Spin at the Speed of Sound

by Jeremy on 29-Sep-2013

One of the questions always asked on HS2 is, “how noisy will it be?”.   Even with all the landscaping allegedly being used for HS2, the biggest intrusion will be the noise from the railway’s operation. (We recommend a view of the CPRE’s excellent website on HS2 impacts here: http://hs2maps.com/)

For such a sensitive and important subject, we have been struck by how little information has been made available by HS2 in a form easily understandable to the average person affected by HS2.  But we have been even more struck by the spin and misinformation on likely noise impacts from the £73Bn planned line from both HS2 Ltd and the Rail Industry. 

HS2 attempted to provide an “answer” with the sound booths at the Consultation Road shows in 2011. These purported to demonstrate how quiet HS2 would be in operation and were described by Arup as “the closest thing to how HS2 will sound in real life”. This claim rapidly disintegrated when one village asked why they could barely hear a HS2 train supposedly 400 metres on the demonstration yet could hear Silverstone on race day 4 miles away.

In another example, HS2 have repeated stated that, “there were very few complaints about noise from HS1 (the Channel Tunnel Rail Link through Kent)”.  After 10 months of pushing for information by VoxOpp, it turns out this statement was based on  “what some of their  noise consultants who had worked on HS1 had told them”, and HS2 Ltd admitted they had no data to back up their assertion of “few complaints on noise from HS2”.

Yes, you read that right. HS2 Ltd has been telling all and sundry for over three years that noise will likely not be a problem with HS2 – purely based on what a few people who worked on a rail project 20 years ago had told them. 

And it’s continuing with the UK rail Industry.  Nick Kingsley, editor of Railway Gazette and a strong supporter of HS2 recently tweeted: “Kent County Council have no records of ever receiving a noise complaint from HS1 Ever.

This sounds very impressive until you learn that Kent County Council had no responsibility for noise on HS1 and therefore did not keep any records because they had no reason to. *

Their response to an EIR (EIR/13/1175) received on 1 August 2013 read: Thank you for your request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000, concerning noise information in relation to the operation and construction of the High Speed Rail line, HS1. Kent County Council does not have environmental health responsibilities and as such does not hold the measurements that you seek.”.

While Mr Kingsley’s tweet is technically correct, it is spin that Malcolm Tucker would have been proud of. Let’s be clear. HS2 trains will be twice as loud as existing trains and noise will be a considerable problem, particularly in quiet rural areas. HS2 is being designed to some of the poorest noise mitigations standards in the developed world and, according to independent experts, the planned sound levels would actually be illegal in certain countries, Japan for example.

Now I’m quite sure that Railway Gazette’s Mr Kingsley did not deliberately intend to mislead and can only assume that he has been taken in by HS2 Ltd’s PR department. 

To be honest, I couldn’t possibly comment.

(*VoxOpp would like to thank the good Doctor for passing this information on to us.)



Previous post:

Next post: