I only just noticed that

As I promised in May I suggest a better option? (posted 21 Apr 2012), in this blog I will consider whether the representation of the noise nuisance caused by HS2 solely by an equivalent continuous noise level parameter gives a true representation of the impact of that noise nuisance.

I have already commented upon this question in earlier blogs. In Taking a longer-term view (posted 22 Jun 2011) I quoted the view of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that “when there are distinct events to the noise such as with aircraft or railway noise, measures of the individual events should be obtained (using, for example, LAmax or SEL), in addition to LAeq,T measurements”. In other words the equivalent continuous noise level parameter should be used alongside another parameter that reflects the magnitude of individual noise events.

I have also noted that the preference for the equivalent continuous noise level in Europe is not necessarily shared in other parts of the World. In my blog That’s much louder than the average (posted 29 Nov 2011) I mentioned that the Japanese, who are no slouches when it comes to high speed railways and dealing with the noise there from, use peak noise to specify noise limits.

The EU Environmental Noise Directive 2002/49/EC (here) offers no obstacle to the use of a parameter reflecting the contribution of individual noise events alongside the specified equivalent continuous noise level parameters. Paragraph 3 of Annex I on page L189/19 permits “supplementary noise indicators” to be used, and some at least of the examples of where this would be appropriate that are given on that page seem to apply to HS2.

In my view, the characteristics of the noise pollution caused by HS2 mean that the noise nuisance caused will never be adequately expressed by an equivalent continuous noise level parameter alone and it would be totally inexcusable for HS2 Ltd to ignore WHO advice on this matter. In order to illustrate why I think this, I will use the remainder of this blog to describe a simple example of where the use of an equivalent continuous noise level parameter fails to do the job adequately.

In That’s a bit of an understatement (posted 5 Nov 2011) I explained that, in setting the lower end of the grey dot rating for properties, the Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS) was effectively assuming that the ambient noise level before the noise from HS2 was introduced was 47 dB LAeq,18hr. The AoS assumes that existing rail noise levels at such a location are low, or there is no rail traffic. I think that it is safe to assume that, at such locations, there is no other predominant source of noise either. So what will we hear at such locations before HS2 imposes itself on the environment? The answer is probably typical rural sounds such as birdsong, livestock in the fields, the wind in the trees and, possibly, the distant rumble of traffic.

I am quite prepared to accept that LAeq,18hr will be a reasonably accurate representation of the ambient, since I would not expect any individual noise events to be markedly above the “average level” defined by this parameter.

To this reasonably tranquil scene we must add HS2 noise; for the bottom threshold of the grey dot classification this will be at a level of 50 dB LAeq,18hr. The 3dB margin above the ambient has been taken as the level at which the new noise becomes just noticeable. This is where the methodology falls down, because the HS2 noise does not have the same characteristics as the ambient noise. The HS2 noise will be characterised by a series of separate noise events, where the level of these events will be significantly above the “average” defined by the parameter LAeq,18hr.

In paragraph 5.4.7 on page 16 of Appendix 18 to the 51m consultation response (here), Southdowns Environmental Consultants Ltd reveals just how much these single events will be above the LAeq,18hr level. The answer, which is based on information obtained from HS2 Ltd under a Freedom of Information request, is 14 dB. So that means that each single HS2 noise event will be a massive 17 dB above the “average” ambient noise level.

Now I don’t know about you, but my ears don’t work on 18 hour averages; they detect noise instantaneously. My ears won’t perceive a spike that is 17 dB above the ambient noise level as just noticeable; it will have a severe impact and, remember, that is at the bottom end of the grey dot scale.

So the answer to the second question that I posed in May I suggest a better option?  is also no.

The AoS completely fails to get to grips with this reality of HS2 noise nuisance and this shortcoming must be addressed by HS2 Ltd.

PS: In its recently published document HS2 London to West Midlands EIA Scope and Methodology Report (here) HS2 Ltd lists the train pass-by peak noise parameter as one of the metrics that it will employ to assess noise nuisance levels for the Environmental Impact Assessment. However, this apparent change in policy since the AoS was written will have, it appears, absolutely no effect in view of the threshold value for this parameter that HS2 Ltd has specified. At 85 dB LpAF,max façade (82 dB LpAF,max free field) this threshold is way, way above the level at which annoyance will start. What HS2 Ltd has done totally misses the point of the WHO recommendation, which is to employ the peak noise level as an alternative means to the equivalent continuous sound level to make an assessment of the degree of the annoyance caused.


30 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by hs2isright on April 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Yes the running on trains makes noise this can’t be helped. If you look of the proposed route which appears to has been designed to reduce the level of impact on the very small villages like yours.


    • I’m sorry “HS2isright” but you appear to have completely missed the point of my blog. I think that we are all aware that high speed trains are noisy beasts, but my point was that the methodology used by HS2 Ltd for the AoS is underestimating the level of noise nuisance. I had hoped that I had proved this point with my illustration.
      As for your comment about the design of HS2 reducing the impact on small villages (the population of Cubbington, by the way, is around 4,000) I agree that this has been a design aim, but the level of achievement is variable and has been limited by cost. I suggest that if you expressed your view about this in some villages along the route you would be lucky to get out alive!


  2. Yes Cubbington of a population of 4034 is still a very small village. The design of the route has done to go round your Little village. Noise cant be helped that a fact, tunnels and sound walls will reduce the level but some noise will happen, again cant be helped it’s a train. The line is running on the outskirts of small villages like yours what would you prefer the route to run straight up the high street? And before you say I will live close to the proposed line too.


    • But you are still missing the point “HS2isright”. My blog is not about the rights and wrongs of HS2 causing noise nuisance to rural villages, it is about requiring HS2 Ltd to give a meaningful assessment of what the level of noise nuisance will be.


  3. Posted by hs2isright on April 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    So what are the new forums and the new environmental assessment for? If these are not meaningful assessment then what is? But I forget your pear tree is more important. The route appears to have been designed to reduce the level of noise to a minimum.


    • You know “HS2isright” I’m beginning to suspect that you don’t actually read, or possibly don’t understand, my blogs. The whole point of the comment feature on WordPress is that you read the blog and then make comments that are relevant to the issues raised in the blog. You seem to think that this feature is available to provide you with a soapbox from which you can spout pro-HS2 retoric without any regard whether it has any bearing on the original blog.
      You say that “the route appears to be designed to reduce the level of noise to a minimum”. If this is the case, why did HS2 Ltd increase the height of many embankments after the consultation, thus potentially increasing the noise that will be inflicted on communities? Please read my blog “The ups and downs of route engineering” (posted 9 Feb 2012) on this matter, and then justify your assertion in the light of what I have said there. I would be interested to hear your take on the motivation for these vertical alignment changes.
      Regarding whether the community forums will allow a proper dialogue on noise matters and mitigation to take place, I would say that the jury is out on that one. At least I have made a personal commitment to support our local CF fully and reported on the first meeting in my blog “Supping with the Devil” (posted 9 Apr 2012). Have you read that one? I would say though that the way that noise was handled in the “Appraisal of Sustainablity” and the smug responses by HS2 Ltd to the questions raised on noise by the consultation (in “Review of HS2 London to West Midlands Appraisal of Sustainability”) mean that my expectations of a genuine dialogue taking place are rather low.
      Also we don’t yet really know how thorough and cooperative the EIA process will be. The first indications of how good the EIA might be are in the draft document “HS2 London to West Midlands EIA Scope and Methodology Report”, which has been issued for consultation. I don’t think that we should form any opinions, good or bad, about this document until we have all studied it thoroughly – we all know that the Devil can be in the detail of such tomes – but I propose to start to blog about some of this detail starting early next month.
      Finally, you being the way that you are you couldn’t resist a snide comment about Cubbington’s pear tree, could you? I make no excuses for trying to defend this venerable specimen, which has been minding its own business for more than 200 years. It is only just one of the potential victims of HS2, but I intend to do everything that I can to protect it.


      • Posted by hs2isright on April 27, 2012 at 7:37 pm

        Your comment has proved a point I have long believed to be ture, you don’t know the first bit about civil engineering at all. So to put in a way I think you will understand, the route is not a Yoho. Hs2 has been designed within limited gradients and theses determine the level of the running rail. Therefore to increase or decrease the level of any cutting or embankment this will has an effect throughout the whole route. You need to have any open mind (which I know will be hard for you) the entire route needs to be looked to reduce the level of impact. As you stated in one of your blogs “Bend it, just a little bit” a very minor changes in one location could have a sufficient effect in another. So I stand by my comment the route has appears to be designed to reduce the level of impact.

      • It is true that I am not a civil engineer, but I have been working very closely with a very experienced civil engineer recently to produce a proposal for a vertical realignnment in my area. So I have gained some knowledge about tangential points, maximum gradients, crest radius constraints, etc. and am probably not the total idiot that you appear to take me for.
        What I have learnt from this civil engineer is that there is considerable scope to make changes in the vertical alignment, without there being any knock-on effects on other locations. Whilst I agree that any alignment changes must take account of any potential knock-ons, it is totally nonsense to say that any changes in embankment or cuttings “will has (sic) an effect throughout the whole route”.
        It is clear that the increase in trackbed height that was made after the consultation in many areas, including Cubbington, was for one reason and one reason only; to save costs. As a result, what we now have is not a minimum noise solution.
        If you doubt this, answer me this question. Just north of Cubbington is Stoneleigh, where the route has been lowered in response to concerns expressed in the consultation about the impacts on the Stoneleigh Park Exhibition and Conference Centre and the village of Stareton. Just south of Cubbington is Bascote Heath, where the trackbed was also lowered in connection with changes to the tunnel there. So lower at both ends, yet higher in Cubbington. How come?

  4. You may not like the answer but it may be down to COST, as no one told you this before? As I don’t know the area, are there more people living close to the route in the other village then yours. Its as simple as basic costing, again you may not like the answer – It’s a train and noise happens. Limited funds so not every one can get was the want, that’s a fact of live.


    • Of course it’s down to COST “hs2isright”. Far from no one telling me this before, as you remark, I told you as much in my first comment to you on 26 April (“the level of achievement is variable and has been limited by cost”) and in my comment on 28 April (“was for one reason and one reason only; to save costs”). For goodness sake if you are going to comment on this site, please at least read what I have to say.
      You have made five comments in this sequence now. In the first you said “the route has been designed to reduce the level of impact”. In the third you said that “the route appears to have been designed to reduce the level of noise to a minimum”. In the fourth you implied that there were limits on reducing the level of impact as “very minor changes in one location could have a significant effect on the other”. In your latest comment you seem to have last realised that “it may be down to cost”. I’m sure that it is, and that this is the main motivation behind the design that we have now and that, as a result, we do not have a design that has reduced “the level of impact” or “the level of noise to a minimum” in many areas including mine.
      Of course I do not want to see taxpayers’ money thrown around – I would prefer the Treasury to be spared altogether from parting with the incredible mound of dosh that has been set aside for HS2. However, the modern view is that development should be “sustainable”. This means that it may be necessary for today’s generation to make sacrifices, such as spending more than the absolute minimum on HS2, to ensure that future generations are not impoverished, and protecting ancient woodland from destruction is a prime example of this.


      • Posted by hs2isright on April 29, 2012 at 11:05 am

        Yes there is limited funds to design and build the whole route and therefore the design will be done to keep cost down. Basically the whole line could be built in a tunnel but as you know this will not happen. So the route will be designed to keep impact to a minimum within the given costs, Yes (very unlikely) your pear tree could be saved by building a tunnel under it but the cost would be high and the benefit VERY low. So a basic cost analyst will be done to determine the level of risk to humans and then environmental. So I ask you the question and you can’t have both – Reduce the level of impact – noise and environmental to a whole village or safe pear simple tree.

      • The tunnel proposal achieves both. It saves the ancient woodland (not just the pear tree) and it reduces the noise and visual impact for the village. The cost can be justified on sustainability grounds.
        There is an even better solution though. Scrap HS2 and save the woodland, avoid any impacts on humans and save many billions of pounds to boot. What a brilliant idea!

      • Posted by hs2isright on April 29, 2012 at 4:06 pm

        Uneven better scrap the Review which is funded mainly by the 51 group from Council tax funds and give that to Hs2 to build a tunnel. But like normal you never answered the question – with limited funds which would you prefer to save a tree or the view form you bedroom window.

      • I will not be able to see the trains from my bedroom, or through any other window of my house, so your question is not relevant.

        The 51m group has 18 member councils, so the cost of an application for a judicial review, evenly shared, would be, I estimate, about £10,000 per council. This is an insignificant amount compared to the annual budget of these bodies and represents a negligible take of the council tax of each household. For this very tiny “investment” each of those households could save in excess of £1,000 of tax being spent on HS2, if the project is cancelled as a result of the JR. Sounds a better bet than a lottery scratchcard to me! Oh and by the way, the amount being spent on all of the JR applications would not be nearly enough to pay for a tunnel.

        On the subject of legal action, have you heard that the pro-HS2 Heathrow Hub Group has also applied for a JR of the HS2 decision (see http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2012/april/another-challenge-to-hs2-launched). I understand that this is on the issue of the choice of route. So it looks as if the pros have started to argue amongst themselves.

      • Posted by hs2isright on April 30, 2012 at 11:07 am

        Yet again you have not answered a simple question – with limited funds which would you have reduce impact on a whole village or save you pear tree. Again are you embarrassed or just unwilling to aswer a simple question?

      • If you don’t mind, I will do my negotiations with HS2 Ltd, not with you.

      • Posted by hs2isright on April 30, 2012 at 11:11 am

        Are will shy or embarrassed?????

      • No just being sensible in view of the delicate nature of the upcoming negotiations with HS2 Ltd.
        By the way, who’s “will” and what’s he got to do with anything?

      • Posted by hs2isright on May 3, 2012 at 3:49 pm

        “The 51m group has 18 member councils, so the cost of an application for a judicial review, evenly shared, would be, I estimate, about £10,000 per council” so why is a single council spending £125,000, can you explain this?

      • This is information that is news to me; can you provide a reference that I can check.
        I doubt that the cost of the JR is 18 x £125,000, so that either means that the cost is not being evenly shared or the £125,000 is wrong. Either way I think that you should ask the question of the local authority concerned or the 51m group. I’m not responsible for the policies of these bodies.

      • I have not approved your latest comment “hs2isright” because I feel that it was unnecessarily impolite. I am not prepared to stand for insulting comments against me on my own website.

        Since you did not provide a proper reference I was forced to search for one. I have discovered that the £125,000 that you refer to has been earmarked by Chilterns District Council to “cover the legal challenge and any mitigation work not covered by contribution from HS2 Ltd”. This is far from saying, as you did, that they are contributing £125,000 to the JR costs.

        Either you are guilty of not checking your facts, or of deliberately trying to deceive. I trust that it is not the latter.

      • Posted by hs2isright on May 3, 2012 at 7:55 pm

        I was not bring insulting but stating facts, yes 125K is for both with no breakdown of any costs. Also Cherwell District Council has so far contributed £50,000,( taken from stophs2 information) therefore an approx cost would be 18x 50k. So you stated only 10k per council again wrong. So to use your words “Either you are guilty of not checking your facts, or of deliberately trying to deceive. I trust that it is not the latter”

      • I don’t know anything about Cherwell District Council and can’t find the information that you refer to on the Stop HS2 or the Cherwell DC websites. If you want me to comment on that one you will have to be more helpful with a reference to support your claim (as I always do in my blogs).

        However, I suspect that it is a similar situation to the Chiltern District Council example. You got your facts wrong there, so I would be justified to think that you have done the same again.

        As far as I know, there is no information published on 51m JR costs and how they split down between councils. If you have any (factual) information on this point I will be please to see it and comment on it. As for your 18x£50k, that is pure invention. My 18x£10k is based on what I know is the approximate cost of similar legal action, but I have to admit that I don’t know for sure how much 51m is spending on its JR application.

  5. Posted by hs2isright on April 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    So your trying to be sensible – what !!! good joke. All I am trying to get is a stright aswer to a very simple question. Yet again you dont aswer the question


    • But I did answer the question; my answer is logged as “April 29, 2012 at 11:56 am”. I can’t help it if you don’t like the answer.
      By the way “your” in the sense that you have used it in your comment should be “you’re”. Also “stright aswer” should be “straight answer”, “dont” should be “don’t” and “aswer” should be “answer”. That’s five mistakes in 31 words, which is about par for the course for you.


      • Posted by hs2isright on April 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm

        This is not a English lesson and you did not answer the question I ask. Are you shy or embarrassed? It’s a simple question which is it. Answer my original question which you have not yet done.

      • Should be “an” English lesson.
        That’s much better; only one mistake that time. You see you can do it if you concentrate.
        No I’m not shy or embarrassed, but I am getting just a little bored.

      • Posted by hs2isright on April 30, 2012 at 1:01 pm

        Then answer the question.

  6. Posted by LesF on July 27, 2016 at 11:12 am

    I only just noticed this old series of comments. It must have been tedious for you at the time Peter, but what a wonderful illustration of how pro-HS2 people blind themselves to reality in their lust for speed. The commenter seems to have inside knowledge of HS2 but can’t string a sentence together in English. If this is the quality of the personnel working on HS2, it’s not surprising that that it’s turned out abysmally poor, not achieving its own objectives while the costs escalate.


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