Saturday 16 December 2017

France's SNCF to deploy 'polite police' on trains to tackle bad manners

France's state-owned railway operator is to deploy an army of almost 3,000 inspectors with tough new powers to eradicate bad manners on the nation's trains.

SNCF employees are being tasked to tackle the exploding number of complaints about rude or unruly passengers that have rocketed by 25 per cent this year.

Traveller gripes include spitting on and insulting ticket inspectors, putting feet on seats, pulling emergency alarms without reason, speaking loudly on mobile phones and playing music and damaging train interiors.

SNCF boss Guillaume Pepy said a "line has been crossed" in "uncouth behaviour and delinquency" blighting the lives of many of the four million people who use his company's trains every day.

"Impolite behaviour generates a feeling of anxiety and discomfort," said Mr Pepy, adding that it posed a "real obstacle" to weaning the French off their cars in favour of public transport.

To stamp it out, some 2,700 inspectors will impose a new array of tougher fines. Passengers caught with feet on seats will pay 45 euros; those who smoke will be fined 68 euros and anyone pulling the emergency break without reason can expect to pay between 165 and 700 euros.

Similar punishments have been introduced in Britain, where London's rail and Tube passengers who put feet on seats or play music too loudly face £50 on-the-spot fines.

Under draft plans, more serious offenders may also be sent on "citizenship courses" to be taught good manners, while 500 new "politeness mediators" will be trained to deal with unruly youths. Another 460 staff will raise awareness among 220,000 schoolchildren next year.

A special national hotline will be launched for victims of bad behaviour.

With a growing number of commuters turning up to work in tears or taking sick leave after a harrowing train experience, a special club of "businesses against impoliteness" has been launched.

"Our aim is to record bad behaviour we're all victims of and to understand the general malaise of our staff and our customers," said President Stéphane Volant.

The scheme comes days after a French mayor introduced new rules to oblige visitors to respect "social norm" by saying "please", "thank you" and "goodbye" to town hall staff or face being thrown out.

Gerard Plee, mayor of the village of Lheraule, northern France, population 163, said no French law obliged people to be polite so he took the matter into hand.

Visitors are greeted by a sign to the "eternally discontented, grudge-bearers, the persecuted and other moaners" informing them that anyone who "manifestly and voluntarily" fails to respect the rules of common courtesy will be "asked to leave the premises".

Henry Samuel

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