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Classical music played at Bern train station to ease congestion

Classical music played at Bern train station to ease congestion

In a bid to ease congestion and calm frantic commuters, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has been broadcasting classical music at the entrances and exits to the main station in Bern. While SBB has argued the measure is simply designed to clear the space for travellers and cut down on anti-social behaviour, some worry the policy could discriminate against marginalised groups.

Music to be played at station entrances in Bern

If you walk into Bern station today and hear the dulcet tones of a Mozart piece or the bombastic finale of a Beethoven symphony, you’ll have participated in the latest trial from SBB. As part of the project, set to take place between mid-May and mid-August, the public transport provider has been playing music near the entrances and exits to the station.

Metalheads and pop fanatics will be disappointed to learn that while several different types of music will be tested, most of the pieces will be classical. Speaking to SRF, SBB spokesperson Moritz Weisskopf explained that “the entrance and exit is a popular meeting point”, leading to people blocking the entrance and making it harder for commuters to get through. They hope that by playing the music, people will not be tempted to linger and will simply move on.

Classical music at Bern station has mixed results

Michelle Flörl, manager of the Florian Caffè & Bar by the station, noted that the entrance is often not a nice place to be, with young people meeting in the area and playing their own music out of loudspeakers. "When you sit outside and hear the loud music and the shouting, it's unpleasant," she noted. She argued that the trial is working so far: "The people who used to be here no longer play their own music through their speakers."

Others are not so convinced, with Jacqueline Bräuer, manager of the Tibits restaurant by the entrance, noting that "the mission has not yet been fully accomplished…The hardcore people are still sitting in our flower pots and we have a big littering problem.” Nevertheless, she told SRF that the project has “a lot of potential.” Other passersby told the broadcaster that the music was anything from pleasant to unnoticeable.

Why are stations playing classical music?

The idea of playing music in station halls and entrances is not new, with Hamburg, Munich, Barcelona, Montreal and Berlin all trialling and implementing similar schemes. A spokesperson for the Berlin Transport Association BVB told the Berliner Zeitung that classical music can have a calming effect on passengers.

However, Berlin and other German cities have also stated that the music is designed to reduce crime and get rid homeless people and uninvited guests in stations in order to make commuters feel safer. Therefore, some in Switzerland have worried about how the music would affect the homeless population seeking shelter - according to a 2022 report from FHNW, 58 of every 100.000 people living in Bern are homeless, meaning approximately 78 homeless people live in the de-facto capital of Switzerland.

Pilot project not targeted at any group, SBB assures

In addition, when classical music was trialled in La Chaux-de-Fonds station in 2014, young people told the local newspaper L'Express that they felt displaced and discriminated against by the music, to the point that one of the loudspeakers was ripped from the ceiling. Some have also likened the idea to the “anti-youth” speakers incident in Geneva in 2007, when the Palais Eynard was equipped with ultrasound emitters that create an unbearable whistling noise that only people under 25 can hear.

In response, Weisskopf was quick to say that the music at Bern station is not designed to displace anyone specifically. “This pilot project aims to see the effect of music on the quality of the atmosphere in the sector, but above all on the flow of people,” he concluded.

Thumb image credit: Keitma / Shutterstock.com

Jan de Boer

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Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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