High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Middleton HS2 Action Group (HSR 57)


In responding to the general invitation to submit "evidence" to assist the enquiry into HS2, Middleton HS2 Action Group have submitted it's concerns on the impact of noise (your section 6.2) to emphasise the importance and to request that a full and proper enquiry is undertaken. Looking at the evidence produced so far, it is far from clear that proper consideration and research has been done on this vital element.

Clearly this is an area which is only pertinent to those on and close to the route and, along with visual impact, should be a major consideration comparable to the findings of the benefits or otherwise of the business case and other countrywide arguments. It is essential therefore in determining the pros and cons of HS2 that noise and visual impact is taken into account.

The main issues are:

1.  Speed—excessive, inflexible and uncompromising at the proposed 400kph/

2.  Route—The inflexibility of the route allows for no compromise to allow curves in the track to avoid villages and rural homesteads and businesses.

3.  Landscape—the inflexibility means that it is not possible in many areas to mitigate noise to an acceptable and aesthetic level, owing to the landscape determining the vertical alignment. This means that in many areas (like Middleton) the tracks runs at ground level or on embankments and viaducts which, apparently, cannot be changed, decreasing the ability to effectively mitigate noise.

4.  Compensation - how can compensation for tranquillity, peace and quiet be adequately determined and how will it be applied?

5.  Lack of evidence of work done on limiting noise impact for all areas—not just a choice few.

We are not engineers and this submission does not seek to add technical data, assuming that this will be readily available and easily accessible from far more experienced sources.

This submission aims to highlight concerns pertinent to all residents and businesses in rural areas that are directly affected by the rail track in the trust that these will be taken into account.


2.1  Speed

Speeds of 400kph in a small country are not necessary. The high speed designed to save minutes on journey times are of little value when end to end journey times is what matters.

—  Already proposed along the route is a mix of speeds ranging from 350-400kph suggesting "brakes on/acceleration on" scenario causing even more noise at those pinch points.

—  The higher the speed the greater the noise from aerodynamics and track noise, not to mention the wearing away of the tracks.

2.2  Route

Due to the speed, the uncompromising route whilst devastating the countryside and wildlife creates unacceptable levels of noise, particularly in rural areas.

Without any compromise in the curvature of the track, the track inevitably runs close to rural conurbations where the impact of noise would be greater than those say, living in urban areas or towns. People choose to live in rural areas for peace, quiet and tranquillity. Tranquillity attracts residents, visitors and promotes tourism. Devastating this would have a huge impact on these communities and could greatly affect the economy of the area. Areas to be impacted would be the following:

—  Local businesses such as animal and equestrian centres, hotels and conference centres, small business units, golf and leisure parks.

—  Farms.

—  Villages.

The potential noise change of HS2 if not effectively mitigated at source, will impact greatly on the reasons to live in and work in a rural community.

For these rural communities currently enjoying noise levels of 50dB, a 'US' source indicates that 59dB not 73dB is the maximum noise level to avoid severe impact.

The impact of noise the new line creates needs to be considered in the context of the location. The quieter the area the greater the impact.

2.3  Landscape

Inevitably, the lack of inflexibility with the route, landscape determines to a greater or lesser degree the vertical and horizontal alignment. In some areas the route has been tweaked to accommodate an improved visual or noise impact. This "tweaking" only goes to highlight that in other areas that have not been "tweaked" it is either not possible or, more likely, has been considered not economically justifiable to accommodate the real requirements of others. This is simply not fair.

HS2 Ltd have stated noise mitigation at source has been looked at and addressed in 108 miles of the 140 miles of track. That leaves 32 miles where noise mitigation has not been addressed.

2.4  Compensation

How can we ensure compensation is given fairly to all those affected by noise or blighted over the lifetime of the railway, not just the first year of operation?

In the first year of operation it is understood the plan will be to run the trains at lower speeds (so less noise) and that the timetable will not reach full frequency for some considerable time. So less peak noise made by fewer trains per day than the planned final capacity will equal a low average noise in the first year, precisely the timescale indicated for calculating compensation.

The case for determining the impact of noise in the communities and any compensation needs to be carefully investigated and we would respectively suggest cannot be made on arbitrary max or average noise levels

The potential noise change of HS2 if not effectively mitigated at source, will have a devastating effect on these communities who currently enjoy little or no noise. It is not acceptable to simply consider that noise can be mitigated by insulating dwellings/properties. This does not allow people to have open windows or to enjoy the outside and reduces the ability to use their gardens. Quality of Life will be severely affected. This is unacceptable.

Noise mitigation needs also to be aesthetic. It is simply not acceptable to lay unsightly 3 metre or 5 metre high barriers.

Also to be taken into account is the effect noise levels have on health. In noisy atmospheres there is stated a potential for higher number of cases of stroke and heart attack victims.

From an extract from Science News it has been gleaned that 'no other environmental hazard comes anywhere near the effects of noise and air pollution. The most dramatic effects are in heart disease because noise has been shown to raise blood pressure and increase concentrations of stress hormones and fatty materials, even when people are asleep. These can accumulate over time to block blood vessels and trigger a heart attack.

No compensation can allow for that.

2.5  Lack of Evidence

Information from the US document "High Speed Ground Transportation Impact Assessment" produced by the Federal Railroad Administration (www.fra.dot.gov/pages/167.shtml) has enabled the data overleaf. Average noise is cross referenced against the government's own PPG24. That suggests that anything above 66dB is deemed uninhabitable and a problem whereas HS2 Ltd assures us that it is only above 73dB that it is an issue. Clearly this is an area of contradiction and one which goes against established policy. This needs investigating.

It seems wholly irrational if not preposterous, that based on such figures HS2 can suggest only:

—  10 dwellings along the entire route will experience high noise.

—  150 would be likely to experience noise levels which would qualify for noise insulation.

—  4,700 would experience noticeable noise change.

Little comfort is offered that an appropriate scheme to assess the noise level damage is being undertaken and there does not appear to be anything for assessing trains at speed of 400kph, with all references being 360kph.

Distance (m)
Single train pass
Leq(h) dBA
Speed350k400k 350k400k
50 feet104.0106.0 84.086.6
25101.8104.4 81.884.4
5098.5101.1 78.581.1
10094.997.5 74.977.5
15092.595.1 72.575.1
20090.793.3 70.773.3
25089.191.7 69.171.7
30087.790.3 67.770.3
40085.387.9 65.367.9
50083.185.7 63.165.7
60081.183.7 61.163.7
70079.381.9 59.361.9
80077.580.1 57.560.1
90075.878.4 55.858.4
1,00074.176.7 54.156.7
1,10072.575.1 52.555.1
1,20070.973.5 50.953.5
1,30069.472.0 49.452.0
1,40067.970.5 47.950.5
1,50066.469.0 46.449.0

Trigger values:
Existing Leq (population 300 to 999) 45dBA
Interstate Highway with 4 or more lanes that permit trucks, with traffic at 60 mph (ie Motorways)
Distance from roadLeq LeqLeq
MetresDay EveningNight
3-1575 7065
16-3070 6560
31-6165 6055
62-12160 5550
122-25355 5045
254 and up50 4540

BNoise should be taken into account when determining planning applications and, where appropriate, conditions imposed to ensure an adequate level of protection against noise. 55 to 66
CPlanning permission should not normally be granted. Where it is considered that permission should be given, for example because there are no alternative quieter sites available, conditions should be imposed to ensure a commensurate level of protection against noise. 66 to 74
DPlanning permission should normally be refused. >74
UK Government Noise Insulation Regulations 1996 limit 300mHS2 high noise 73dBA

Jackhammer88dBA at 50 feet
Bus80 dBA at 50 feet
Lawnmower70 dBA at 50 feet
Hearing protection85dBA
Possible stroke risk60 dBA

3m barrier-5dBA8m barrier-10dBA

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011