Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 12100 - 12119)

  12100. CHAIRMAN: Sir Keith, does the traffic on Westway cause a lot of trouble? It is at a very high level above the ground, and therefore I would have thought it had an impact on you.
  (Sir Keith Bright) It does, indeed, and there is an interesting point here. If you take a line at right-angles to the Westway, the noise impact is much less than if you are along the Westway. Perhaps I can just explain: if you take a walk along the canal, which runs parallel with the Westway, the cumulative effect of the traffic coming along the Westway in a line is devastating. The noise can be heard at least, I would think, for probably nearly half a mile, because the Westway veers off at an angle but the cumulative noise of all the traffic coming along before it veers off is pushed down the canal. So the people who live near the bridge near Sainsbury's supermarket—I am not sure I know the detail of which bridge I am talking about on there—[8]

  12101. MS LIEVEN: Sainsbury's is well off to the left, my Lords. It is not on this map.

   (Sir Keith Bright) Is it not? Anyway, perhaps I can just continue. It is the build up of noise linearly that is much more serious than noise at right-angles to the Westway. There is no question that noise levels would be improved if the Westway itself could have some sound barriers put along it. I understand that cannot be done because the structure of the Westway would not take it. That is hearsay, that is not definite evidence. So the Westway noise is a totally different sort of noise; it is almost like white noise; it just permeates the whole of London, actually. If you go several streets away you still hear this swishing noise, but it obviously goes off. There is one basic rule that I think everybody should bear in mind. There is something called the "inverse square law" which means that the noise drops off in a parabolic fashion from the sources of noise. So the further away you are from the source of the noise the more rapidly it dies away. The swishing noise does go on for quite a long way. It is a different frequency and does affect the ears in a different way, but my main point is if you are on a line where the motorway is travelling, the added effect of all the traffic from the noise of the wheels on the road down that line is devastatingly awful. I do not know why there have not been complaints before. Perhaps one final thing to say is if you get the right surface on the road (and I suspect this is not the right one) you can reduce noise levels by well over 50 per cent—and nearer 70 per cent if you have the right road surface. You can probably tell this from your own car if you drive along on different surfaces: suddenly the noise in the car changes as you go to a more modern surface from an old surface.

  12102. CHAIRMAN: It is usually a combination of the wheels, the tyres and the surface of the road, is it not?

   (Sir Keith Bright) Entirely. The noise of the engines is quite small, unless you are driving a racing car or something like that. Nevertheless, that is entirely so.

  12103. LADY BRIGHT: The Westway is due to be resurfaced, we understand.

   (Sir Keith Bright) I understand that, yes. You understand that.

  12104. We have not got the detail but it is Transport for London's job and their schedule. Again, it is the sponsor's job to do it and if it is resurfaced with a proper new surface, as it should be (and we do not know the specification here), it could make a massive difference in the noise environment—another factor which needs to be taken into account when a detailed noise study is done.

   (Sir Keith Bright) We shall be making representations to the Mayor of London to get that effected.

  12105. LORD SNAPE: You have lived at your present address for some years, Sir Keith, have you not? Can you tell me how many years you have actually lived there?

   (Sir Keith Bright) We moved there in 1982. I think you visited us in 1983.

  12106. I was not going to tell my colleagues that! I hope there is no significance in the fact that you have not invited me back! In 1982, when you moved there, the Westway was, of course, open, was it not, and probably nearly as busy then as it is now?

   (Sir Keith Bright) Yes.

  12107. You knew when you moved there that you were moving into a house that overlooked the busiest railway station, or the busiest terminal station, on what was then the western region of British Rail.

   (Sir Keith Bright) One of the busiest, yes.

  12108. As we have heard from Lady Bright in her opening remarks, the high-speed trains that operated in and out during the 1980s, as they do now, were then engined by Paxman Valenta engines, which are considerably noisier than the ones that they have been replaced with. Is that right?

   (Sir Keith Bright) That is right.

  12109. I have just done a quick calculation of the number of train movements in and out (I cannot say it is 100 per cent accurate but I share a railway background with yourself) but it is something like 12 high-speed trains; eight local diesel multiple units, eight Heathrow Expresses, two Heathrow Connect trains, the odd freight train that we have heard about and the empty stock movements necessary in and out of a major terminal. Those are the train movements that take place, and yet it appears that your case, and the residents' case, that despite all that and despite the Westway, life will be intolerable because of the addition of 24 of the most modern, electrical multiple units—which you and I both know are much quieter than any of the trains that I have just mentioned. Is that an unfair summing-up of your case?

   (Sir Keith Bright) It is not an unfair summing-up at all. The reason why people moved there, as Lady Bright mentioned, is because there is a green lung behind the houses; the gardens are marvellous. In actual fact (you will probably remember) in my house what we have done is filled barriers between the two houses on either side to reduce the noise in the back garden, which has been very effective. The noise in the back garden is very good, as you well know.

  12110. I have actually forgotten everything but the excellent food and wine! I do not remember hearing any background noise from the trains, I might tell you.

   (Sir Keith Bright) Precisely. That is one way we had of dealing with important transport people from the House of Commons at the time. It is not the front of the house; it is the house itself, which is very spacious and very good for bringing up a family, and the back of the house, which is delightful, as you know. We have taken measures ourselves to stop the noise coming between the houses, which has been enormous. There is, however, a fact now that I think has changed things, and that is the enlightenment of politicians throughout Europe of changing legislation and a change in what is acceptable as noise levels. That has changed the whole situation now, and I do believe that we will have support from politicians generally that the total noise levels are too high. That noise-mapping that we showed was something over 75 decibels. That is enormous. The whole point about a noise barrier that I was mentioning is that a 3-decibel reduction halves the noise—halves the noise—from a barrier a metre-and-a-bit high. I shall leave that with you. That will affect the front of the house and, of course, the back of the house as well.

  12111. Do not think for a moment, Sir Keith, that I do not doubt that it is very noisy because of the cumulative effect of the trains I have mentioned and the Westway behind, but the point I put to you is do you think that that noise will be considerably worsened by the passage of these 24 modern EMUs on the tracks that are almost as far away from your road as they could possibly be?

   (Sir Keith Bright) Not as far as they could possibly be because the other side of the motorway would be very good and you would probably hear nothing from us under those circumstances. No, I think the cumulative effect is important. It is the compression of the air, the airwaves, that do build up and make it beyond the point which is, I think, acceptable. Quite frankly, sir, we do not know; until it is measured we really do not know. We are talking mainly of theoretical possibilities and we want to make sure that whatever happens in the new legislation we can fight it.

  12112. LORD BROOKE OF ALVERTHORPE: A question, Sir Keith, on the wall. Is there any prohibition on building on the wall—any listing?

   (Sir Keith Bright) Not that I know, no.

  12113. Have you done any estimates of what the likely cost would be?

   (Sir Keith Bright) Yes, we have an estimate from a Dutch company. They think about £90,000 will cover the length of the wall, I think, if it is about a metre-and-a-half high. By the way, if the barrier is angled the effective height is greater, do you see, than the actual height. So if it is angled slightly this way you do not have to build quite such a high barrier.

  12114. CHAIRMAN: That was why it was curved in the first place, no doubt.

   (Sir Keith Bright) Yes, possibly. I do not know about that. On the railway side it is straight; it is only on our side it is curved.

  12115. LORD BROOKE OF ALVERTHORPE: Have you made any approaches to Network Rail previously to get some installation of barriers?

   (Sir Keith Bright) Many, and they refuse to talk to us at all.

  12116. LADY BRIGHT: We do have another witness on that, if it helps.

  12117. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much.

The witness withdrew

  12118. LADY BRIGHT: Perhaps I could clarify the point about Network Rail that was helpfully raised. They refused to talk to us until the Bill is through Parliament, so we have not got any communication going directly with them. We do communicate directly with Crossrail; we are part of the liaison group and there is a consultation process, but it is our concern—and this is part of the information from government lawyers, perhaps, to tell us what the situation is—how that consultation will continue. We do not know if Network Rail is going to be named the nominated undertaker for the overground station, do we, but we want to make sure they are all covered by the same codes and that there is consultation directly with them.

  12119. CHAIRMAN: You have the last word in this. Let us see how things progress, shall we?

8   Crossrail Ref: P79, Westbourne Park-Crossrail proposals (WESTCC-56_04-027) Back

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