Gladiatorial games, part 6

(… continued from Gladiatorial games, part 5, posted on 8 Dec 2015).

Information Paper E20 contains the following statement of intent (see footnote 1):

“The nominated undertaker will take all reasonable steps to design and construct altered roads, and to design, construct, operate and maintain the operational railway so that the combined airborne noise from these sources, predicted in all reasonably foreseeable circumstances, does not exceed the lowest observed adverse effect levels set out in Table 1 of Appendix B.”

Whilst this paragraph makes no mention of the additional tests that have been applied in the Environmental Statement (ES) and which I have described in part 4 and part 5 of this blog series, it does provide an unequivocal statement that the primary test is that it is noise from HS2 sources only that should be measured against the LOAEL (lowest observed adverse effect level) threshold. In the evidence that he gave to the HS2 Select Committee Rick Methold, expert witness on acoustics for Chiltern District Council (CDC), claimed that “HS2 is misusing the World Health Organisation guidance levels” (see footnote 2). Specifically, his complaint was that it is the intention of the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines that it is the total noise level that results after HS2 noise has been introduced into the soundscape that should be compared to the LOAEL threshold.

Mr Methold employed his exhibit A1571(25) to provide an illustration of the difference that this distinction could make. He referred to the fifth row in the table, relating to North Lee Lane Terrick (ID313140). At this location the contribution of HS2 noise to the soundscape is appreciable; the increase in the day LpAeq, identified in the “Change” column, is forecast to be 5dB(A). However, as the “Proposed Scheme only” HS2 noise, at 49dB LpAeq,16hr, is below the LOAEL threshold, the effect is not logged as “adverse”. This situation changes should the total noise, as recorded in the “Do something” column, be compared with the LOAEL; at 51dB LpAeq,16hr total noise is above LOAEL and indicates that the effect is “adverse”. Mr Methold expressed the view “that there are many of these [similar examples] along the route” (see footnote 3).

My own check on the situation in CFA10 confirms this view. There are 175 receptor locations listed in Table 3 of ES Volume 5 Appendix SV-004-010 and 51 of these, or approximately 29 per cent, are predicted to experience HS2 noise at, or above, the LOAEL threshold. However, if that threshold is compared with the total noise level that results from the addition of HS2 noise, then a further 115 receptor locations, or approximately 66% per cent, would be at or above LOAEL. Using this more encompassing definition of LOAEL would mean, accordingly, that only 5 per cent of the identified receptor locations would be below LOAEL.

Mr Methold’s chief item of evidence that he offered in support of his claim is the following extract from a paper by Professor Birgitta Berglund (see footnote 4):

“The most common misuse of the WHO guideline values is to apply them to source-specific noise immissions, for example, road-traffic noise exposure alone. The guideline values (Table 1) refer to the immissions from all noises, background noise inclusive.”

You might regard this evidence as fairly compelling, as Professor Berglund was an editor of, and contributing author to, the 1999 WHO Guidelines for Community Noise – surely she, of all people, would know what the intention of the guidelines is.

In case this was not enough, however, Mr Methold was able to offer further support for his charge against HS2 Ltd.

In this respect he was able to call on the backing of fellow acoustics expert Doug Sharps, based upon the evidence that he had given to the Select Committee on behalf of the HS2 Action Alliance the previous month. Mr Sharps had told the Committee that “LOAEL and SOAEL must be expressed in terms of total noise levels” and had described the HS2 Ltd method of setting the thresholds “only for HS2 noise” as “an incorrect approach” (see footnote 5). Mr Sharps had also made numerous other references to this issue during his evidence (see footnote 6).

Mr Methold was also able the cite the following examples of HS2 Ltd apparently agreeing that it is the level of total noise exposure that determines the onset level for adverse effects and to which the WHO guidelines refer:

  • A slide from a presentation given by HS2 Ltd at the 8thUIC (International Union of Railways) Noise Workshop in June 2013, which includes the bullet point “WHO guidelines refer to total noise exposure” (see footnote 7).
  • Two extracts from ES Volume 5 Appendix SV-001-000 that refer to the onset of adverse effects in terms of total noise level (see footnote 8).
  • An extract from a discussion paper submitted to the HS2 Acoustics Review Group (ARG) by HS2 Ltd, which notes that, “The WHO guidelines refer to total noise exposure” (see footnote 9).

So much for CDC’s position on this issue. I will consider what the Promoter had to say in response in my next couple of postings.

(To be continued …)


  1. In paragraph 3.1 of High Speed Two Information Paper E20 Control of airborne noise from altered roads and the operational railway.
  2. The evidence presented on behalf of CDC occupied the whole of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4thNovember 2015 (video). The quote is extracted from paragraph 175 of the transcript of that session.
  3. See paragraph 160 of the transcript of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4thNovember 2015.
  4. Berglund, B, From the WHO Guidelines for community noise to healthy soundscapes, Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics, 2006 pp 1-9. I have not been able to locate a free-access copy of this paper, but the abstract confirms that the WHO Guidelines relate to the “all-noise” immissions. The quoted extract was presented on exhibit A1571(68) in CDC’s exhibit pack. Use of the noun “immission” is somewhat archaic, but refers to something that is inserted or introduced.
  5. See paragraph 17 of the transcript of the afternoon session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Monday 12thOctober 2015.
  6. See paragraphs 18, 71, 78, 79, 94, 158, 206 and 211 of the transcript of the afternoon session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Monday 12th October 2015.
  7. See paragraph 381 of the transcript of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4th November 2015, exhibit A1571(65) in CDC’s exhibit pack and the full set of slides for the HS2 Ltd June 2013 presentation.
  8. See paragraph 382 of the transcript of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4thNovember 2015 and exhibit A1571(66) in CDC’s exhibit pack. The two paragraphs quoted (1.3.10 and 1.3.16) are both in Annex A to ES Volume 5 Appendix SV-001-000.
  9. See paragraph 383 of the transcript of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4th November 2015 and exhibit A1571(67) in CDC’s exhibit pack. The ARG paper referred to is Cobbing, C and Greer, R, Position on World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance on noise. This paper does not appear to be in the public domain, but I have access to a draft; the wording on the draft differs a little from the final version quoted by Mr Methold, but should serve to illustrate the context.


I wish to thank Michael Woodhouse for his suggestions and comments, which I have found invaluable in preparing this series of blogs.

Exhibit A1571(25) has been extracted from the bundle of evidence submitted to the HS2 Select Committee by Rick Methold and published on the website of the HS2 Select Committee.

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee from which some of the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken are uncorrected transcripts of evidence, which are not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.


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