Being a real seeker after truth

“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

When it comes to everything that I am told by HS2 Ltd, I feel that it is sensible to pay due regard to this maxim coined by René Descartes; experience has taught me to be sceptical about everything. So it was that I went along to my local Draft Environmental Statement Information Event pre-armed with some questions.

I was able to secure the undivided attention of one of the noise experts on duty, a gentleman that I already knew from a couple of appearances that he had made at my local community forum meetings. We had a fairly lengthy discussion until I got to the point at which I realised that the law of diminishing returns had well and truly taken over and called a halt to proceedings.

The first matter that I tackled him on was the calculation of the margin between the day and night equivalent continuous sound levels that I discuss in my blog A delay in arrival (posted 13 Jun 2013). He was unable to provide any clarification on the train pass-by numbers used for the calculation. In fact he told me that he wouldn’t be able to divulge anything that wasn’t in the Draft Environmental Statement (DES) documents already. So even at this early stage I was beginning to realise that I wasn’t going to learn much from our conversation.

I asked him to confirm that the levels used for the contour maps were free field. He confirmed that they were and so I pointed out, mischievously, that the EIA Scope and Methodology Report says that they should be façade measurements (see paragraph 14.3.26 of that report and footnote 2 to my blog A summit that is far too high, posted 26 Oct 2012). He seemed somewhat perplexed by this and couldn’t come up with an explanation, so I felt that I might have won at least one round of our encounter.

We then talked about the freedom of information request that I had submitted trying to get an explanation of why HS2 Ltd was now using the parameter LpAFmax in addition to the equivalent continuous sound level; a topic that had been the main subject of my blog A summit that is far too high. He said that one of his colleagues had written the response. I remarked that she had worked very hard to avoid answering my question. I think I detected what might have been a shrug signifying some sympathy with this comment.

I then initiated a discussion about the noise model. I was told that four different noise source heights had been used – the first time that I had heard this. When I asked about tolerances that applied to the calculation method and how they had been accommodated, I was told that the results displayed on the noise contour maps were “worse case”. This was basically the answer that I got when I asked about the effects that varying weather conditions would have on the results of the calculation; I was told that “worse case weather conditions” had been built into the calculation.

I asked about the use of trackside noise barriers. He agreed with me that it was not possible to tell from the maps that were in the DES where these were going to be employed.

We talked about the nearby village of Offchurch, which is spread out on a hillside overlooking the proposed route of HS2. I expressed surprise that although the village was further away from the track than the extent of the colour shading shown on the map, its elevated position did not mean that it was in its own satellite island of colour shading. I was told that, if the predicted noise levels in Offchurch were high enough for this to be the case, the prediction model would have picked this up.

At that point I decided to cut my losses and went off in search of someone to ask about footpath diversions.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on June 17, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Tonight standing in the supermarket car park as 125s thundered past I too reflected on this matter of why HS2 did not work smarter to better locate the railway away from some urban and hamlet areas which was possible but not attempted.

    No one would wish on any community the intrusion of a railway in the 18th or 21st Century or an airport. Where needs must this is a dilemma to answer smartly.

    A criteria to have least resistance to the construction may not locate a disturbing noise and vibration and visible railway in the position that a deliberate criteria to be further from the most house than 600m would have been. Jeremy Bentham had a better criteria than DFT HS2.

    As they are really saying is that is the way it is: Autocracy from the top is leading to the lack of felxibility in the route 3 location selection and lack of attempt to change the criteria of impacts.


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