June 25, 2009 / 11:29 AM / 10 years ago

Trains of thought: philosophy goes underground

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Service announcements on the London Underground are no longer restricted to “Mind the Gap,” but have been broadened to include the words of great thinkers such as Einstein and Goethe.

A Union Flag flies near an underground sign for Westminster tube station in London March 31, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Passengers on the Piccadilly Line will be able to hear a range of philosophical, political and historical quotes from their drivers as they rattle through rail tunnels deep under the city.

The quotes, compiled by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, are part of a series of arts projects on the subway.

Staff are encouraged to use the quotes to talk directly to passengers, building a rapport and adding unexpected wit or insight during the commute, rather than relying on pre-recorded announcements.

“They are not doing it incessantly, but choosing their times deliberately,” said Sarah McLean, spokeswoman for “Art on the Underground.”

“When they need to make an announcement, they will look to use an appropriate quote.”

The booklet “What is the City but the People,” includes the following quotes:

“To live is to dream,” Friedrich Schiller.

“Life is one long process of getting tired,” Samuel Butler.

“There is more to life than increasing at speed,” Mahatma Gandhi.

And most-aptly: “Hell is other people,” Jean-Paul Sartre.

Take-up among drivers has been varied since its launch in March.

“Some have absolutely loved it, while some have absolutely not,” McLean added.

“Those who have agreed to do it have had a great response, with some passengers coming up to the driver’s cab and tapping on the window saying it had been wonderful. One driver was given a bunch of flowers as a ‘thank you’.

“I’ve not heard of any negative feedback.”

The London Underground already displays poems on some of its trains’ advertising boards, and many stations have artistic murals on their platforms.

Deller said in a statement: “I often wish announcements were more personal and reflected the realities and absurdities of living and working in a big city.”

Editing by Steve Addison

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