Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 12080 - 12099)

  12080. It is very, very difficult for residents who have a life to live to keep up with the changing pattern of regulation. I certainly would not claim to have in my head what the construction codes and all the other codes that interact and overlap really mean for us.

  12081. We have very different concerns to those of Spitalfields. We would come to you with no undertakings. As we do not have the data we cannot have undertakings to do particular things to remedy it. All this is going to have to happen after the Bill. I presume that your business here is to see that we are protected under the Bill. There must be consultation arrangements to cope with all these issues that have to be decided after the Bill and perhaps Crossrail and your lawyers can give us some information about that. We have had a bit of information but not enough. All we know is that we will have a liaison committee, but we do not know what our role is in it and because we are so exposed to the overlap between Network Rail and Crossrail and the freight operators it is terribly important that we do know they are all playing by the same rules. I hope I have explained it, but it is a big area of concern and I cannot immediately think of a simple remedy.

  12082. We will leave the concrete batch works and say nothing more than what we have already said about it except the headshunt point.

  12083. The footbridge does have to be raised again. It really does demonstrate the problems and complexities that are afflicting us simply because of where we are. It joins the two communities, the one on the north for whom probably the Westway is the greater noise nuisance at the moment and on the south, which is us, Westbourne Park Villas. I have asked somebody to come from the Westbourne Neighbourhood Forum to talk about the footbridge, which is probably a bigger issue for them than for us, but it is a Network Rail structure. Crossrail says it is not their pigeon and will grudgingly do what is required by Parliament. The House of Commons initially said in their interim report "Just replace the bridge" and that would have been the most straightforward and simple way of going on. What we now have is a situation in which Westminster, Network Rail and Crossrail are still dancing around one another and there is still far too much scope for everybody to say, "That is your pigeon and not my pigeon". I will tell you when we come to the bridge in detail about the large-scale new Lottery funding we have achieved to make that bridge better. We have achieved it by action between the north of the community and the south of the community—a lot of campaigning. So there is third-party—it is fourth-party really—funding to be considered as well. We just ask for your help in making these things work more smoothly than they are at the moment.

  12084. I wonder if I might call—

  12085. CHAIRMAN: You may call your witnesses in whatever order you like.

  12086. LADY BRIGHT: I would like to call Sir Keith Bright, who happens to be my husband, but he is Chairman of the Residents' Association, a former Chairman of London Transport in the 1980s and a former Chairman of the Nationalised Industries Group as well as having experience in private sector industry at chairman level. I think he has some experience of making these things work, and knows a lot more about trains, and so on, than I do.


  12087. LADY BRIGHT: Sir Keith.

  (Sir Keith Bright) Good morning, my Lord.

  12088. LORD SNAPE: Do you usually address him like that?

  12089. LADY BRIGHT: Can you please explain rather more effectively than I have—I hope—why it is so important to measure the cumulative noise effects?

   (Sir Keith Bright) Indeed. Perhaps I should just say that I graduated in science and have a PhD in chemical sciences, but I graduated in chemistry, physics and mathematics. So I have a technical/scientific background of what happens in sound. Sound waves are caused by compression of air and, effectively, you feel this on your eardrums. The point about noise is it is cumulative; you cannot have a generator of air pressure of waves in one place and air pressure waves in another place and they not be additive—they are. Anybody that says they are not is not telling the truth. That is the first point, and that has already been said, actually, to the House of Commons Committee, by a rather good man, called Richard Methold, in evidence 837 (for the record, it is page 9, paragraph 76), and it was accepted, I think, by the House of Commons Committee that was so. I really want to get that one out of the way, so that any added noise will have a cumulative effect. With these particular trains, the frequency of which is very high—and also something that has not been pointed out is that the frequency is a great deal more where Westbourne Park Villas is because there will be a turning facility, so there will be not just the baseline number of trains but there will also be those that turn round as well; so it will be more than you just might have been given in the number per hour. That is the first thing. The second thing is that the amount of noise at Westbourne Park Villas is, I think, the highest in London—one of the two highest places in London already. There is a map of this that has already been done sometime ago. You will see from the map, when it appears—

  12090. Shall I explain, before you go into the detail, what this noise map represents?[6]

  (Sir Keith Bright) Yes.

  12091. I mentioned that the noise environment has changed. The legislative environment is changing as well. This map, which was I believe put together by Mr Rupert Taylor and his colleagues—for the Promoter but nothing to do with Crossrail; the Department for Transport—shows (you can see the arrow) Westbourne Park Villas and it shows that we are a real noise hot-spot. The new noise laws require the individual European countries to deal with those hot-spots in order of priority; therefore this hot-spot will have to be dealt with.

   (Sir Keith Bright) Yes. What we are interested in is the reduction of noise levels. You will be shown by Crossrail something which I think is quite absurd. They will show you—at least they showed us in a meeting last week—that a barrier on top of the wall needs to be four metres high to reduce the noise levels to acceptable levels. Therefore, having a barrier four metres high will involve all sorts of wind resistance and, therefore, as a result of that, you will have to build piles down into the ground on the rail side of the wall. That is a nonsense. Four metres would be very nice but it would look ugly and is not necessary. A metre-and-a-half will halve the amount of noise coming across. A 3-decibel reduction will be produced by an addition to the wall of a metre-and-a-half. Indeed, if it is sloped you could probably have less than a metre-and-a-half to halve the noise in Westbourne Park Villas. Crossrail have said if you build a four-metre high wall you will have to have these structures on the other side of the wall. You have seen the wall. The wall, in fact, was built, probably, at the turn of the previous century—about 1900. I think you have not been on the rail-side of the wall, but had you been on the rail-side, you will have seen it is an extremely competent wall. It has deep foundations which, I have been assured, were put in by the Victorians (or the Edwardians as it might have been at the time), but is a carrier of lot of electrical wires and communications, and that sort of thing. It is a very good wall indeed. You will be shown, I think, one or two discontinuities to the wall as seen from the Westbourne Park Villas side; there is one crack, which is near Lord Hill's Bridge, and there are one or two other surface defects that you will be shown. The crack is the only serious crack in the wall; it does not affect the integrity of the wall at all and the surface defects are mainly caused by the surface of the brick eroding away, which itself has been largely caused by the removal of graffiti. It does not affect the integrity of the strength of the wall at all. Therefore, any structure that is required to be put on top of the wall, just a metre or a metre-and-a-half high (a metre would do, in fact) would bolt-in perfectly well to a sound wall.

  12092. Sir Keith, how important is it that we do not have the data we will require from the detailed noise study? Can we, should we discuss in too much detail how a noise barrier would work if we have not got that data?

   (Sir Keith Bright) No, I do not think we can discuss how a noise barrier will work, but it is irrelevant because one does not know anything at all because we just do not know the noise levels that are there; we do not know the legislation that will control noise at all. I just want to deal with the integrity of the wall and the fact that a fairly small barrier will not be a bother to the engineers that have to bolt it on to the wall. Finally, the only point I would add to that is the rails next to the wall (on the other side of the wall from Westbourne Park Villas) are not main railways at all; they are sidings. Therefore, it would not interrupt the railway to do that particular work. Whether we need the particular sound barrier or not in that way we have yet to find out because we have to have the information.

  12093. Would you like to tell us something about the noise effects of the freight trains which also vibrate?
  (Sir Keith Bright) Yes, indeed. Of course, the couplings between passenger trains are absolutely tight and exact and you can walk between one carriage and another. You cannot do that on freight trains; you have to have disconnecting trucks, and, of course, you have the noisy diesel engine driving them. It has a heavy load to drive; therefore, it will be puffing away doing its damnedest all the time. These things have to be manoeuvred and turned round, and it is not just Westbourne Park Villas, it is further along the line. So residents will suffer a great deal of noise from these trucks. Perhaps there is just one other thing I would like to cover, and that is if you look at the Royal Oak portal (if I can ask you to show that) this is where the Crossrail would emerge from the deepest tunnel into the surface air, and you will see that is a real photograph of an artist's impression of the train emerging.[7] A good deal can be done even at that stage to prevent a lot of sound coming out by dampening down those walls either side. If sound-absorbent material were put on them that would have some mitigating effect of the noise to the surroundings.

  12094. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Sir Keith, does that tunnel have any amplification effect on the sound?

   (Sir Keith Bright) I do not think it would, no. No, I do not think so. No, I think, there would not be a rush of noise coming from the tunnel at all. There would be some noise preceding the train, as in the speed of sound the waves will build up in front of the train, but there is nothing like that; it will be quite slow. So I do not think that would be a real problem. The real problem is the cumulative noise that this railway line would add to the other noise we have got around, and I think that would be fairly considerable. Again, we do not know until it is measured. That is the whole trouble.

  12095. LADY BRIGHT: Exactly. Would you like to list the things that really need to go into a detailed noise study (what are some of the elements under some of the headings) in order to get any valid answers at all?

   (Sir Keith Bright) You have to measure the noise. You have to have sound measurements at various places and various distances from the railway; you have to have them at different heights. Until one has that data one does not know what one is talking about.

  12096. What noises would you factor in to the interactions here?

   (Sir Keith Bright) The noise factors would be all the railway noise, the noise of the motorway and the local traffic noise as well. Of course, it will depend upon the time of the day and night, so you would have to do this over a period. There are techniques for doing this and there are well-established rules for making a judgment on the level of noise; although it fluctuates you take an average through the day and through the night.

  12097. LADY BRIGHT: Thank you.

Cross-examined by MS LIEVEN

  12098. MS LIEVEN: My Lords, I have one question. Just to confirm, Sir Keith: you gave evidence about the wall, and I obviously understand you live next-door to the wall and you know it and love it, I am sure, very well, but you are not a structural engineer, are you?

   (Sir Keith Bright) No, not at all. May I just say one thing: I have gone across to the other side of the road with binoculars and studied the wall in some detail from one end to the other, and it is a very good wall indeed.

  12099. MS LIEVEN: I knew that you knew it and loved it—I did not doubt that at all. So far as the noise study is concerned, my Lords, I think the sensible thing to do is for me to ask Mr Rupert Taylor to explain what noise study will be done. I suspect we can set a lot of concerns at rest on that, but I will not do that through cross-examination, I will do it through asking Mr Thornely-Taylor.


6   Committee Ref: A64, Defra London Noise Map of Westbourne Park Villas (SCN-20080507-003) Back

7   Committee Ref: A64, Crossrail Royal Oak Portal (SCN-20080507-004) Back

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