Barbican residents ‘left sleepless’ by Tube noise


Researchers are investigating Barbican residents’ claims that London Underground train rumblings have got so much worse they are losing sleep – with some even said to have moved out over the noise.

Residents in the Square Mile’s biggest housing enclave have presented a petition to the City of London Corporation in their long-running battle for action on Tube noise.

London Underground bosses say they are investigating the issue, and have made rail improvements in recent weeks to alleviate the noise.

However, residents living above the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines running under the Barbican at the western end of Moorgate station say it can’t come soon enough.

One Brandon Mews resident said the noise and vibrations have worsened since she moved into the property nearly a decade ago, as older models were replaced by longer, heavier trains.

She said she has had one visit from TfL to take readings. They recorded noise of up to 53 decibels inside some Barbican homes, which exceeds World Health Organisation recommended levels.

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Barbican residents teamed up with Unmesh Desai to launch their petition

Cripplegate ward Councillor Vivienne Littlechild is urging the independent researchers commissioned by the City of London to take readings during the night to fully understand residents’ experiences. She visited the resident at her at home on Friday to experience the rumbling sound.

She told Cllr Littlechild how the noise grew worse late at night when there was less ambient noise from the Barbican competing with the train sounds.

The resident claimed TfL had not done enough to address the problem – and feared the noise was only going to get worse when the Night Tube was rolled out from 2023.

“The worst time, I think, is when all the ambient noises have disappeared, and they go faster, for reasons I will never understand – they go faster and faster, and the noise gets worse just when you’re trying to get to sleep. I’m often woken up… I can’t get to sleep with those trains.”

Port health and environmental services committee chairman, Jeremy Simons, wrote to London Underground boss Mark Wild in July, saying the noise was considered a public health issue.

There are records of London Underground noise complaints from Barbican residents dating back to the 1970s.

“We’ve been complaining and complaining for all these years and we’ve seen little support,” Cllr Littlechild told the committee’s 25 September meeting.

“I would like to see some real action on this, and it’s taken far too long… it’s made some people’s lives a complete misery and I know of two people who have moved out because of the noise.”

Cllr Littlechild said residents told her they were already regularly awoken by the first train coming through about 5.10am.

She had spent time in one home where the noise and shaking was so bad it felt like a “minor quake.”

“The noise was unbelievable – and that was in the afternoon,” she told the committee. “When you’re in your bed at night it is extremely loud  – and that’s when the testing should be done.”

Defoe House Residents and Tenants Association member, Brian Leonard, said there had been some improvements following works on the rail in recent weeks, but TfL could go further than standard replacement works.

He said the noise and vibration levels were “previously intolerable.”

More than a year of residents’ campaigning alongside the City’s Greater London Authority representative Unmesh Desai, and MP Mark Field had led to the improvements, Mr Leonard added.

London Underground director of asset operations Peter McNaught said more noise readings would take place this week following the track renewal.

London Underground spends about £150m a year on continuous track improvement and maintenance, and has a dedicated annual budget of £1m for development of new noise reduction technology.

“We understand the importance of minimising noise levels on the Tube and are determined to do more to achieve this. We are aware of an issue around Barbican, and have met with local residents to understand the extent of the issue,” he said.

Anyone affected by Tube noise was encouraged to contact the TfL’s 24/7 customer services line on 0343 222 1234.

Main Photo by Matt Buck (Creative Commons).