Meet woman behind voice of French train announcements for 40 years

Former radio presenter is also voice of some foreign airports

Anyone who has travelled on a train in France will immediately recognise her calm voice
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There are a whole host of things people consider emblematic of France: the cheese, the wine, the literature, the culture.

If you have ever travelled on a train in the country, you might add the famous SNCF jingle and the announcements that come with it.

Heard by millions of people every day, the announcements have used the same voice for over 40 years and it is from a real person and not an automated robot as many may think.

Simone Hérault, a former radio presenter at Radio France, heard the SNCF were holding auditions to find a new voice for their tannoy announcements in 1981.

She applied and beat other presenters at her station. Her announcements started to be used from 1982 and continue to this day.

She believes the SNCF’s choice was due to the calming nature of her voice.

In addition, she uses a specific intonation and vocabulary for the job, which she says need to be used as they help passengers hear clearly over the din of busy stations.

“It [my voice] takes passengers by the hand,” she said in an interview with Telematin, which you can see a snippet of below.

Read more: Train e-ticket travellers fined in France for not carrying ID

Computers quicken recording times

The original recordings were time-consuming, with each announcement having to be read in relation to each station, and hundreds of thousands of lines being recorded.

The advent of more advanced computers in the 1990s, however, meant her sentences could be cut and spliced together.

Now, she records each word individually three times – changing the tone whether it is at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence – before the words are strung together by sound engineers to make full announcements as and when needed.

She has an agreement with the SNCF not to use her voice for any other mode of transportation in France, however she has recorded lines for airports in Brussels and Cairo.

Read more: International train tickets for summer travel on sale in France

Train jingle used in music

The SNCF train jingle is also well known. Former Pink Floyd member David Gilmour was so enamoured with it he used the melody as the basis for his 2015 song Rattle that lock.

A lengthy court case ensued over the use of the jingle – which initially seemed to be approved by the creator – and resulted in Mr Gilmour being sued for almost €500,000 over a ‘breach of contract’ in re-recording the sound.

However, judges ruled that the contract between the two parties stipulated the use of the notes as a ‘sample’, and the musician was well within his rights to make the recording.

You can hear the song below:

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