July 18, 2022

Quieter living by the tracks: 10km of new MRT noise barriers in Ang Mo Kio, Buona Vista completed

By brit

SINGAPORE – Residents in Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Batok and Buona Vista are now enjoying slightly quieter neighbourhoods, with MRT tracks near their homes equipped with noise barriers that dampen the clunking of passing trains.

As at June, the second phase of the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) project to build 27km of noise barriers along Singapore’s elevated tracks of the North-South and East-West MRT lines has been completed, spanning 10km and covering 20 locations.

Together with the first phase that was finished in 2018, 21.5km of MRT tracks are now covered by a semi-enclosure or flanked by vertical boards up to 4.5m high that can reflect or absorb sound waves.

The third phase, comprising another 5.5km in places like Joo Koon, Bishan and Paya Lebar, is set to be finished in 2024.

“You might not think that it is important – but it is,” said Mr Jen Ang, 56, a marketing director in Ang Mo Kio, who compared the dull thud of passing MRT trains to having a constant, although barely noticeable, headache.

“It happens every few minutes, sometimes it’s louder when two trains are close. At the end of the day, you are left exhausted and feel less energetic.”

He said the situation has improved now with the noise barriers up. “At least I’m no longer woken up by the sound of trains in the morning. And I get to enjoy my morning coffee.”

The locations of noise barriers are chosen based on various factors, including how close the tracks are to nearby homes. It is not clear what the total distance of MRT tracks above ground is.

Research has shown that a passing MRT train can produce noise of up to 80 to 85 decibels – the equivalent of the sound of a loud alarm clock or hairdryer. This is similar to noise levels of trains elsewhere and studies have shown that long-term exposure to this noise level can harm people’s hearing.

LTA’s barriers reduce the noise level by five to 10 decibels, as measured from the nearest residential block. The authority said previously that the resulting 75 to 80 decibel noise would be like listening to someone practising on the piano.

The project began in 2013 after residents complained about the noise from the tracks. The second phase of the project was initially due to be completed in 2019, but the Government decided to push back the date to this year as it needed to review the effectiveness of phase one of the project.

Some residents, like Ms Kong Si Min, 37, who lives near the train tracks in Ang Mo Kio, said she was counting down the days to the erection of the barriers.

Ms Kong, a business consultant, said the noise was particularly hard to bear during the period of pandemic restrictions, when she had to stay home more.

“It was then that I realised how debilitating (the noise) can be. I hope the Government continues to look into reducing noise from the trains, which definitely can still be heard.”