even passing traffic blocks out the announcements. The volume is either set far too low or there is a problem with the speakers. I can think of sixteen different stations that have this issue. Leyland and Menston and Cheadle Hulme and Burneside and Staveley in particular are very bad but there are dozens of other stations with similar issues too of the volume being too low. Again this has been going on for over five years and these issues have been reported multiple times but it never gets fixed. Do you plan to sort out and fix all of these issues? If so then please provide a timeframe?

• On your Ketech system at your stations it is still unable to announce Headbolt Lane or Reston despite both stations being open now. So it would appear that these new stations have not been recorded. Please advise if you plan to get these stations recorded and plan to get your Ketech system to announce these stations? If so please provide a time frame?

• I notice that your system (at Morpeth station) does announce "Lumo" and has done so ever since Lumo started operations. This is despite the fact the your Ketech system is still unable to announce some other TOCs like Transport For Wales despite the fact that they have existed for almost six years. So i am wondering if Lumo paid you to do this recording. Can you advise did Lumo or First East Coast Trains Limited or First Group pay you any money to record this new "Lumo" recording for your Ketech system? If so then how much money did they pay you?

• The new recording for "Lumo" is voiced by someone different rather than the usual Celia Drummond voice. This same voice also says "for a connecting bus service" on many of your station announcements when rail replacement buses are in use. So this new voice seems to be the new replacement for Celia Drummond as the newer recordings seem to be voiced by her. I would like to know her name? Can you please provide me with the name of this new voiceover artist used for the newer recordings?

• Could you also confirm is this new lady who is used for the "Lumo" and "for a connecting bus service" recordings the Celia Drummond replacement? So is this the new voice that you will use for all new recordings for the Ketech system in the future?

• Could you please tell me the names of the folders that contain the Ketech automated announcements sound files and how many .seg files are contained within each folder. For example another TOC that uses Ketech has folder "female1" containing 10,576 files and folder "male1" containing 11,385 files and folder "female2" containing 1,987 files and folder "male3" containing 737 files and folder "default" containing 771 files. So this is the same thing i would like to know for you. I would like to know the names of each folder and then how many .seg files are contained within each folder. Note that i am not asking for the sound files themselves as i know these have already been refused on other peoples requests.

• Can you please provide me copies of all internal emails and communication and copies of all emails and communication with Ketech regarding adding newer recordings (such as for new stations or new TOCs or anything else) to your automated announcements system? You can of course redact personal information.

• Can you please provide me copies of all internal emails and communication and copies of all emails and communication with Ketech regarding faults and errors with your automated announcements system? You can of course redact personal information.

Note that all of my questions are regarding your Ketech station announcements and i am not asking about your onboard announcements.

Thank you for your help with this information and i look forward to hearing back from you.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Wilkinson

Dylan Fox left an annotation ()

I can confirm that the volume of the announcements at Leyland is low because of nearby houses. When it was installed back in 2018, the neighbours living next to the station submitted a complaint, resulting in the volume being turned down to the level it is at now and they turned off the speaker at the (old) end of platform 4.

Some of the speakers at Leyland are broken and I have reported these; one was replaced but the replacement doesn't work either!! There is also noticeable hissing in the background of all announcements with the exception of manual announcements made using the microphone; it also used to distort but luckily they did fix that.

The main issue with Leyland is the fact that when Northern record their own announcements, they do it too quietly, making it far too quiet and is also swamped out by the hissing issue. A contractor did visit the station but refused to increase the volume as this would result in Celia being too loud and complaints would most likely be made again. He apparently turned up the volume on the system at Bare Lane, only to return a few days later to turn it back down again. I am pursuing this recording issue with Northern and I currently have Transport Focus involved.

I agree that something here is wrong in terms of how Northern and/or KeTech manage their CIS announcements and this should be fixed ASAP. Regarding Leyland, the best fix in my opinion would be to make sure all announcements are consistent in volume and install more speakers in areas such as the waiting shelters, under the footbridge and on the footbridge itself but at the same volume as the existing ones; this would increase audibility across the station without causing a disturbance to nearby residents.

I hope Northern respond properly to your request

Oliver Fry left an annotation ()

Also, maybe in the ticket office, the RAFA club and in the lifts. Also toilets when they do get them in.

Dylan Fox left an annotation ()

The RAFA club isn't on station premises. It would cost a lot of money to get cables over there and would be mire of a noise nuisance as most people who go in there aren't going to the station.

There is already a speaker in the ticket office built into the microphone but it had to be turned off as that was causing too much of a nuisance when staff were trying to serve passengers.

I agree with the idea of speakers in the lifts and toilets (once they're built); St Helens Central has this already

SMB - FOI, Northern Trains Limited

We are handling your request under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act). Under the terms of the Act you are entitled to a response within 20 working days of receipt. We therefore aim to provide a response no later than 27/11/23. If we cannot meet this deadline we will let you know the reason and also tell you when you can expect a response.

Freedom of Information, Northern Trains Ltd

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SMB - FOI, Northern Trains Limited

1 Attachment

Please find attached our response to your request.

FOI, Northern

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Loki Avivson left an annotation ()

Well this request was a failure! Apparently the voice who says "Lumo" at Morpeth ("Only Woman" who used to be at Southern and Virgin Trains West Coast now Avanti station) has changed from a professional voiceover artist to staff member? If "Only Woman" is still a voiceover artist then withholding her name makes no sense as voiceover artists are meant to be public figures who publicise who they did work for and their availability, such as Julie Berry for example, who recorded announcements for the London Underground Piccadilly line, Govia Thameslink Railway (operating as Thameslink, Southern, Gatwick Express and Great Northern), West Midlands Trains (operating as London Northwestern Railway and West Midlands Railway), Greater Anglia (also operating Stansted Express), C2C, Chiltern Railways, East Midlands Railway (Connect and Regional fleets only), Merseyrail and Southeastern!

Northern FOI left an annotation ()

The voiceover artist is not a staff member. The exemption stands under GDPR as we do not have permission to disclose the name and are not obliged to seek it.

Dear SMB - FOI,

Can i please submit a request for an Internal Review regarding to my request.

I would like to dispute several points in your response to me.

Firstly in regards to Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q5 i believe that i was asking for recorded information. I asked if you planned to fix these issues and if so when. You will hold recorded information relating to if and when you plan to fix it. For example you will hold details of plans and discussions to resolve these issues which will include details of dates and timeframes of when these issues will be solved.

I have contacted Customer Service dozens of times over the past five or six years. Every time i report issues i get the same old standard platitudes and stock copy and paste replies telling me that they have reported the issue and forwarded it to the correct department to get fixed. But then nothing happens. So contacting Customer Service is pointless as nothing ever gets done and all you get are empty promises that the issue will be fixed and then years later it is still broken.

Please look in to this again. I believe that providing me with details on when you plan to fix these issues counts as recorded information. This is not just a complaint. This is a request for recorded information. Please provide the requested information regarding when you plan to fix these issues. Please provide any dates or time frames

In regards to Q6 i would like to dispute your decision to withhold her name. If she was a staff member than that would be perfectly acceptable. But she is not. She is a professional voiceover artist. Therefore i fail to see any issue with giving out her name.

Voiceover artists are public figures who publicise themselves in order to get work from companies. For example have a look at all these railway voiceover artists who publicise their work:

Elinor Hamilton:

https://www.sayerhamilton.com

Emma Hignett:

https://www.emmahignett.com

Julie Berry:

http://www.julieberry.com

Pauline Cavilla:

https://www.voiceovers.co.uk/pauline.cav...

Justine Harris:

https://voice123.com/voice-actor/justine...

Celia Drummond:

https://voice123.com/voice-actor/celiadr...

Mark Stutter:

https://voice123.com/voice-actor/markstu...

Other TOCs have answered requests for names of voiceover artists.

For example look at all of these FOI requests where TOCs have had no issues releasing names:

LNER told someone on an FOI request that Justine Harris is the 800/801 onboard voice:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...

LNER is your sister company and is under the same exact ownership as you. So it is utterly ridiculous that you are refusing something that LNER had no problem giving. Why have such different policies.

TFL told someone on an FOI request that Elinor Hamilton is the 1995 Stock extension voice:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/w...

TFL told someone on an FOI request that Adrian Hieatt is the 1992 Stock new voice:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/b...

TFW told someone on an FOI request that Elin Llwyd is the 197 231 398 756 MK4 voice:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

Blackpool Trams told someone on an FOI request that Andy Mitchell and Bryan Lindop are the current and previous tram voices:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...

As you can see no other train companies have problems with giving out such information. So you can surely understand that this exemption is a bit ridiculous when every other TOC has happily answered dozens of other requests for voiceover names. If the exemption that you are using is really valid then why are you the only one using it and these other TOCs are not.

Also section S16 states that authorities have a duty to provide advice and assistance. If you really think that permission is necessary than you could use your duty to assist to obtain permission to release her name. It would be very quick and simple to do. Lets be honest no voiceover artist is going to have a problem with their name being released. These are public figures who advertise themselves. They would want their name released so that they get more well known and get more work.

If you are really going to continue to refuse her name then please provide a link to her website or a link to her page on one of the voiceover websites. Therefore it can not be considered personal details because you are not providing her name. You are just providing a link to her website. So by providing a link to her website this solves the issue you have.

In regards to Q8 this is the system used at your station so i am sure you have access to the sound files. Other TOCs that use Ketech all have access to their files so it would make no sense if you do not. So you can count how many sound files there are in total. I know it is a Ketech system but i am pretty sure you will still have access. You have refused requests for the sound files under various exemptions but never under the exemption that they are not held. You can simply go to your sound files and see what the folder is called and look at how many files it contains. I would appreciate if you could look in to this again as i find it hard to believe that you can not find this information. You should be able to tell me what the folders are called and how many files are in each folder. Or just even the total number of files if that is all you can find.

In regards to Q9 Q10 i would like to narrow it down to just request all emails to and from Ketech and all emails discussing the Ketech system. So you can just provide me the entire lot of emails you have. Therefore you will not need to search through them and see which ones are relating to faults and errors and adding new station names etc. You can just provide all emails to and from Ketech and all emails discussing the Ketech system and then i will go through it myself to find which emails are relevant to what i am after. So this should bring it within the cost limits.

I do not mind if a large amount of emails are irrelevant as i would be happy to sort through them myself to find the ones that i need. So please consider if you can answer this refined version. You can just simply provide all Ketech emails to save you time and money as you will not have to search for the ones relating to what i had requested.

Thank you for looking in to this Internal Review and i look forward to hearing back.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Wilkinson

Seb left an annotation ()

Northern Don't like responding to internal reviews so they will probably refuse it

SMB - FOI, Northern Trains Limited

We acknowledge your request for a review and will aim to respond no later than 11/12/23. If we cannot meet this deadline we will let you know the reason and also tell you when you can expect a response.

FOI, Northern

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SMB - FOI, Northern Trains Limited

2 Attachments

Please find attached our response to your request.

FOI, Northern

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