Announcements: The SBB has a new voice

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A new stimmer will soon be heard at the stations. Photo: KEYSTONE

“Convulsive accent”: The SBB has a new voice – and not everyone likes it

SBB is introducing a new technology for announcements in its stations. The announcements are currently in test mode. Opinions on the new voice vary widely.

Stefan Ehrbar / CH Media

The German company Aristech is equipping SBB with a new voice. The entrance of trains, disruptions or delays will thus receive a new dress. Behind this is the “Text to Speech” technology. It allows new words to be included in the announcements right away – for example, when stops are built.

Until now, new words had to be re-spoken every time. The new system is intended to enable more flexible and more comprehensible announcements. In the coming years, Aristech will equip all SBB stations with the new system – in all four national languages. As a reference, Aristech points out that the Austrian Federal Railways and the Swiss South-Eastern Railway are already relying on this solution.

Test operation in individual stations

Tests with the new announcement are currently underway at various stations in German-speaking Switzerland. SBB spokesman Martin Meier emphasizes that the voice is not yet in its final state. First, test the stability of the new technology and then correct it where necessary and incorporate additional functionalities.

The first audio recordings, which were shared on the platform Bahnforum.ch, show that the new announcements, which are spoken by a female voice, come in High German with a well-audible Swiss accent. Compared to the previous announcements of the speaker Isabelle Augustin, the voice sounds bumpier.

The response to the new announcements is divided: “They are too Swiss for me,” writes one user on the forum. “For people who don’t understand German well, this could become a problem.” Another user speaks of a “tough-heavy Swiss accent”, while another rates the “artificial Swiss High German with Zürcher-R” as customer-unfriendly. Others are more positive: “In itself sympathetic sound”, someone writes. Another casts himself as a fan of the voice: “I’m impressed by the liquid.”

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