London Authority tries again to make Tube rides quieter

Photo credit: Felix Büsselmann

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

In an earlier post, I had referenced the interest London Authority was directing at one of the “more unpleasant aspects of London travel,” namely the screeching of its trains. In this TimeOut article, India Lawrence tells us that despite spending around £150 million on transit improvements every year, including grinding rails to reduce noise, the London underground trains have been getting louder as evidenced by the rise in transit noise complaints, especially about the Northern and Victoria lines.

What is the solution to lessening transit noise? London Authority has been testing out new track fastening. One fastener being tested lessened the noise from the tracks on nearby buildings, but made noise inside the subway cars louder. The second fastener tested reduced noise both inside and outside the cars.

With respect to how loud the underground system was, a study conducted in 2018 found that some sections of the underground reached a level “as loud as almost 110dB.” Anyone familiar with the loudness of sound will tell you that exposure to such sounds can be harmful to our hearing if sustained. While this article focused on the impacts of transit noise on riders of the Underground system, let me point out that the workers in the system are exposed to these loud sounds too and for longer periods of time.

That the Mayor of London, Sadik Khan, recognizes the importance of reducing transit noise and supports expenditures to address this noise should be comforting to Londoners. Having had experience working with the New York City Transit System on its noise problems, I would very much like to speak with someone at the London underground about its noise problems. And I once again suggest that someone working on the problem read a paper I wrote on abating transit noise.

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