Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 12360 - 12379)

  12360. Even taking a slightly different perspective and thinking about the noise from the whole railway here, how useful would the 1.5 metre barrier that Lady Bright was suggesting be?

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) The effect it would have on the upper windows of the house in Westbourne Park Villas would be negligible. I know in meetings that I have attended with Lady Bright she has said that maybe we need not worry too much about the upper windows and gain some benefit for the lower windows, and it is true that at ground floor the existing wall gives a noise barrier effect and if it were made slightly higher that effect would be slightly greater, but from the point of view of taking a strategic view of transportation noise as an issue and the promotion of infrastructure schemes, it is not really an appropriate approach to say, "Well, we won't protect those people because they are too high; we will protect those people because the height of their window is lower." For a noise barrier, which involves major resources in engineering and financial terms, to be something one considers as a possible measure, it needs effectively to be an alternative to statutory noise insulation and to remove eligibility for statutory noise insulation altogether. This is done particularly in the case of highway schemes. If you can get rid of any eligibility for noise insulation by building noise barriers alongside the highway you do but, if you cannot, you end up with the worst of both worlds which is devoting resources to a noise barrier and still devoting resources to statutory noise insulation and increasing the cost of mitigation without solving the problem.

  12361. And moving on from there, how useful would Lady Bright's proposal be that you build a slightly lower noise barrier and then put on angled element on the top of it?

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) The angle would actually be counter-productive here. Lady Bright is right in principle—if our noise source were on the sidings for example, because one of the critical things in determining the performance of a noise barrier is the proximity of the barrier, either to the source or to the receiver, or to both, and for a barrier to be effective it does need to be close to one or the other. It is relatively close to the facades of Westbourne Park Villas here but it is not at all close to most of the railway lines and all you achieve by canter levering the top of the barrier is moving the edge which does the work slightly closer to the source but that would only have an effect if the source were the sidings. Because most of the sources are already many tens of metres away from the wall it would actually be counter-productive because it is taking the top of the barrier away from the facade of Westbourne Park Villas.

  12362. MS LIEVEN: My Lords, I have got a few more questions. Given that we are going to have to come back after lunch I do not know whether this is a convenient place to break.

  12363. CHAIRMAN: We are going to have to come back anyway. I think it probably is a good time to break. This afternoon we have not got a great deal more except Mr Payne.

  12364. MS LIEVEN: I have been passed a note saying that SMTA do not wish to reappear.

  12365. CHAIRMAN: They do not want to come back?

  12366. MS LIEVEN: So it is finishing off the residents' association and then it is Mr Payne.

  12367. CHAIRMAN: That is all going to be Mr Thornely-Taylor anyway. I think we might as well break now. Is it possible to come back a little bit before half past two? Can we come back at twenty past two?

The Committee adjourned from 1.03 pm until 2.20 pm

  12368. MS LIEVEN: I have a few more questions for Mr Taylor, but not very many at all, my Lord. First of all, Mr Taylor, just staying on the noise barrier for the moment, there was one question which was raised in respect of something which I think Sir Keith Bright said. Would it make any difference in terms of noise insulation if the existing wall were simply made thicker?

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) No, it would not . The existing wall is plenty thick enough to deal with noise coming through the body of the wall. With any noise barrier, the main feature that governs the amount of noise reduction it gives is noise refracting over the top and, as long as it is a minimum density and it has got no holes in it, adding further thickness to it is of minimal benefit.

  12369. The next point is the noise impact from Crossrail on the gardens behind the Westbourne Park Villas houses. How great would you assess that to be, in broad terms?

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) Well, given that even at the windows of houses in Westbourne Park Villas which do not have any benefit from existing noise barrier effects from the existing wall and from other features, even there, there is no significant contribution from Crossrail to the overall noise climate, bearing in mind that in a garden the geometry noise barrier-wise works in your favour because you are lower relative to the barrier than you are the window of a house and bearing in mind that, for many of the properties along there, the gardens are behind the houses and the natural noise reduction that those features give further reduces the contribution of Crossrail to the total noise environment.

  12370. Then the next and discrete point, Lord James this morning referred to the noise from the bus garage or, I will call it, the `hard-standing' from the buses manoeuvring on the loose material outside the bus garage. Do you think that is going to have any significant effect on the noise environment in Westbourne Park Villas?

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) No, I think my Lord, Lord James's point was about the fact that the ground surface was not hard-standing and it was broken up and covered in gravel and, to the extent that it has an effect, that would be beneficial in that the harder and more reflective a surface—

  12371. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Mr Thornely-Taylor, I think it is more than gravel, I think it is shale and, therefore, it is more noisy.

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) Well, my Lord, the most noisy effect is to have a totally flat, hard, reflective surface because that effectively doubles the noise source and you have a mirror image of the noise source below the hard, reflective surface, so anything which breaks up the surface is actually marginally beneficial.

  12372. MS LIEVEN: Then a final and discrete topic, Mr Taylor. Sir Keith Bright made comment, and I think Lady Bright has as well, on, and I paraphrase, everything having changed because of a change in EU legislation. Now, can you just explain to the Committee what the position in respect of noise in this type of environment is now in EU legislation and how relevant that is?

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) What was being referred to is generally known as the Environmental Noise Directive which has been of course transposed into British law. It requires a sequence of things. The first is the carrying out of noise mapping, and we saw an example of the first of the noise maps which was the road traffic road map which my practice project-managed some years ago. About now, any day now, we will see the publication of the rail noise map—we thought actually it would be available today—but I do not think it has come out which will include this area as a separate map of only rail noise, not including road noise, and there are other maps involved as well. That stage is just about complete. The next stage will be for Member States' Governments to draw up noise action plans, but they are in fact remarkably unspecific as far as the terms of the Directive go. It is up to Member States to decide whether they want to set noise limits and Defra has decided that it will not set noise limits, and it is up to Member States to decide whether noise reduction is necessary and up to them to decide what, if anything, to do, so it is a Directive which appears to be a major change in noise legislation, but it actually does not necessarily have any material effect.

  12373. I am asked by Mr Reuben Taylor to remind the Committee that apparently we put in a note on the issue of noise maps during the course of the Spitalfields Petitioners a few weeks ago. I am afraid I do not know what it was called, but it was on this topic. Do you recall that, Mr Taylor?

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) Yes, I do.

  12374. MS LIEVEN: Those are all my questions, Mr Taylor. Before I sit down, Lady Bright did ask me to mention something to the Committee which I am going to do now while Mr Taylor is in the witness box, which is in respect of Network Rail carrying out works at this location and whether they would be bound by the EMRs. My instructions are from Mr Berryman, who, I think, is not here now, and I expected Lady Bright to ask Mr Berryman about this, but she did not do so, so I am covering, as it were, for him. In fact the majority of the works in this location will not be carried out by Network Rail because they are associated with the construction of the central tunnel, so they will be carried out under that contract. To the degree that Network Rail carry out any works in this location, where they are works pursuant to the powers in the Crossrail Bill, then they are fully covered by the commitments made in the environmental minimum requirements, the EMRs. Lady Bright was keen that I said that on the record so that it was clearly recorded. Thank you very much.

  12375. CHAIRMAN: Just before I invite Lady Bright to ask her questions, Mr Thornely-Taylor, if and insofar as the wall falls within the limits of deviation of this Bill and is going to be any good for the purposes of alleviating noise, it could no doubt be done under this and, therefore, it is an opportunity to be grasped under this legislation because it could be done and, therefore, we could make a recommendation about it.

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) Well, my Lord, engineers are often, in weak moments, heard to say that anything can be done at a cost!

  12376. They have said it several times.

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) I think my judgment is that the cost is quite disproportionate to the benefit, given that some of the windows will have no benefit at all and those that do benefit, whilst there would be a noise reduction, in the context of work that is done for major infrastructure projects as a whole, it would be far and away the most expensive noise barrier that I have ever encountered for the benefit that it gives.

  12377. On the other hand, the other statutory procedures which lead to double-glazing are wholly independent of the Crossrail Bill, are they not?

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) They are. They flow from the intention to construct a new, or altered, railway and, to the extent that the powers come from the Crossrail Act when it passes into law, there is that connection, but it is a separate mechanism and a separate legal provision.

  12378. Therefore, it does not need us to make any recommendations about it because, if the conditions are such and the measurements are such that houses would qualify for double-glazing, it would not make any difference whether it was mentioned in the context of Crossrail because it would happen anyway?

   (Mr Thornely-Taylor) That is quite correct, my Lord. There has been discussion with these Petitioners about the timing of eligibility for statutory noise insulation for the operating railway because the current expectation is that there would not be eligibility for noise insulation against construction noise, and I think the residents would like to have insulation. Again it flows from the way the regulations are written that eligibility for operational noise insulation has to be determined before the start of construction of the project, and our project is so large over such a large timescale that that will automatically again, out of the state of the regulations as they currently are, bring about eligibility tests for noise insulation right at the beginning of construction, so that will happen automatically anyway.

  12379. CHAIRMAN: Yes, that is what I rather thought. Thank you very much.

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