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Train company apologises to non-binary passenger for 'welcome ladies and gentlemen' message

·3 min read
London North Eastern Railway apologised to Laurence Coles after a train manager used the words
London North Eastern Railway apologised to Laurence Coles after a train manager used the words 'ladies and gentlemen' in a welcome to passengers. (Twitter/Getty)

A train company has apologised to a non-binary passenger after a conductor welcomed passengers with the words: "Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls".

The announcement sparked a complaint by non-binary passenger Laurence Coles via Twitter, writing: "'Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…' so as a non-binary person this announcement doesn’t actually apply to me so I won’t listen."

London North Eastern Railway responded, saying its train managers should not be using "language like this" and apologising for the lack of inclusion. 

Laurence Coles tweeted London North Eastern Railway pointing out that their welcome was not inclusive. (Twitter)
Laurence Coles complained to London North Eastern Railway after a Train Manager welcomed "ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls" on board. (Twitter)
LNER apologised, saying its train managers should not be using
LNER apologised, saying its train managers should not be using "language like this". (Twitter)

The company wrote: "I'm really sorry to see this, Laurence, our Train Managers should not be using language like this, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

"Please could you let me know which service you are on and I will ensure they remain as inclusive as we strive to be at LNER.

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"We've been working very hard with educating our people on why gender specific pronouns are not suitable in instances like these, and we're sorry to see this has not been applied here.

"It is entirely valid for someone who does not identify with the terms used to feel excluded and as a business we do not accept that anyone should feel excluded."

Laurence Coles' complaint sparked thousands of tweets. (Twitter)
Laurence Coles' complaint sparked thousands of tweets. (Twitter)

The exchange sparked thousands of tweets, with some agreeing with Coles but others saying LNER had nothing to apologise for. 

Mark Wallace, chief executive of Conservative Home, tweeted: "Hi - regular passenger here. I really like it when your staff are human and light hearted like this, and would very much prefer it if you didn’t forbid them from doing so or require them to talk like scripted robots. Thanks!"

Another user wrote: "'Language like this?' Please have a word with yourself. You need to apologise for your apology. Your 'Train Manager' epitomises friendliness, reassurance and care for customers with their choice of words. To take offence at them says a lot about the complainant. Retract please."

But another passenger took on Wallace, saying: "Are non binary people not 'regular passengers'? And what about inclusive language do you find robotic?"

A friend of Coles also tweeted LNER, saying: "I was sat with Laurence when this tweet was sent. Both of us are non-binary, and we were both alarmed and uncomfortable by the lack of inclusion."

An LNER spokesperson said: "We are committed to diversity and inclusion in all that we do for our customers, colleagues and communities.

"Our policies and procedures are reviewed regularly and in light of recent comments, we will review if any further changes need to be made."

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