The independent London newspaper

Drivers to be given ear defenders but Tube din continues for passengers

Screeching noise for Northern Line users never been as bad

04 July, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

TRANSPORT for London has agreed to provide ear defenders for drivers on noisy parts of the tube network – amid mounting distress about the screech on the Underground.

Trade union Aslef had threatened to ballot for industrial action if their demands for over-the-head ear headphones were not accepted. Ear plugs had previously been provided by TfL but the union said these were not enough.

One driver said the noise levels between Kentish Town and Euston are “beyond anything I can describe”.

The move follows a series of reports in the New Journal about the noise faced by passengers and drivers on the Northern line, particularly on routes in and out of Camden Town.

A complaints log released to us under a Freedom of Information request reveals floods of messages from despairing customers. Train depots have been asked to purchase some of the tougher ear defenders for drivers, which should be available in the coming weeks.

Finn Brennan, from Aslef, said: “We welcome this decision, which has only been made because of pressure from our excellent team of health and safety union reps. Aslef will always be ready to take the action needed to protect the safety of our members at work.”

Aslef is still calling for TfL to resolve the noise in the long term. Our investigation found that some stretches are as loud as a live rock gig.

Aslef say a system called Pandrol Vanguard was installed to help reduce noise in homes above tracks, but has increased the din in tunnels. Some drivers are choosing to reduce speed in these areas.

The Bakerloo, Central, Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines also have noise issues, according to Aslef. In complaints to TfL, passengers said they are covering their ears when the noise begins on the tube line.

One complaint read: “I have used the Northern line since childhood – c.60 years – and can never recall noise this bad.”

Another said: “In recent months, the screeching noise caused by friction of the wheels on the track has increased to such levels that it has become unbearable on some stretches of my journey.”

Many complainants are concerned about the long-term impact on their hearing from the tube noise.

But TfL say safety guidance suggests tube noise is highly unlikely to cause any long-term damage to hearing.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We offer our staff a variety of ear protection to make them feel more comfortable while operating trains on the tube. We will continue to discuss this issue with our unions to make sure that we address any concerns raised by our staff.”

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