If you've taken a ride on London's Underground, also known as the Tube, you're probably familiar with the cheerful conductor announcements about delays and door openings, often premised with a jaunty, “Ladies and gentlemen.”
“We have reviewed the language that we use in announcements and elsewhere and will make sure that it is fully inclusive, reflecting the great diversity of London,” said Mark Evers, the agency's director of customer strategy.
The move comes after almost a year of campaigning by LGBT groups, which argued that the current language was polite but outdated. “Language is extremely important to the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community,” the LGBT group Stonewall said in a statement. “We welcome gender neutral announcements to be rolled out across TfL as it will ensure that everyone - no matter who they identify as - feels accounted for."
It started after Aimee Challenor, an equality campaigner and transgender woman, had an uncomfortable experience with Transport for London's helpline for Oyster, the smartcard payment system. After she gave her name, the phone operator said that the 19-year-old “didn't sound like a Miss.” Challenor said she was “shocked” by the comment and later asked London Mayor Sadiq Khan to apologize. He did, vowing to investigate ways to boost awareness at the transit agency. Khan asked the transit agency to adopt the new greeting almost six months ago.
“People are saying it’s such a small thing, and get a life, but it's these little things which can make people’s lives better,” Challenor told the Evening Standard. “London is a city I love traveling through,” she said. “But hearing these announcements -- we are living in the 21st century, not the 19th.”
Khan told the BBC that he was “keen” to have London's tube drivers speak in a more neutral way. “TfL serves a vibrant, diverse and multicultural city,” he said. “I am aware however, that some customers may not relate to or feel comfortable with the way that certain station announcements are made.”
Transport for London said it has begun retraining its staff. Though the agency expects that conductors may slip up sometimes, there will be regular reminders.
Not everyone agrees with the change. One Londoner posted on Facebook: “I despair of our London ‘mayor.’ London has so many problems and issues — announcements on buses isn’t one of them.” Another wrote: “Ridiculous, What is wrong with 'ladies and gentlemen'?!”