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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tubes as soothing as birds

Apparently us city dwellers find the rumble of overland and Tube trains just as soothing as birdsong.

Tubes soothing as birds

To quote Victor Meldrew "I don't believe it". My house backs onto a railway line and I would vote for the sounds of birdsong to calm me down a thousand times over the rumble of trains. However, because I initially saw this as a snippet in yesterday's londonpaper initially, I thought it could do with a bit more research before I came over all Meldrewish.

The noise study was conducted by Salford University as part of a £1m, three-year research project. Dr Bill Davies led the team who are building a database of noises that people say improve their environment. Surprisingly agreeable sounds for urbanites were car tyres on wet, bumpy asphalt (I'd agree with that, but only when I'm indoors tucked up in bed), the distant roar of a motorway flyover, the rumble of an overground train and the thud of heavy bass heard on the street outside a nightclub.

Dr Davies is looking for members of the public to take part in mass 'sound walks' through cities or in laboratory listening tests, where his researchers will plug them into MRI scanners & measure participants' brain activity as they are played a variety of urban noises.

Apparently what's key to our dislike of noise is being able to identify what it is. Davies said "In the laboratory, many listeners prefer distant motorway noise to rushing water, until they are told what the sounds are."

I wonder if Transport for London will use this as an excuse to do nothing about the noise levels of Tubes. Only two years ago research was proving that regular Tube passengers on the Victoria Line should consider wearing ear-plugs. Earlier this year Earl's Court Tube station had a noise abatement order made against it by local residents (admittedly this was about loud public announcements - but it's a similar point).

Perhaps TfL might also use the research as a nice little earner and produce "Tube Lullabies for your Baby" or "Victoria Line Squeals to Sooth you" CD's.


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