|'Silent track' rail system can halve train noise|
| ||Sound engineer: a UK-developed track dampening system will bring lower noise levels for trains serving London. (Image: Tata Steel)|
London is to be the latest city to benefit from the development of a new type of railway track that is able to reduce train noise by 50 per cent - developed by UK-based scientists and engineers.
Known as SilentTrack, it is the work of Tata Steel's research engineers from Rotherham in northern England in partnership with acoustic experts at the world-renowned Institute of Sound & Vibration Research at Southampton University in southern England.
The quieter track, which claims to have significant technical benefits over other noise reduction solutions, uses patented dampers attached to the sides of the rail to absorb vibration as trains move over it. These are made from steel encased in a rubber-like material and acoustically tuned to the track.
Mike Poulter, Tata Steel's marketing manager, said: "SilentTrack is an innovative and unique product designed to meet the need for quieter rail traffic in projects around the world. SilentTrack also provides a simple, cost-effective solution to address the requirements of new European noise regulation."
Although the track system is already in operation of 13 countries and more than 140 kilometres (87 miles) has been installed in locations as far apart as Sydney, Oslo and the Rhine Valley, its first UK installation in London is likely to be the toughest test it has yet faced.
There, it will have to cope with the demands of longer and more frequent trains that will operate on the new Thameslink line serving three of the capital's central stations.
Engineers have just successfully installed noise dampening on a 1.3km stretch of the line that passes through Blackfriars, home of one of the city's busiest stations. It is said the special track will reduce rail traffic noise in and around Blackfriars, central London, by up to 50 per cent.
A Tata spokesman in London said: "The SilentTrack system will benefit people living near railway lines, as trials have proven that noise can be significantly reduced without the need for erecting large, visually unattractive barriers.
"The patented Tata Steel system tackles noise at the source and can be fitted to established infrastructures with minimal change to railway practice. Its dampers efficiently absorb vibrations and hence prevent noise from being generated by the rail. The tuned damper can be fitted to a variety of standard rail sections [and] which makes it a significantly more attractive option than noise containment measures such as barriers that are visually intrusive and very expensive. "
"The system has undergone extensive trials on a full-scale test track in Czechoslovakia and has been installed at two sites in Holland and one in France. Trials have shown that a reduction of about six decibels can be expected," added the spokesman.
David Benton, one of the Tata Steel engineers who developed the system, said of the London application: "With increased traffic through Blackfriars as part of the Thameslink programme, it was important to consider measures to keep noise to a minimum for local residents and businesses. "
"Every form of railway track responds differently as trains pass over it, so the noise produced has a different frequency spectrum. We analyse the track characteristics and ensure the damper is configured to absorb vibration at the frequencies that are producing the greatest sound."
He continued: "SilentTrack will reduce peak noise levels from moving trains by about a half. This means the enhanced [Thameslink] railway, when it opens later this year , will have no greater noise impact than the existing railway."
Tata researchers say their development has the ability to achieve noise reductions of up to seven decibels, and other benefits include a multi-frequency response over the acoustic range of rail noise and an ability to be tuned to the specific vibrations of a particular type of track. The dampening system also has the same life as the rail, causes no interference with normal track maintenance and requires no maintenance.
Tata Steel Europe is the UK's main steel producer and was formerly grouped under the name of Corus until 2007. It is now a subsidiary of the India-based Tata Steel group and Europe's second largest steelmaker with worldwide markets and operations based mainly in the UK and the Netherlands.
The combined group has an aggregate crude steel capacity of more than 28 million tonnes and employs some 80,000 people across four continents.
Tata Group Communications