Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Thursday, May 6, 1999 Published at 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK


Mind the gap - Marilyn's back

"The next station is Covent Garden. Stand clear of the closing doors"

Marilyn Monroe is in line for a comeback - nearly 40 years after the actress's death.

Research by London Underground shows that a breathy female voice is the most popular choice for announcements on Tube trains.

The company is now planning to replace some of its more mechanical announcers with the warmer tones of a Marilyn soundalike.

A calmer, friendlier voice might reduce tensions on the often packed rush-hour trains.

[ image: London's Tube carries more than two million people a day]
London's Tube carries more than two million people a day
''We have a variety of announcements on a lot of trains and people definitely respond to some voices better than others," said a spokeswoman.

"We have done some market research and the one that most people preferred was a slightly breathy voice that sounded a bit like Marilyn Monroe. People said she sounded very pleasant and helpful.

"The comment that sums it up best is that she sounded as if she was smiling as she spoke to you."

Tube announcements tell passengers which station they are approaching, advise of problems with the service and ask them to squeeze together if the carriages are getting full.

Digitised voice 'irritating'

The voice that does this on many trains at the moment is nicknamed Sonia by some Tube workers, because "she gets Sonia nerves".

"On some lines, there is a digitised voice which can be irritating if you have to listen to it a lot," said the spokeswoman. "We would rather give people what they actually want."

The research involved a variety of voices in tones ranging from "newsreader" to "schoolmistress".

But the favourite was a softer, more breathy voice, like when Marilyn Monroe famously sang Happy Birthday to President Kennedy in 1961.

The search is now on for the right voice - London Underground says "Marilyn" could be asking passengers to mind the doors in a few months.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Internet Links

London Transport

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online