News & Views
16 Feb 2022

Noise and vibration monitoring for rail infrastructure projects: reducing railway noise pollution

On 24 January 2022, the government introduced the High-Speed Rail, Crewe to Manchester Bill into Parliament to secure the powers to construct and maintain HS2 Phase 2b, between Crewe and Manchester. As part of the Bill, an environmental statement was produced to detail the likely environmental impacts and measures to manage them. For high profile projects such as HS2, noise has been a huge concern. Here, KP Acoustics Group investigates how advancements in environmental monitoring technology is making continuous real-time data acquisition for railway infrastructure projects more accessible.


According to Department for Transport figures, in the last 20 years, rail journeys have increased by 89 per cent to reach a record 1.8 billion journeys in 2018/19. While COVID-19 restrictions saw numbers decline to 1.7 billion in 2019/20, rail use has increased faster than any other mode of transport in the UK. Demand is clearly there from passengers, but rail expansion projects can be polarising.

The Urban Transport Group believes that expanding our rail network is the only viable option to help UK cities meet long-term ambitions for economic growth, better road traffic and air quality as well as meeting housing demands and tackling regional inequalities.

However, many fall into the opposing camp, where the perceived benefits do not outweigh the negative impact of such schemes. Environmental destruction might be the first contentious topic that comes to mind, but noise, vibration and dust pollution can be equally concerning for local residents.

In fact in June 2021, The Guardian reported that construction works on the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham had left council residents who live metres from the building works with dust, noise and vibration pollution in their homes. According to HS2, only 55 per cent of the noise insulation work had been completed at the time.

From the construction phase to daily operations — heavy machinery, track alarms, train horns and whistle boards can all cause unwanted noise and vibration. So how can we ensure the quality of life for residents living close to railway infrastructure projects is not diminished due to a permanent change in the acoustic character of an area?

Virtual Reality (VR) in rail construction

Construction management plans are an essential starting point to enable compliance. This will give all neighbouring residents peace of mind in terms of what they are going to hear and feel during the duration of the site works. While these assessments are only a prediction of the impact, not the actual impact, technology is instilling more confidence, by using more intelligent prediction, simulation and monitoring.

For example, advancements in VR technology and audio rendering techniques have been trialled in a novel approach to environmental noise assessment. In a road traffic construction study, the combination of such technology helped to investigate in advance the potential negative effects of noise associated with the project.

Similarly, the data generated using advanced computer design programmes during the development stage of HS2 will be used to build a digital twin of the railway. The VR 3D replica will be as detailed as the real thing.

Real-time remote noise, vibration and dust monitoring

Another technological development that is making waves in monitoring of rail construction works, is the availability of remote, real-time, continuous data.  We’ve recently launched an award-winning noise, vibration and dust monitoring system called eNView™ that has revolutionised the industry. What once weighed at least 10kg in sound level meters, batteries and other add-ons, has now be condensed into a lightweight, robust portable system

These noise, vibration and dust monitors can be easily installed, set to measure, and store samples of the agreed noise, vibration and dust parameters. If these parameters are exceeded, this will trigger an automatic alert, meaning that mitigating measures can be implemented where necessary to ensure that residents’ quality of life is not negatively affected.

Environmental concerns may be commonplace when it comes to railway infrastructure projects, but thanks to advancements in innovative environmental monitoring technology and multisensory VR methodologies, environmental impact can now be studied and crucially managed more effectively.

How do you think these disruptive technologies will change the face of environmental monitoring in the rail industry?

Are you looking for railway noise and vibration analysis for your rail construction project? Call KP Acoustics +44(0)208 222 8778 to discuss your project.


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