Underground drivers demand protection from ear-splitting tube screech
Union threatens action over noise exposure
20 June, 2019 — By Samantha Booth
TUBE drivers are demanding ear defenders when travelling through loud stretches of the London Underground system.
Trade union Aslef says it has made it “very clear” to management at Transport for London that if they did not deal with the situation there will be “no option other than to ballot for industrial action”.
The New Journal revealed earlier this year how Northern line passengers were being exposed to noise equivalent in volume to a live rock concert.
Passengers are sometimes seen covering their ears on a section of track between Euston and Tufnell Park.
TfL says the noise levels are within Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulations, but have been providing drivers with ear plugs.
After six months of discussions, Aslef is now demanding driver are given ear defenders, which go over the head and cover the entire ear. TfL says it is reviewing the need for and type of ear protection.
Aslef says a system, called Pandrol Vanguard, was installed to help reduce noise in homes above tracks but has increased the din in tunnels. Now, some drivers are choosing to reduce speed in these areas.
One driver, according to Aslef, said: “The noise levels between Kentish [Town] and Euston are beyond anything I can describe. You can’t hear a radio message at all.”
The Victoria, Jubilee and Central lines also have noise issues.
Aslef said: “London Underground has consistently stated that noise levels are within ‘legal limits’ and is refusing to provide adequate protection, such as ear defenders for drivers, to mitigate the problem until a fix can be found.”
The union raised the issue with London Underground’s director of safety last Thursday, demanding ear defenders for all drivers on affected lines.
“Some drivers choose to drive at reduced speed in these ‘Pandrol Vanguard’ areas,” the Aslef statement added. “They will have the full support of this union in acting to protect their health and safety. London Underground has said it is considering setting up a working group to deal with the issue. We advised them that it was too late for another talking shop and demanded that they act now.”
Aslef has asked TfL to respond by next Friday. “If Underground management are not prepared to act to protect the safety of our members, then we will not hesitate to do what is needed,” it has warned.
New Journal reporter Samantha Booth investigating tube noise
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been quizzed by London Assembly member Andrew Dismore about the Pandrol Vanguard system and how long it will last.
TfL, which says it regularly monitors noise levels, maintains HSE guidance suggests Tube noise is highly unlikely to cause any long-term damage to the hearing of staff and customers.
It said noise limits set out by HSE are based on exposure over an eight-hour period.
A TfL spokeswoman said: “Following a Health and Safety Forum with unions, we are reviewing the need for and type of ear protection offered to train operators. We have agreed to feedback to the unions shortly on our findings and will, of course, make any changes that are necessary.”