Tube noise screech is ‘too costly’ to fix

Government funding is needed says London Mayor

Friday, 11th June 2021 — By Richard Osley

Sam Booth on tube level story

The Tribune investigated the racket caused by tube trains with sound tests

A PERMANENT fix to screechy tube train noise would be too costly, people living near badly-affected parts of the network have been warned.

The Tribune was the first to reveal how residents living above the Northern and Victoria lines were being disturbed by the racket more than two years ago, while passengers have complained of uncomfortable journeys on sections of track.

Transport for London (TfL) officials met people living in Highbury last month to discuss possible options but London Mayor Sadiq Khan is now facing questions over whether the problem will ever be properly fixed.

He said last week that the issue “remains a priority” but that funding was needed from government – a sore point between Mr Khan and the government after ongoing negotiations over a coronavirus lockdown “bailout” to keep TfL up and running while income from passenger fares nosedived.

London Assembly members of all political stripes have asked when a solution would be found, including the recently-elected Emma Best, a Conservative, who said it was “unacceptable for residents” to allow the noise to continue.

She said that residents in Islington had been “promised” new fastenings on the tracks that would reduce noise last year but this had not happened, to which Mr Khan said that the spacing of the sleepers had made the idea impossible.

The two other options are “hand grinding” – the smoothing out of rough bits of the track but not seen as a permanent fix – and “deep tube reconditioning”, a complete overhaul.

Mr Khan said TfL did not have the funds to do the latter.

New Labour Assembly member for Islington Semm Moema said: “My constituents are experiencing a lesser impact from the recent grinding which has taken place on sections of the Victoria line and are concerned that the current method is losing effect.”

A Tribune sound test investigation found that the levels of noise on the tube in some stretches were louder than being at the front of a rock concert. Some passengers had begun wearing ear plugs.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan

Mr Khan said: “Tube noise is a priority for both Transport for London and me. TfL has carried out over 17,800 metres of noise and vibration-related rail grinding in the last six months.

“Following rail grinding carried out on this section of track in March and April 2021, initial residential noise measurements show that rail grinding continues to be effective in reducing noise levels in this area.”

But he added: “TfL is continuing to do all it can to address tube noise, within its operational and financial constraints.

“TfL is continuing discussions with the government on its need for further financial support and a long-term capital funding deal.

“While these discussions are ongoing, TfL’s ability to carry out tube noise-related work – particularly long-term and expensive interventions such as deep tube reconditioning – is limited and will likely remain so.”

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