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Operational Noise and Vibration

Our commitments

Sound, noise and vibration resulting from the operation of HS2 is a key concern of our neighbours who are living or working near the railway. We have made commitments to take all reasonable steps to minimise the adverse effects of noise and vibration. This page provides information on how HS2 is designing and delivering the railway so that this commitment is achieved.

On this page you will learn about sound, noise and vibration from the operation of HS2. There are also links to further information available in the Environmental Statements and Information Papers for each phase of the project.

Key definitions

Sound

‘Sound’ is used to describe the acoustic conditions that people experience as a part of their everyday lives. ‘Sound’ is results from the fluctuating pressure waves in the air that stimulate the sense of hearing.

Noise

Noise’ is taken as unwanted sound and the adverse effects of sound are termed noise effects rather than sound effects, and control measures are, for example, termed ‘noise’ barriers.

Airborne Noise

Noise created by the maintenance and operation of the railway propagates away from the railway where it may be heard by people and has the potential to cause disturbance to neighbouring homes, businesses, facilities and amenities.

Ground-borne Noise and Vibration

Vibration created either by the operation of trains propagates through the ground to surrounding buildings where it may result in the vibration of floors, walls and ceilings (ground-borne vibration) which could also be heard as a ‘rumbling’ sound (called ground-borne noise).

HS2 in operation

When operational, HS2 will generate sound. This will be both through the movement of trains along the line and from the equipment along the route needed to operate our trains. We have committed to reducing noise due to operations as far as reasonably practicable, with the aim of protecting local residents and communities from adverse effects.

Both the Environmental Minimum Requirements document and relevant Information Papers provide further information on how HS2 Ltd will meet its environmental commitments, including noise and vibration. Links to these can be found at the end of this page.

Designing the railway to reduce noise and vibration

Work has been undertaken on the design of the railway to reduce noise and vibration as far as reasonably practicable. Since then, with the help of our contractors, we have been working hard to further optimise the design of the railway to minimise noise.

The noise created by the operation of the railway will be the result of many components including trains, track, civil works and plant and equipment. Through careful design and innovation, HS2 is driving to reduce noise from these different components to minimise any impacts from operations.

We are the first railway project in Europe that intends to procure trains that are quieter than the noise limits mandated by the European Technical Specifications for Interoperability. We have also now welcomed our slab track designer on-board and will be using their experience gained constructing slab track throughout the world to design a low noise track system specific for HS2.

Our commitments apply throughout the lifetime of the railway and how we maintain the railway is key to achieving them. This means that we are also developing a maintenance strategy for the railway to ensure that we maintain the level of noise exposure predicted during the design stages, throughout the lifetime of the railway.

Building to reduce operational noise

Since 2017 our Civil Engineering Contractors have been undertaking the detail design of the civil works in preparation for construction. Our contractors have the opportunity to enhance the hybrid Bill design, and they are currently undertaking noise predictions and assessing design proposals. When developing the design of any noise mitigation required for the railway, in addition to its acoustic performance, our contractors are also considering; value for money, engineering and operational practicability, impacts on other environmental disciplines (e.g. visual and landscape) and stakeholder engagement.

Through Schedule 17 of the Act our civils contractors are required to share the information relating to the performance of the optimised designs with the relevant local authority. In some locations the design work has led to improvements compared to the hybrid Bill scheme.

Case studies

West Ruislip Noise Barriers

In Hillingdon, the railway leaves its London tunnels at the West Ruislip Portal. Here trains will run at speeds of 320km/h.

Twelve different designs of noise barrier were developed. This revealed that a “cranked” barrier design (pictured below) that slopes inward towards the train delivered the optimal performance.

The crank moves the top of the barrier closer to the source of noise so that more noise reduction is achieved with less overall height. The shape also reduces the amount of noise reflected back from the train over the top of the barrier and therefore provides an opportunity to reduce the amount of absorptive material required compared to a tall barrier.

The science that dictates the most effective noise barrier design not only improves on the noise reducing performance forecast in the hybrid Bill but it also has the effect of creating a receding visual form that is more sympathetic to its surroundings.

Colne Valley Viaduct

HS2’s 3.4km viaduct across the Colne Valley near London will carry trains travelling at up to 320km/h across a series of lakes and waterways.

We have been able to achieve our noise commitments by taking an innovative approach to barrier design. However, the challenge was to reconcile our aim of providing noise control to the line with effective noise barriers on a structure in an open, green area while balancing it with enhancing the passenger experience by proving views across the lakes.

The speeds at which trains will traverse the viaduct would require conventional, tall noise barriers to meet our commitments, but such an approach would neither limit the structure’s visual effect or benefit passengers.

The approved proposals for the viaduct include partially transparent noise barriers which soften the visual appearance of the viaduct and provide a view for the customers on the train. The acoustic performance has been optimised tilting the barriers inwards slightly and computer modelling techniques have been used to optimise the amount of acoustic absorption within the viaduct.

Wendover Dean Viaduct

Efforts to optimise the design to reduce materials and carbon can have a beneficial effect on noise and visual appearance. On the 450 metre long Wendover Dean Viaduct in Buckinghamshire the design has been optimised to reduce its overall width by narrowing the distance between the tracks on the viaduct.  This revision to an earlier design has cut the amount of embedded carbon in the viaduct by some 7,400 tonnes. It has also had the effect of moving the parapets of the viaduct closer to the tracks. Because the viaduct is elevated relative to the surrounding area, this means that its parapets will provide very efficient noise insulation.

Changes to the Wendover Dean viaduct’s design have delivered a sleeker appearance, reducing its visual affect, while enabling a reduction in the size of its noise barriers.

Controlling noise from other sources

Once HS2 is operational, it is not just the noise from the movement of trains along the line that we need to control. There will also be fixed assets which will contain different types of sound generating plant and equipment. We will need to ensure that any noise impacts from these sources are adequately controlled.

The level and nature of sound produced by all of these assets and the ability to practicably control the sound emissions will vary significantly. Therefore, an appropriate assessment methodology has been designed to ensure a level of consistency in the approach. It can be applied to the different sources of fixed plant installations, whilst ensuring a suitable level of flexibility to address different situations and circumstances.

Some examples of the types of equipment which are consider as other sources include; mechanical ventilation at tunnel shafts and portals, trackside plant compounds and static plant located at stations and depots.

Our Phase 1 Civils designers are currently designing tunnel vent shafts along the route to deliver our noise commitments. They are achieving this by providing sufficient sound insulating construction of the shaft headhouse. The designs also allow sufficient space for fan attenuators, optimise the orientation of outlets to direct sound away from dwellings and allowing sufficient space to provide a sound absorbing lining within the shaft’s chimneys.

 

Canterbury Works Ventilation Shaft Headhouse visualisation showing a square building with a grass roof next a railway line.
Canterbury Works Ventilation Shaft Headhouse visualisation

How we will monitor railway operations

We are committed to monitoring the performance of our noise control measures once the railway is operational and then throughout its lifetime. Noise and vibration will be monitored at carefully selected locations on the route during operation. Actions will be taken to investigate and correct situations where railway not performing as expected. The results of this monitoring will be shared with Local Authorities across the route.

Further information

Further information on about this topic and Phase One and Phase 2a of HS2 can be found in the following section.
The routewide effects of HS2 operations along with the proposed mitigation was presented within the Environmental Statements (ES) for each phase of the project. These documents were produced for the approval process for Phase One and Phase 2a and will be produced in preparation for Phase 2b later this year (2021).

We are delivering the project so that the forecast noise impacts in the ES are not exceeded and are reduced where we are able to do so. This is defined as the project’s Environmental Minimum Requirements (EMR) which are contractually binding.

HS2 Phase One Environmental Statement and Information Papers

HS2 Phase One environmental statement volume 2: community forum area reports and mapbooks

Chapter 11 within each community forum area report presents the sound noise and vibration effects likely to occur due to both the construction and operation of the scheme. These effects are also presented graphically in the associated map books for each area.

Download: HS2 Phase One environmental statement volume 2

HS2 Phase One environmental statement volume 3: route-wide effects

Chapter 12 of the Phase One Environmental Statement (2013) presents the route-wide assessment of the Sound Noise and Vibration of the Proposed Scheme during construction and operation

HS2 Phase One environmental statement volume 5: sound, noise and vibration

Volume 5 details in full all of the sound noise and vibrations results for all receptors considered within the assessment, both the construction and operation of the scheme. This volume also includes detailed sound noise and vibration map books for each area

Download: HS2 Phase One environmental statement volume 5: sound, noise and vibration

Phase One Sound Noise and Vibration Information Papers

HS2 Phase 2a Environmental Statement and Information Papers

HS2 Phase 2a environmental statement volume 2: community forum area reports and mapbooks

Chapter 13 within each community forum area report presents the sound noise and vibration effects likely to occur due to both the construction and operation of the scheme. These effects are also presented graphically in the associated map books for each area.

Download: HS2 Phase 2a environmental statement volume 2

HS2 Phase 2a environmental statement volume 3: route-wide effects

Chapter 13 of the Phase 2a Environmental Statement (2017) presents the assessment of the Sound Noise and Vibration of the Proposed Scheme during construction and operation.

HS2 Phase 2a environmental statement volume 5: sound, noise and vibration

Volume 5 details in full all of the sound noise and vibrations results for all receptors considered within the assessment, both the construction and operation of the scheme. This volume also includes detailed sound noise and vibration map books for each area.

Download: HS2 Phase 2a environmental statement volume 5

Phase 2a Sound, Noise and Vibration Information Paper

The following information papers outline the aims and measures HS2 is taking to manage Sound Noise and Vibration on Phase 2a:

  • Information Paper E9: Control of airborne noise from altered roads and the operational railway
  • Information Paper E10: Control of ground-borne noise and vibration from the operation of temporary and permanent railways
  • Information Paper E11: Control of noise from the operation of stationary systems
  • Information Paper E12: Operational noise and vibration monitoring framework Information Paper E13: Control of construction noise and vibration