February 2, 2022

Why One Station on the London Underground has a “Personalized” Voice

On London’s Underground all the voices are automated announcing what train is coming in, and of course, reminding you to step over the threshold of the train from the platform and not faceplant doing it.

 

In the truly British way of parlance, the overhead automated announcement asks you to “Mind the Gap”.

But things are different at the Embankment station on the Underground. There’s a tone rich theatrical male voice being used for announcement, a voice that is different from anywhere else in the network.

And there is a very personal story to that voice.

That voice recording was that of Oswald Laurence who was a theatre actor who passed away in 2007. Mr. Laurence’s voice had been recorded in the 1970’s and was originally heard at all the stations along the northbound Northern line. As the stations upgraded their recordings, Mr. Laurence’s voice recording was only heard at Embankment.

And that is where his widow, a medical doctor named Margaret McCollum went to sit in the train station and hear her husband’s voice. And one day in 2012 his voice recording was gone, replaced by an automated recording.

When Dr. McCollum asked Transport for London if she could get a recording of the “voice at Embankment Station” one was provided to her. When  TFL  found out the story they went one step further by restoring the original voice of her husband to the announcements at Embankment Station. Today if you are riding on the Northern Line this is the only station with a personalized voice.

You can hear Mr. Laurence’s announcement below in the YouTube video.

 

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