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‘TfL must tackle screeching tube-train noise’

Former Labour London Assembly Member, Murad Qureshi, wants TfL to act on ear-splitting sound in and around stations including Paddington's Bakerloo line stop

12 February, 2019 — By Murad Qureshi

Murad Qureshi: ‘It should not have to take a test case in the High Court for them to accept their responsibilities to their London neighbours, passengers and staff’

FROM screeching along the platform and rattling residents living above and around tube lines with noise and vibrations, you can not get away from tube noise nuisance in central London.

So I was glad that the Extra, along with it sister papers the Camden New Journal and Islington Tribune, have taken up the issue of screeching tube noise on the platforms for both passengers and those working on the Underground on the Northern line.

The noise levels have been described as like being at a rock gig along the platforms of Camden tube stations like Tufnell Park, Kentish Town, Camden Town & Euston. Peaks of 109.5 decibels have been recorded. And daily commutes of around 30 to 45 minutes are sufficient to cause long-lasting and irreversible hearing loss, some experts say.

But let us also not forget the screeching in other parts of central London like the Paddington Bakerloo tube station.

The Bakerloo line north of Paddington has been falling to pieces for a while and it starts with the screeching of the trains going through Paddington. The piercing sound is enough to drive people on the platform away from the trains and not to enter the carriages of the tube.

It would be great if similar recordings of the noise can be made by experts like Dr Joe Sollini of UCL’s Ear Institute and report back how it measures against the other lines already recorded.

The Bakerloo line desperately needs an upgrade but let us at least get the basics right while managing the line with issues like reducing the screeching.

Do remember it was only a few years ago when the line had the worst seating on the network. And it was only repaired by Transport for London when it was highlighted to them by the general public on Twitter.

A recent front page in the Extra revealed the disturbance faced by tube passengers

Tube noise and vibrations have also been issues for long-suffering residents living above and around stations on tube lines, something I first brought up at City Hall with the previous mayor, Boris Johnson, when the Night Tube proposal was first being investigated. He famously said that he would not let the service begin if it is “…rattling residents’ tea cups at three o’clock in the morning”.

If the responses to media coverage, blogs I have written, and day-to-day conversations in neighbourhoods like Marylebone are anything to go by, the number of cases has increased substantially across much of inner-London.

The long-suffering Londoners have been recounting their experiences. These range from very loud announcements on the platforms to noises from the tracks in deep tunnels as it appears the speed and frequency of trains going through them has gone up causing sleepless nights and mental fatigue.

So the first thing we could have from TfL is a full acknowledgement of where the problems are, with the latest update of all the complaints that have been received in the public domain.

Further, a study of the levels of noise across all the tube lines, with some academic rigour, to see if any patterns are emerging that can tell us what type of strategy is required to bring the levels of noise and vibration disturbance down. This is something that was last done by the London South Bank, University Acoustic Group.

Thankfully the London Assembly has taken up the issues, with affected residents being given the floor at committee meetings to air their complaints at City Hall just before the Christmas break.

While the mayor has a statutory responsibility for ambient noise in Greater London, hopefully this can be covered within his all-encompassing environmental strategy, as undoubtedly noise is the main environmental concern of Londoners. Remember this includes aircraft noise as well around our airports.

And, finally, surely a public body like TfL should acknowledge it has a statutory responsibility for such public nuisance caused by the noise of the tubes it operates over World Health Organization recommended levels.

Residents, employers and passengers suffer much nuisance.

It should not have to take a test case in the High Court for them to accept their responsibilities to their London neighbours, passengers and staff before full mitigation works are undertaken to deal with such headaches for many people in the capital going about their daily life.


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