Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 12060 - 12079)

  12060. LORD SNAPE: So that aspect of the background noise you would anticipate being reduced once the work is completed?

  12061. MS LIEVEN: Yes, although my understanding is that the intention is that the bus parking will come back albeit in not precisely the same configuration. (After taking instructions) The bus parking comes back but to a slightly different location. The point that Mr Taylor was telling me was that for the noise insulation calculations under the regulations apparently only the noise from the railway is taken into account. The bus garage noise will not make any difference to the decision as to whether they are eligible for insulation or not. Of course, it will make a real difference although probably not a very big one given the distances, but it is not relevant for the calculation.

  12062. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: You described the area of the buses there as "hard standing", but my recollection is there was a mixture of cracked concrete and loose gravel and that would have a noise effect on any turning buses; it would exaggerate the noise. I would argue with your "hard standing" phrase.

  12063. MS LIEVEN: I think I meant hard standing in a thoroughly non-technical sense, just that it was not anything particularly designed. I have been there a few times and that is my recollection as well, there is quite a lot of loose gravel. I will ask Mr Rupert Taylor when he gives evidence to comment. I think my gut feeling is that, given the distance and what is going on in between, it may not have a major impact on residents to the south, although I would not know whether or not there is a noise impact on residents to the north of the canal. I think there is a wall so possibly not. I will ask Mr Rupert Taylor to deal with that when he gives evidence. My Lord, unless there is anything else—

  12064. CHAIRMAN: Not at this stage. Lady Bright, that is an introduction by the Promoters. Now it is over to you.

  12065. LADY BRIGHT: Thank you very much. I think we have a slightly distorted picture of the major concerns we have as residents.

  12066. CHAIRMAN: You tell us what they are.

  12067. LADY BRIGHT: Thank you very much indeed. The first thing to say is thank you for coming on the site visit. This is the most exposed patch of the route from the point of view of residents on both the north and south sides in fact, but we are actually closest to the whole thing. We are overlooking a string of work sites between where the tunnels come up to the portal at Royal Oak Tube Station, at the end of the road and just the other side of that, up a ramp, is a cut and cover section. The trains will not reach grade until about half-way down the street. All that has got to be built. Further along you will have the Royal Oak west work sites where the reversing siding has to be built because they do not want to take the trains out to the depot, which is something we have raised before and we think is silly because it is not very far. They need to put their reversing siding in there so that half of them will go back to Paddington. Immediately to the left of that is the furthest point east that they can take freight trains without messing up everything else they have planned, this is what we have been told. As Ms Lieven mentioned, that point is the one at which the most disruptive night noise and vibration affects us at the moment. At the moment the freight trains come right up towards Royal Oak before the engines run around to move the wagons off.

  12068. On the point about freight trains being diesel and a bit noisy, it is not just the kit that is noisy, it is the way it operates, wagons bang against each other and so on and it takes three to four hours to do this unloading.

  12069. I am sorry if that is a bit of a detour but I did not want you to be misled about the impact of freight in an area where you probably think there is not any. That is why it is so important to us that this headshunt, which I think I am right in saying is the point furthest beyond which the engine will not run in future, has now been moved by the Crossrail plans a little further west.

  12070. Having seen that Westminster City Council just yesterday has finally agreed with Crossrail on the concrete batching plant, we cannot really raise the issue of the concrete batching plant any further than we have so far. We object to it, we think it should not be there, we know there is room for it at Old Oak Common and we are not persuaded by the arguments for retaining it there. I have been told I can take it that the record has been read on these things. I do not want to take up your time unduly with that one. We have no further evidence to bring on it. I hope that gives you an idea of the issues.

  12071. You have seen our worst face, you have seen our railway face, but what you have not seen about Westbourne Park Villas is the reason we all like living there. People have been there for an extremely long time. There are many people who have been there for between 25 and 40 years, some bringing up grandchildren there as well. It is a very mixed community and it is a friendly community because of the `common enemy'—I am afraid I have to put it that way—which is the cumulative effects of the noise from the various railways, the Westway behind and the programme for the new Crossrail plants.

  12072. What is good about those houses and what is a very valuable amenity of which we are very proud are the gardens at the back. In this context we are speaking for the Conservation Area and the other residents' associations with whom we have been working very closely on the south side whose gardens are affected by all this. There is a long strip of green line, big trees, wildlife and space for children to play and so on behind us, which is the adjoining gardens.

  12073. The houses themselves are not joined up, therefore the noise goes through between them. They are in clumps if you like, semi-detached and there are two small blocks of flats. When considering the damage that is done to our environment it must be remembered that the houses are not a terrace. You cannot insulate the windows and say you have protected the land behind because they are not joined on so you cannot. There are possible remedies, you could fill in gaps, but we have not got to a detailed study stage.

  12074. This brings me probably to the single most important issue here which makes all the others in this highly complex site so difficult to evaluate and that is that we have not had a detailed noise study. I am not quite sure what Ms Lieven was talking about in terms of the only outstanding noise assessment that has not been done yet being to test whether we need sound insulation at the windows. I do not think that can be right. We have been told we will have a detailed noise study. We have not had one yet. A detailed noise study requires complex computer modeling and you feed in a whole variety of data. At this site all we have got so far are baseline noise measurements, which are long out of date now because the noise environment has changed and is going to change further, which, to put it crudely, produced the conclusion upon which the Promoters' latest response is based as late as 11 April, which is that because the din from the other railways is so great we will not hear their trains. This has been the position all the way along but it is self-evidently absurd. You cannot run 24 trains an hour in each direction on the same tracks. They may be, from where we are sitting on the south side, just behind the mainline tracks, but it really is very hard to believe that you would not have any impact at all. We are talking about the cumulative impacts that affect people, that is what matters, not the different noises along the way.

  12075. We have seen no detailed noise study. We have been told there will be one but it will be after the Bill has become law. We are working on the basis of data in the Environmental Statement which is out-of-date and insufficient. We are looking at a noise environment which changed just the other day. On one of those baseline measurements you will see measurements as high as 104 decibels immediately outside the houses sitting on the track. Those engines, the bane of our lives, have been taken out of service, but the effect of that is not considered in the Environmental Statement and there is nothing in the Bill that takes account of it. We only discovered from talking to Crossrail at our most recent meeting on Thursday that in effect those silent trains of theirs that we would not be able to hear above the din are no longer silent; they have moved to the foreground of the noise environment. Indeed, they are confidently expected to be noisy enough to trigger sound insulation at the face of the houses. We do not know the form of this detailed noise study we are going to have. What we are asking you for is a noise study that takes account of all the different noise sources. I shall come to that later in detail. It is very important it is recognised that we do not know the effects of the new noise legislation, which is having an effect on the Secretary of State and on Transport for London, the co-sponsors of this Bill. We have not heard what the national noise limits will be for the UK in a European context, that is all coming through soon, but it will affect Crossrail trains before they are running. It has got to be planned in at this stage.

  12076. The Mayor's noise strategy explicitly suggests that the Crossrail project is an opportunity to tackle existing noise problems and their interaction. Again, it is the cumulative effects and the interaction that we need to be sure about. There is no data. We are asking for your help in ensuring that the detailed noise study, which comes after the Bill is passed into law and then we will be beyond the protection of the Bill and there is nothing to help us then, is adequate and does assess the cumulative effects of the noise. I hope you would also accept, because we do not have the data, we cannot sensibly predict what the remedies should be. This is the context in which we will be talking about sound barriers and any other possible remedies. Sound barriers are listed in the Mayor's noise strategy, which is the Promoters' own noise strategy and it is very comprehensive, but it is not allowed for in what we have got to go on at the moment, which is the Environmental Statement relating to the noise aspects of this site.

  12077. I hope you will not think that we have been difficult about this. We are not trying to stop your railway. We are not anti-train people. We have lived by railways for a very long time. The noise environment has been getting worse over the last ten years or so. This is where it is supposed to start getting better. That may sound very paradoxical and it is because the new noise legislation and the noise mapping exercise on London, which I am sure you are all aware of, the Mayor's noise strategy, are supposed to start biting, but they must be reflected in the way that Crossrail is constructed. Obviously evidence will be called on this. Can we make sure about that detailed noise assessment—

  12078. The other really important thing I think was reckoned to be an overarching issue by PRACT whom you listened to yesterday. I should say that we have worked very closely with them as well, the Paddington Residents Active Concern on Transport. There are so many unresolved issues at this point where the overground railway system will intersect with the underground works from the tunnels that we cannot be sure—and we ask for your reassurance on this—how Network Rail is going to fit into this. This is partly a request for information. What we would like to be confident about is that Network Rail and Crossrail, who are doing all the works basically between Royal Oak and Westbourne Park, which is the area that directly concerns us, will be covered by the environmental minimum requirements, the construction codes and all the other detail that is piled up in those information papers.

  12079. I would like at this point to pick up on something that Baroness Fookes said when you called Spitalfields back. There was a suggestion—and the problem seemed to me eminently acceptable and we recognised it from here—that you could get the papers arranged so that anybody coming to it brand new could say straightaway, "Those are the undertakings that have been given. Those are the rules that everybody is going to obey." Ms Lieven is unwilling to summarise the information papers which on the whole are quite clearly written, but they have been changing right up to the last minute.

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