Tube noise row rumbles on for Barbican residents

Increases noise pollution from the Tube is making life unbearable for some Barbican residents.
Increases noise pollution from the Tube is making life unbearable for some Barbican residents.

Barbican residents affected by Tube noise “like a thunderstorm” in their flats say they are reaching breaking point after years of sleepless nights and repeated complaints to Transport for London with no solution in sight.

Local councillors and politicians are demanding action over worsening noise and vibration caused by trains on the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines running directly underneath the estate at the western end of Moorgate station.

One Barbican resident has been forced to move out because of the constant disruption, according to London Assembly Member for the City & East Unmesh Desai, who said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that locals have had to put up with the noise for so long.

Poor track maintenance and heavier trains are being blamed for the worsening disturbances for those in blocks on the eastern side of the estate, such as Defoe House, where TfL has recorded noise levels as high as 53 decibels inside homes.

This is 13 decibels above the level recommended by the World Health Organisation for levels measured outside homes.

Barbican Residents’ Association working group chair Richard Collins also said that previously unaffected residents of blocks on the western side of the estate are now reporting  vibrations.

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Defoe House is one of the blocks badly affected by trains running into Moorgate.

“Barbican homes have suffered from noise and vibration from the Underground since the Barbican Estate was first built,” he said.

“Latterly more homes are experiencing serious, and growing, noise (and vibration) pollution – residents have records of noise measurements by TfL dating from 1990 and these show, unequivocally, that noise pollution from underground trains has increased.”

One resident of Brandon Mews on the eastern side of the estate, who did not wish to be named, described the vibrations as feeling as though “a heavy truck is driving through your apartment every 90 seconds”.

She said that there was very little noise and no vibrations from the trains when she moved into the flat in 2006, but she noticed a marked increase by the following year and has made multiple complaints to TfL over the last decade.

“The last communication I personally had with TfL was last year when I was told that ‘nothing could be done at the moment’,” she said.

“They do not seem to care one jot about Londoners who are affected by the obvious lack of maintenance of the tracks and the subsequent noise and vibration issues.”

TfL has confirmed plans to roll out Night Tube services to the Metropolitan, Circle, District and Hammersmith & City Lines once a major upgrade programme is complete in 2023.

Last year, figures from the Mayor’s office revealed that the number of complaints caused by noise from Tube services had almost trebled across London since 2012.

Peter McNaught, London Underground’s director of asset operations, said the operator was “determined” to do more to minimise noise levels.

He said: “We have carried out a huge programme of work and spent over £200million replacing and grinding over 500km of track.

“We are also actively exploring other options to reduce noise levels even further, such as installing noise barriers and noise dampening pads, as well as ensuring new rail infrastructure incorporates noise reduction technology.”

Mr Desai raised the issue at a London Assembly meeting earlier this month with a petition signed by 35 Barbican residents most affected by the noise, and has promised to meet with deputy mayor for transport Heidi Alexander to request “an urgent and more robust intervention from TfL”.

But Mr Collins questioned whether TfL would act on Mayor Sadiq Khan’s repeated promises to find a solution.

“We’ve had some pious noises from the highest levels but the body they are controlling is not doing anything to implement commitments,” he said.