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TfL is testing new technology to make tube journeys quieter

The rackety Northern line received 282 noise complaints between 2018 and 2022

India Lawrence
Written by
India Lawrence

The blaring screeching of the tube is definitely one of the more unpleasant aspects of London travel, especially when it drowns out the really good podcast you’re listening to. So to give out ears some much-needed respite, TfL is looking into ways to reduce the noise of tubes. Hear, hear!

The transport authority spends around £150 million every year on improvements, which includes grinding rails to help reduce track noise. But in recent years the screech and rattle of underground trains seems to have been getting louder, and complaints about tube noise are on the rise. Between 2018 and 2022, the Northern and Victoria lines were the most grumbled about for being too loud, receiving 282 and 252 complaints respectively.

As a potential solution, London Underground is trialling new track fastenings which reduce the vibrations and noise from the track. For true transport aficionados, TfL is testing a couple of different fastenings, one called Vanguard and another called Delkor. Although Vanguard does reduce the noise of the tube in neighbouring buildings, it actually makes the noises inside the carriage louder, which isn’t ideal. Delkor, however, so far has proved to reduce noise both inside and outside the carriage. 

If you want to hear it for yourself, Delkor fastenings are in use on the Jubilee line between Baker Street and St John’s Wood, and they’ll be tested on the Northern line from Camden Town to Euston soon.

In 2018, a study led by UCL academic Dr Joe Sollini for the BBC revealed that parts of the tube were ‘as loud as a rock concert’ and could ‘damage people’s hearing'. He added: 'The Central line has the loudest section out of all of the tube lines, and it basically gets as loud as almost 110dB.’

The Jubilee, Central, Victoria and Bakerloo lines were also recorded to be louder than 105dB on ten different occasions. For scale, the average conversation is around 60dB and the World Health Organisation recommends wearing ear protection if you’re exposed to anything over 85dB for a prolonged period of time.

Recently, London Mayor Sadiq Khan answered a question from Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, saying that TfL recognised the ‘importance of minimising noise levels’.

He said: ‘Despite its financial challenges, TfL continues to invest in London Underground track renewal and maintenance, including a continuous programme of rail-grinding and track modernisation.

‘In the last six months, TfL has undertaken around 15,000m of rail-grinding that works to address tube noise by smoothing corrugated rails, which is the principal cause of track noise.’

If it means we won’t have to be deafened by the booming sounds of the Northern line, we’re certainly on board.

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