The United Kingdom may have gotten its high-speed rail plans off the ground, but they are now facing mounting concern over an unconsidered aspect of the transport system – increased noise. According to a study by the Department for Transport, it is estimated that around 4,860 homes in England will experience extra noise as a result of the proposed train line.

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The noise factor has not really been given due consideration by supporters of high-speed rail, but concerned homeowners are worried that faster lines will mean louder trains. In order to alleviate fears, the Department for Transport has hired engineering firm Arup to demonstrate the noise to concerned members of the public.

A simulation of the train’s noise when it passes through various points will be played at various demonstarations using a recording of the 217mph high-speed trains in France . Then sound will be adjusted to take into account Britain’s potentially even faster trains — it is hoped that the UK’s trains will be able to reach speeds of 250 mph.

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Even these demonstrations won’t be enough to convince the main opposition group to UK high speed rail plans – Stop HS2. While no official noise figures have been released, Lizzy Williams, the chairwoman of the Stop HS2 group has stated that for properties located at 50m from the track, the noise from the trains will be “between 95 and 97 decibels every two minutes if the line runs at capacity”. As a comparison, a jet engine is often cited as being 120 decibels at 50m.

However there are measures available to counter-act the noise. Speaking to the BBC, Bernie Douglas, the chairman of VoxOpp (Villages of Oxfordshire Opposing HS2) said: “You can build big earth ramparts and you can also put brown picket fences that are about 5m high.”

When asked about plating trees, which look more natural and also absorb carbon dioxide, Douglas said: “From what we understand trees do not have much impact on noise. They could be used to hide a lot of the features, but that’s all they might be used for.”

On the other hand, some say there is nothing to worry about. In Germany, residents have long been used to hearing high-speed Deutsche Bahn trains. “We don’t see very many complaints when it comes to the noise of the high speed lines, but we see a number or complaints about the noise of the freight transport lines,” a spokesman says.

So is noise a necessary evil for greener, faster travel — or much ado about nothing, especially considering the noise freight trains currently make on older, ill-maintained lines?

+ High Speed Rail UK

Via BBC Magazine