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Wooden Sleepers

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 10th January 2020.

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Photo of Caroline Russell Caroline Russell Green

What assessment has Transport for London (TfL) made of the full impacts of opting for concrete sleepers over wooden ones, including particularly the impact on noise and the sustainability including carbon footprint of railway infrastructure?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Transport for London’s (TfL’s) understanding of noise and vibration has increased significantly since the mid-2000s when this type of track renewal was standard.

TfL now considers the impact on noise and vibration prior to carrying out this type of work. Noise and vibration have been important factors in the development of a new track form – slab track with resilient track fastenings - which has been introduced since 2015 and helps to reduce the amount of vibrational energy transmitted into the ground.

TfL no longer considers installing new timber sleepers due to the difficulties in sourcing suitable sustainable materials, and the overall cost of timber sleepers compared to other types. Changing moisture levels also means that timber sleepers require regular expensive maintenance work to ensure that they remain in a safe condition.