Rail Pollution-Legal Action?
In a report commissioned by Stirling Council, Noise and Vibration Consultants, Sandy Brown Associates, reported that night noise levels were, in their opinion, a ‘statutory nuisance’. A Statutory nuisance is a legal term for pollution that is judged to be a ‘nuisance’ or ‘prejudicial to health’. Once classified as a ‘statutory nuisance’, UK environmental law says abatement orders should be served (EPA1990,sec79,80).
Link to railway noise vibration report
How Bad Is It?
Noise at four out of five sample residential locations was
measured to be far higher than night background levels, and many times louder than the 60dBlamax level advised by the World Health Organization. Some events were as much as 30dB higher than WHO’s health-based guideline of 60dBlamax. The higher the noise above the advised level the greater the impact on health. With as many as fourteen noise events per night well above the maximum advised by the World’s most eminent health authority, it’s reasonable to conclude that the situation is ‘prejudicial to health’.
What About Vibration?
One of the five sample sites was found to be in the highest of three night time ranges specified by British Standard BS6472 and deemed likely to cause adverse response. At four other sample locations vibration levels were not found to be excessive however residents report that the rail vibration is highly variable and the report can only comment on what was found during the monitoring period.
Even at Low Speed
Accompanying the noise and vibration report are Council commissioned train speed reports. These show just how slowly trains were travelling during the monitoring period. Speeds allowed by Network Rail along this line are 60mph for freight and 70mph for passenger trains, yet during the monitoring period speeds were much lower, sometimes barely above 20mph. Very few got into the low 50s. Apparently the Council asked Network Rail about what was happening with speeds on the line but, despite claims by Network Rail that they work closely with Councils, no information was forthcoming.
NHS Action, Council Action
The Council are seeking legal advice before acting however, as ‘statutory nuisance’ is, according to DEFRA and legal rulings, the trigger for serving of abatement orders, not the start of deliberations or negotiation, it is expected that this will be soon.
NHS Forth Valley have important public health obligations, including to advise the public on health risks, to address environmental issues such as pollution and to tackle health inequality. As yet they’ve made no public statement and have given no advice to residents on this issue. Perhaps NHS Forth Valley will say something at the Annual Review of NHS Forth Valley’s performance during 2013/14, an event open to the public which will take place on Friday 28th November 2014 from 2 – 4pm in the Lecture Theatre on the third floor of Forth Valley Royal Hospital.
Related Articles and News Coverage
The BBC ran an article 17Nov 2014
Study finds Stirling freight trains cause ‘major disturbance’
Scotsman newspaper ran an article (no link at present)
Stirling Observer newspaper is to run an article probably 18th or 20th Nov
World Health Organization report- Burden of disease from environmental noise – Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe