The Silence of the Trams: Barcelona commuters told not to talk to avoid spreading coronavirus

Signs asking passengers to stay silent on public transport in Barcelona
Signs asking passengers to stay silent on public transport in Barcelona Copyright Euronews
By Cristina Giner
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"People shouting or talking on the phone can emit up to fifty times more particles," according to the Spanish National Research Council.

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The time for talking is over. At least it is on Barcelona’s public transport, where commuters are being urged to remain silent on all networks to stop the spread of coronavirus. The Spanish city was a pioneer in introducing 'silence transport', and now the region of La Rioja and the Balearic Islands have also adopted this measure. The idea follows recommendations from health experts.

María Cruz Minguillón, a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), explained to local media "people shouting or talking on the phone can emit up to fifty times more particles”.

European scientific studies show that public transport is not a particular risk zone, however the measure could improve the health situation, Isidre Gavin i Valls, the Secretary of Infrastructure and Mobility of the Catalan Government, tells Euronews.

“Many people were afraid because it’s difficult to keep the security distance on public transport, but with measures such as banning eating or drinking, and to remain silent, we reduce the risks,” she says. It is only a recommendation and non-compliance will not lead to any sanctions, authorities confirmed.

On the Catalan Railway, green signs inside and outside train carriages carry a clear message: "Silence" or “silent trains”.

This new initiative reaffirmed previous recommendations such as not talking on the phone, eating or drinking during journeys.

Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB), the company in charge of the metro and buses in the Catalan capital, has created the campaign “Avoid talking”. They urge travellers to remain silent via messages on the public address system on the metro, and messages on the bus screens, as well as posters.

The 'silent trains' initiative has advantages, such as allowing passengers to enjoy a quieter journey without distractions or noise. Some look at their mobile phones, others read or study. The ones that do talk do it in whispers. Others look disapprovingly at those who talk too loud or talk on the phone.

The Catalan Railway appealed for civic-mindedness and citizen cooperation to detect inappropriate behaviour. For some users the recommendation highlights the need to increase the frequency between trains, especially at peak times.

“Would it not be more effective to have more frequency in trains rather than asking us to be quiet?” asks Ruben, who works in a nursing home and is well aware of the havoc caused by the pandemic. “There is no public money for that so we have to take the responsibility”.

“This is a stupid initiative. No one really follows this recommendation. I really think we are on the wrong path in terms of freedom and rights of the people”, says Javier García.

Most accepting the silence

Isidre Gavin tells Euronews that passengers in general have accepted the recommendation quite well. “People try to protect themselves, they have accepted it as a natural way of prevention”.

Julia Gómez, aged 80, feels more protected with the silence measure: “Anything that helps us to prevent this virus it’s good. People usually respect this norm.”

Robert, 64, believes it’s a reasonable measure: “If you don’t talk you reduce the possibilities of contagion”.

Leticia, 30, also believes it’s a good initiative. “Especially because many people put down their mask to talk on the phone or with each other. It really bothers me when people do that”.

Authorities admit that there is still no data showing the real impact of this measure.

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