Gladiatorial games, part 9

(… continued from Gladiatorial games, part 8, posted on 20 Dec 2015).

In part 4 of this blog series I cited the example of receptor ID313140 (North Lee Lane Terrick) which, despite the prediction that noise from HS2 sources would result in a 5dB(A) increase in the ambient noise level, has been assessed as experiencing “no adverse effect” because the HS2 noise level is below the 50dB LpAeq,day lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) threshold. This is far from being an isolated example, as HS2 will inflict its noise upon a considerable swathe across what are currently some of the most tranquil countryside and settlement locations in our fair land.

The failure of HS2 Ltd to properly account for the adverse effects that will result from the introduction of loud man-made noise into previously near-idyllic countryside is a matter that was taken up by both Rick Methold, expert acoustics witness for Chiltern District Council (CDC), and Doug Sharps, serving in the equivalent capacity for the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), when they made their respective appearances in front of the HS2 Select Committee (see footnote 1).

Mr Sharps was able to offer the Select Committee some direct evidence of the tranquillity of some of the locations that would be affected by HS2, because it appeared that he had visited “17 villages and towns” armed with his sound level meter. He told the Committee that he was “quite frankly, astonished at how quiet” these settlements were and that he had been “typically measuring background sound levels of between 30 and 35dB”. He opined that “the same level of noise from HS2 will have a markedly different impact in rural areas than urban areas” and told the Committee that it was his opinion that “it is necessary … to have noise controls that recognise the difference between quiet areas and other areas” (see footnote 2).

It surely follows that the equivalent continuous sound level from HS2 noise bursts that impact receptors at below the LOAEL threshold could still be appreciably above the pre-HS2 ambient noise, and thus have a significant effect on the soundscape, despite effectively slipping below the radar of the regime set out in Information Paper E20.

Even the Promoter’s Lead Counsel, Tim Mould QC, appears to accept this, admitting that:

“[The Promoter hasn’t] said that the railway will operate so that when it passes through an area which is currently quiet, the noise in that area will only increase by say three or five decibels.”

He explained that “the public interest” demands that people who live in a quiet area through which HS2 is built are expected to accept “a certain level of change in the environment in which they live, provided that the resulting level is one which is acceptable”. He said that he recognised that such people “may well regard that as an adverse effect”, but that the Promoter’s policy “is that that is an effect that is justifiable provided that the environment in which they are placed after the train starts running is one that is acceptable” (see footnote 3).

At a later stage in the proceedings, Mr Mould added the somewhat provocative claim, in the circumstances, that “[t]hirty years after operation very few people will be left who will have experienced that change in the areas in question, so we’re talking about that relatively limited period where people in quiet areas find that their environment changes because a railway comes” (see footnote 4).

Mr Methold was able to cite three further instances that indicated that the Promoter recognised that changes in ambient sound level can affect “a person’s perceived quality of life”. The first of these was the confirmation on this point given by a representative of HS2 Ltd at a petition management meeting (see footnote 5), the second was a minute of the HS2 Acoustics Review Group (ARG) that made the same point (see footnote 6), and the third was an extract from the ARG discussion paper that I refer to in part 6 of this blog series that stresses the importance of noise change as an indicator of community effect (see footnote 7).

Mr Methold also made the point on one of his exhibits that “change in noise exposure” had been a “primary basis for identifying noise impacts for HS1”, a claim with which Mr Mould appeared to concur (see footnote 8).

(To be continued …)

Footnotes:

  1. 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) and the Promoter’s response was given in a shorter than usual afternoon session (video). The HS2AA session was held on the afternoon of Monday 12th October 2015 (video).
  2. See paragraph 49 of the transcript of the afternoon session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Monday 12thOctober 2015. That there are receptors where baseline noise goes down to the mid-thirty dBs at night is even conceded in the “do nothing” columns of the tables presented in the SV-004 series of Volume 5 appendices to the Environmental Statement.
  3. Mr Mould’s comments may be found recorded in paragraphs 457, 459 and 465 of the transcript of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4thNovember 2015.
  4. See paragraph 596 of the transcript of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4thNovember 2015.
  5. See paragraph 409 of the transcript of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4th November 2015 and exhibit A1571(76) in the bundle of exhibits deposited with the Select Committee by CDC.
  6. See paragraph 410 of the transcript of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4th November 2015 and the penultimate paragraph of minute 6.2 in the notes of ARG meeting no.4, held on 14thFebruary 2013.
  7. See paragraph 410 of the transcript of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4thNovember 2015 and exhibit A1571(78) in the bundle of exhibits deposited with the Select Committee by CDC. Details of the ARG paper are given in footnote 9 to part 6 of this blog series (the extracted text may be found on page 5 of the document).
  8. See the final bullet point of exhibit A1571(73) in the bundle of exhibits deposited with the Select Committee by CDC. Mr Mould’s confirmation is recorded in paragraph 119 of the transcript of the morning session of the HS2 Select Committee that was held on Wednesday 4thNovember 2015.

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

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee from which 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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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Barbara Mortimer on January 17, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    I cannot pretend to understand any of the noise arguments, in spite of the great care with which you have been presenting them, but my husband came across this in relation to the noise made by F1 cars (apparently fans have been saying that they are not noisy enough over the last couple of years!):
    “It will be a bit louder, about one and a half [decibels]. In terms of what you are actually going to perceive, even with the wastegate closed you’re going to perceive that the engine is around 14% louder. And with the wastegate open that should be 20-25% louder, so quite significant.”
    Has “perceived noise” ever come into the arguments on HS2? The “three or five decibels” quoted by Tim Mould takes on a whole new meaning if the statement about F1 car noise applies generally.
    The link to the F1 article is http://www.crash.net/f1/news/226094/1/f1-engines-to-be-25-louder-says-symonds.html

    Reply

    • I’m disappointed Barbara that I am obviously failing in my mission to get the message across on noise, but I appreciate that it is a difficult subject for the layman, and woman. I’d be interested to hear from other readers how they react to the Gladiatorial games series.
      Thanks for the link to the article on F1 – I am a long-time fan and so was interested to read it. I feel that the perception of noise level change, like sensitivity to noise, is very much an individual thing, with one person being different to another, and I am also very sceptical about people being able to say that one noise is 14% louder than another.
      However, two comments on noise level change that have being made a number of times during the HS2 Select Committee hearings are that a change of 3dB is just perceptible and that a 10dB change represents a doubling of perceived volume. This doesn’t appear to be consistent with what Pat Symonds has to say about his 14% increase.
      Also relevant are the “impact classifications” given in Table 33 on page 153 of Environment Statement Volume 5 Appendix CT-001-000/1, which grade a long-term level change of below 3dB as “negligible, between 3dB and 5dB as “minor” , between 5dB and 10dB as “moderate” and above 10dB as “major”.

      Reply

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