Network Rail paid £2,000 for Michael Portillo to record messages at King's Cross

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Michael Portillo was asked to record some special train announcements (Image: Daily Record)
Michael Portillo was asked to record some special train announcements (Image: Daily Record)

Network Rail paid £2,000 to get Michael Portillo to record special messages at King’s Cross station.

The cash came despite a government vow to crack down on endless annoying announcements to passengers.

TV railway buff Mr Portillo, 69, was hired to help the London station celebrate its 170th anniversary.

The former Tory transport minister starts his messages off by saying: “Hi, I’m Michael Portillo and I’m here at King’s Cross to celebrate a very special birthday of this historic station…”

The loop then broadcasts one of 20 speeches to people waiting on the concourse, including details of the station clock, the train shed roof, links to popular films and the story of Britain’s first black train driver.

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Network Rail paid £2,000 for Michael Portillo to record messages at King's CrossMichael Portillo hosts TV shows about railways (BBC/Naked/Fremantle)

Network Rail revealed it paid a firm called Halo Lighting, based in Islington, north London, £1,940 to produce the recordings, including Mr Portillo’s fee.

The payout from the taxpayer-funded body is despite a Department of Transport pledge to cut the number of railway announcements.

Last January, the then Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Train passengers are all too often plagued by an endless torrent of repeated and unnecessary announcements.

“That’s why I’m calling for a bonfire of the banalities to bring down the number of announcements passengers are forced to sit through and make their journey that little bit more peaceful.” His words were echoed by another former Transport Minister, Norman Baker, who described the much-loathed “See it. Say it. Sorted” messages as “drivel”.

But Network Rail said the Portillo broadcasts should be seen as different to the repeat safety messages that the Government said should be limited.

Network Rail paid £2,000 for Michael Portillo to record messages at King's CrossThe former Tory MP Michael Portillo filming Great British Railway Journeys (BBC/Boundless Productions/John H)

It said the King’s Cross announcements were only for last year’s anniversary and stopped in November.

Toby Meadows, King’s Cross station customer experience manager for Network Rail, said: “These special, one-off announcements were produced to promote Britain’s rich railway heritage to the thousands of domestic and international passengers we serve each day, and were part of year-long celebrations.

“Station announcements can become repetitive, so we wanted to add a new, recognisable voice to present a range of different facts – and we’ve also been able to use them for different events throughout the year, including Christmas and Remembrance Day.

“We’ve had some great feedback.”

Matthew Davis

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