To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to lay before the House the draft Noise Insulation (Railways and other Guided Transport Systems) Regulations, 1993; if these will apply to intensification of use of existing lines as well as newly constructed lines; and if he will make a statement.
Many of those who responded to public consultation on the draft regulations suggested that they should apply to existing lines as well as to new lines. This is one of the issues that we are considering, and a decision will be announced as soon as possible.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware of the genuine concern felt by many residents of the London borough of Bromley who live close to railway lines—which was demonstrated by two recent, well-attended public meetings—about the noise generated by the channel tunnel traffic which is now going through the borough and which is likely to increase and continue night and day throughout the next decade?
May I plead with my hon. Friend seriously to consider allowing the regulations that I mentioned to apply to intensification of use on existing routes? Alternatively, does he accept that opening the channel tunnel has turned what were, in effect, suburban railway lines into intercontinental routes—into what are, to all intents and purposes, new lines?
As I said, that is one of the questions that we are considering very carefully, and I am taking a close personal interest in it.
My hon. Friend will be aware that two miles of noise barriers have been erected in Kent—in the borough of Bromley, in fact—under joint arrangements between the borough and Railfreight Distribution. He will also be aware that, when electric locomotives for freight haulage are introduced early next year, there should be a signficant reduction in the level of noise generated by such traffic.