Silent nights are on track

Quiet please: Fitting Tata Steel's SilentTrack noise damping system on the new Thameslink line at Blackfriars in London.
Quiet please: Fitting Tata Steel's SilentTrack noise damping system on the new Thameslink line at Blackfriars in London.
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Researchers from Tata Steel’s Rotherham-based research centre are helping railway bosses and residents to sleep more soundly in their beds by developing technology that should cut complaints about the noise at railway stations.

Tata’s Swinden Laboratories worked with Southampton University’s lnstitute of Sound and Vibration Research to develop dampers acoustically tuned to railway tracks that cut rail traffic noise by up to 50 per cent in and around railway stations by absorbing vibrations in the rails as trains pass over them.

More than 90 miles of the patented system – known as SilentTrack - has already been installed at 13 locations worldwide, including Sydney, Australia, Oslo in Norway and the Rhine Valley, in Germany.

Now, SilentTrack has been installed in the UK for the first time, at London Blackfriars to help reduce the noise from one of the capital’s busiest stations.

Just under a mile of the track has been laid as part of the Thameslink improvement project, which involves more frequent, longer, brand new trains serving three central London stations.

David Benton, one of the Tata Steel engineers who developed SilentTrack, said: “With increased traffic through Blackfriars it was important to consider measures to keep noise to a minimum for local residents and businesses around Blackfriars. SilentTrack will reduce peak noise levels as trains pass over by about a half. This means that the enhanced railway, when it opens later this year, will have no greater noise impact than the existing railway.”

SilentTrack’s patented dampers are made by encasing steel from Scunthorpe in a rubber-like material and have to be tailored to each application. “Every form of railway track design responds differently as trains pass over it, so the noise produced has a different frequency spectrum,” says David Benton. “We analyse the track characteristics and ensure the damper is configured to absorb vibration at the frequencies that are producing the greatest sound power.”

Mike Poulter, Tata Steel’s rail marketing manager, said: “SilentTrack is an innovative and unique product designed to meet the need for quieter rail traffic in projects around the world. Our research engineers in Rotherham helped to develop the product after we identified growing public demand for noise reduction, particularly in urban areas. SilentTrack also provides a simple, cost-effective solution to address requirements of the new European noise legislation.”