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Those Calling for Quiet Tube Carriages Need to Quieten Down

All the commuting community needs is a bit of self-awareness and courtesy. Music is a pleasure. Don't make it a pain for everyone else.

The Mayor of London has recently been urged to establish quiet carriages on London underground trains, and I can understand why.

Having just moved back to the capital after a few years at university, I now spend about two hours a day commuting. The approving beep of the Oyster card reader waves me through the turnstile, and I arrive at the platform to see the train coming to a halt as the double doors sweep open directly in front of me, enticing me with a promisingly empty seat. Elbow-deep in my handbag, fishing for the book I'm currently wolfing down, I smile knowingly at those who catch my eye. We are Comrades of the Commute; in the words of Larkin's poem The Whitsun Weddings, our lives 'would all contain this hour', 'this frail travelling coincidence'.

So far, a perfect workday morning - but not for long.

You know the situation. As you tuck into your book, or today's crossword, or the newspaper, you become aware of a steady, faint thudding. You glance at your feet to check it's not you tapping away to that song stuck in your head. It's not. You open your bag to check your water bottle isn't being rhythmically squashed against something else by the rocking movement of the train. It isn't. You're now so painfully aware of the noise that you can't concentrate on your chosen rush-hour activity. Your eyes flicker around the carriage in pursuit of the answer. And then you find it.

The man next to you, the one wearing the smart tailored suit with a shiny leather briefcase between his knees - who is clearly on his way to some high-power job - is listening to music. And because he is listening to music, everyone is listening to music.

Despite warnings that a high volume of music can lead to tinnitus or noise-induced deafness, some people insist on cranking up the volume in their earphones. It is my pet peeve du jour; I find it rude, invasive and disrespectful. How can I be expected to concentrate on my book when I'm busy giving the evil eye to the evil iPod? Not that its owner notices, engrossed in his music as he is.

So yes, I can understand the bid to have quiet carriages on the London Underground.

But it won't work. When you stand on the yellow line at the platform, mere inches away from the train doors, and still can't get onto the rush-hour tube for lack of space, you can't be picky about which carriage you enter. If you want to talk to your friend, but arrive at the platform just in time to hop through the nearest train doors, you can't be expected to wait for the next train to avoid spending your commute in hushed silence.

What would the rules of the quiet carriage be? Would the recorded female voice still make her announcements - many of which are longer, more detailed and more repetitive than necessary? (The next station is Tower Hill. Change for the District Line, the DLR from Tower Gateway and national rail services from Fenchurch Street. Alight for the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and riverboat services from Tower Pier. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.) Perhaps TFL will forcefully request that speaking be left to passengers of the non-quiet carriages - and God help you if you so dare to sneeze.

In this technology-ridden age, a ban on iPods and mobile phones would be regressive and unenforceable. Where would we draw the line - could you use an app on your iPhone if it was on silent? What about Kindles and iPads? If the train was delayed, would the embargo against phone calls be rescinded to let the babysitter know?

No, the answer isn't in imposing bans. While I long for the day when I can travel on the underground without hearing a cacophony of clashing beats, I dread the day when conversation between friendly members of the public is forbidden. It's just a bit Nineteen Eighty-Four.

All the commuting community needs is a bit of self-awareness and courtesy. Music is a pleasure. Don't make it a pain for everyone else.

Lauren tweets from @laurendavidson. You can find out more about her at www.laurendavidson.co.uk.