Pollution Solutions-Noise, Vibration, HS2

After the Damning Report on Rail Noise & Vibration . . .

Network Rail have been sent a copy of the report that documents the high night rail noise and vibration levels recorded by consultants, Sandy Brown Associates. The report concludes that such exposure constitutes a statutory nuisance.
Network Rail run the UK rail network and claim in their sustainability policy that they manage noise and vibration. Currently their management system has seen night noise one metre outside bedroom windows reach levels eight times louder than the maximum advised by the World Health Organization.


Network Rail and Babcock Rail at site

All Change?
Perhaps change is in the air.

A week after the report was released a convoy of almost twenty vehicles, Network Rail and Babcock Rail amongst them, rolled up and staff in high visibility jackets headed out onto the line (see photo). Only six years old, the line is sinking under the weight of coal freight; the track will need relaid. Perhaps, this time, measures will be taken to control vibration and noise. With the local Council seeking legal advice on the statutory nuisance finding and engineers looking for solutions to fix the line, perhaps. . . just perhaps. . . a resolution is on its way.

So . . . What Can Be Done?
An EU report 2013 hi-lights both the issues caused by the recent shift from road to freight traffic and practical measures that could be taken to protect residents. There’s a lot that can be done but it appears that policies that promote more and more traffic on the lines do not go hand in hand with policies that deal with the associated increase noise and vibration. Some EU countries actively deal with this issue, but are mitigation and control measures being implemented on the UK rail network?

DIY Pollution Control
It appears, based on evidence from Network Rail themselves, that public exposure to noise and vibration is largely ignored, it’s not even measured, and Network Rail’s phone-in complaints system doesn’t actually lead to levels being addressed.
In fact, in a weird twist, Network Rail’s own website says that noise may be the fault of the trains running on the line. Yes, really. The site then advises the public to contact the train operating companies themselves. A list of contact details for the various operators is provided for them to do so. Despite what ORR say and despite what Network Rail’s own policy statement says, the public are being advised to tackle pollution emanating from the network themselves.

Rail Strategy Shooting Itself in the Foot.
Birth place of the railways, Britain has a long history of technical excellence and innovation. The UK government is currently proposing, with some strong opposition, to drive a costly high speed 225mph rail line, HS2, through peaceful and tranquil countryside. Yet here, the same Network Rail who would operate HS2, overseen by the government’s own Office of Rail Regulation, have been unable to operate a new line, with a max permitted speed of 70mph, 30% of that of HS2, without vastly exceeding noise levels that, according to the WHO, risk the health and well-being of all those exposed. Perhaps, it’s not the technology, the skill, or the expertise that’s missing; perhaps there’s a deeper issue as to why a country that can perform great technological feats allows pollution from government-subsidised infrastructure to undermine public health.
More in a later post.

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